With its suite of innovative technologies and enrollment services, Hodges-Mace is empowering employers and employees with the tools they need to choose and use benefits more effectively. A pioneer in the HR technology space, Hodges-Mace is one of the first companies to embrace AI technology, data aggregation, and multi-lingual messaging to personalize the benefits experience for each employee. And it doesn’t stop there. The company recently announced their integration with Amazon Alexa to take employee engagement to the next level.
At the helm of this powerhouse is Kevin Andrews, an expert in the communication, education, and administration of employee benefits with over 20 years of experience in HR technology. As the President and CTO of Hodges-Mace, Andrews is responsible for advancements and innovation in technology, which are instrumental to the success of the company and the clients it serves.
In an interview with CIO Applications, Andrews shares his insights on the company’s unique value proposition to employers.
Please provide us with an overview of Hodges-Mace in the HR tech space.
Hodges-Mace is a leading provider of benefits communication, enrollment, and administrative solutions. We help employers improve their transactional processes while also breathing new life into their benefit programs by highlighting the important aspects of health and retirement plans, as well as other benefits and programs that are important to their value proposition. We also enable employees to make smarter benefits decisions, which of course, has a positive impact on retention, healthcare cost mitigation, and the overall employee experience.
What are the recent trends that are emerging in the market?
The HR space has undergone a sea change in the last decade, driven by trends in healthcare consumerism. With this paradigm shift, it’s more important than ever to educate and engage employees and to provide tools to help them become savvy consumers. Another trend relates to the aggregation of information. There’s simply too much information out there for an employee to consume, and this data overload often leads to disengagement. If we want employees to make better healthcare decisions, we have to simplify the process significantly. For example, at Hodges-Mace, we’ve introduced tools like SmartBen NOW, a mobile dashboard that brings the most important benefit information into one central hub.
Can you list the major issues that clients face in benefits administration? How does Hodges- Mace assist in mitigating these challenges?
Employers are challenged on multiple fronts. First, the complexity of modern benefit programs has increased the need for expert administration, enrollment, compliance, and data security.
Second, with unemployment as low as it is today, it’s more important than ever to design an employee experience that promotes goodwill through the benefits program. So, it’s our job to highlight the employer’s investment in benefits and their commitment to employee wellbeing.
Lastly, we all know that healthcare costs have increased dramatically over the years, and those trends will continue if employees are unable or unwilling to become more effective consumers. That’s why it’s so important to help clients move beyond the transactional aspects of benefits administration and drive a deeper partnership between employer and employee.
Please elaborate on the SmartBen Platform.
Our SmartBen platform supports the important tasks of benefit administration while offering a more engaging experience for employees. On the mobile front, for example, we’ve created a sophisticated dashboard that aggregates multiple touchpoints of the benefits program in a single place. Rather than ask employees to download carrier applications or manage multiple logins for their various providers, we provide a holistic platform that allows easy access to 401(k) account balances, deductible and out-of-pocket maximums, FSA balances, and many other details all from one dashboard. Our AI-based Avatar and personalized decision-support software are other examples of how we can deliver more personalized experiences for employees.
How does Hodges-Mace support its clients to meet ACA compliance?
Managing the governance surrounding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a huge burden for employers. It’s a natural extension of our role to take on this work for our clients. We handle all of the eligibility tracking and IRS reporting requirements while also ensuring that enrollment is handled appropriately for employees who do become ACA-eligible.
What are the service and support options that Hodges-Mace offers?
We encourage employees to embrace technology, but we can’t lose sight of the fact that individuals learn in different ways. A diverse workforce often means diverse language needs, education levels, financial situations, and various degrees of confidence with technology. For this reason, we provide year-round telephonic support, as well as “white glove” advisory services for employees who want to discuss their particular needs and circumstances. In the end, the goal is to keep everyone engaged in the process, so clients like the idea of providing multiple options to interact with their workforce.
Can you shed some light on your SmartBen Bridge program?
Employers have relationships with a myriad of partners in the benefits space, including brokers and consultants, carriers, vendors, and program managers. The SmartBen Bridge Program was designed to bring these parties together in a more deeply integrated way, so we can simplify the experience for employees and administrators. We’re leveraging APIs and other integrations with leaders in healthcare, retirement, and HR technology to simplify enrollment and communication processes and to create a more cohesive administration experience for everyone involved.
Point out a case study to highlight the benefits brought to one of your clients.
We approach each client in a unique way according to their needs. One client, a large manufacturing company with employees spread across different plants, built on-site clinics to provide non-emergent medical care as part of their occupational health initiative. Their challenge was driving utilization of these clinics and communicating the other important benefits that they offer. We helped them establish a new communication channel, so employees can see all healthcare benefits in one place, including clinical information, medical, has, and FSA plan balances. The employer is also able to send push notifications and reminders to employees through their mobile devices, so employees can learn how, when, and why to utilize their various healthcare services.
Where do you envision Hodges-Mace in the future?
Our mission is to help employers drive health and financial wellness by simplifying processes, aggregating information, and connecting with employees in a more meaningful and productive manner. We don’t see the benefits landscape becoming less complex in the future, so it’s our job in some ways to shield consumers from this complexity and highlight the areas that are important to them. We couldn’t be more excited about the innovations that we’re delivering to the market and the impact that we can have on the entire benefits industry.