AI and automation will shape the benefits landscape.

AI and automation will shape the benefits landscape.

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AI and automation will shape the benefits landscape. Technology’s role on the modern benefits team: A Q&A with Tim Kulp

Tim Kulp of software consultancy Mind Over Machines shares his thoughts on how AI and automation will shape the benefits landscape.

If HR professionals want HR and benefits professionals need to continually adapt and evolve in order to stay relevant and meet the needs of both the employer and employee.

In today’s world, convenience and 24-hour access are a must for just about any product or service, and employee benefits are no exception. Employers and employees both expect to be able to access relevant and up-to-date benefits information whenever they wish, and it’s incumbent on their team of benefits advisors to ensure the right systems are in place to make that happen.

As such, there are a variety of benefits administration, HRIS and other platform service providers on the market. But before jumping blindly into an investment, HR teams and their advisors must take many factors into consideration. Tim Kulp, vice president of innovation & strategy at software consultancy Mind Over Machines.

Tim Kulp, vice president of innovation & strategy at software consultancy Mind Over Machines, recently shared his thoughts with BenefitsPRO on what users should consider when looking at automation, AI and other technologies.

What advancements in tech have had the most impact on employee benefits in recent years?

The nature of work is drastically changing, so benefits are changing, as well. All we need to do is look at the variety of ways people now work, compared to just a decade or so ago (or even our pre-COVID era). We see freelance, gig, onsite, and offsite. HR and benefits professionals need to continually adapt and evolve in order to stay relevant and meet the needs of both the employer and employee.

Consumerism and the focus on self-service has had a huge impact on the industry. The ability for people to handle their own to-do tasks, where they previously went to their HR department to complete, is a massive shift. No longer are employees going through benefits professionals to change benefits, access compensation, or change 401k plans.

Social media has also had a big impact on employee benefits. With the influx of benefits professionals building communities on social media, employees are increasingly discussing work and benefits. It has created a space that used to be off limits. But, not everything employees learn, hear, or read about online is accurate. As a result, benefit folks can expect employees to have inaccurate information and data, making it even more important for employers to be able to navigate difficult conversations.

What does a modern benefits team look like in terms of automation?

Due to some of these impacts, your modern HR team should tackle three main core competencies: risk focus, data focus, and culture focus.

Also, when thinking about team composition—remember your digital assistants. When setting up automations within your department and deploying “digital assistants,” it is imperative that the team understand how they are interacting with data and how to work alongside it to aid in efficiency, innovation, and creativity.

What skills will benefits professionals and employees need to adapt to a more artificial intelligence (AI)-driven workplace?

Core skills include the ability to focus and quickly learn new technology resources, as well as the ability to apply creativity to problem-solving. For each employee, this means new tools that help HR and benefits focus on the human aspect of “human resources” versus the paperwork and filing an update.

But, this also means the HR and benefits professionals need to come up to speed quickly with these new tools – and with minimal friction to the organization. Benefits professionals will also have to communicate change management to their teams and manage transition to new technologies enabling new, self-service capabilities.

All in all, in an automation-driven workplace, it is of utmost importance to focus on the human instead of the resources. This also entails putting critical thinking skills toward data, understanding the data you have access to, and what that means to your organization. Who are you recruiting? What kind of bias does your data have? Could it be stifling diversity initiatives?

What tips do you have for investing in and switching to a more-automated system?

Don’t wait for perfection! Take a small process and jump in with both feet. Know your metrics, make sure you are measuring what’s happening, so you know when you’re moving the needle in the right direction. When selecting a process to automate, make sure it’s high volume with a good return on investment (ROI).

When it comes to implementing more automated systems—it’s best to enlist the help of a partner. This partner/consultant can help you select the process that will have the best ROI, and also set up the technology to make sure it is not impacting business negatively.

How can benefits professionals evaluate the effectiveness of their current and potential tech partners?

The critical questions: are they listening to you? Are they addressing how the technology would impact your people, your processes, and your organization?

Naturally, people are afraid of change. Automation can be a very scary proposition because it’s not just change, it’s taking away predictable tasks. Ideally, a good partner can help you, not just on the technology side, but on the change management side. A good partner will help “roadmap” your automation initiatives alongside your workforce development plans. They can help steer the conversation from “now what I am going to do” to clear journeys and roadmaps, focusing on developing and amplifying the sills that cannot be automated.

What should they be looking for in automation tools?

Start by analyzing processes. But, the reality is, no benefits professional should try to do this on their own. The focus on benefits shouldn’t be automation of benefit processes. When selecting tools, benefits professionals need a partner they can trust.