Not just an API: Do more with deeper benefits integration

September 14, 2021
woman and man looking at tablet

In the consumer market, apps have been playing nice with each other for a long time — users expect that their fitness tracker will sync with their smartphone’s health app, and that they can share music from their streaming service of choice on their favorite social network.

In the world of HR, however, the expectation is too often the opposite: that almost none of the systems HR professionals use every day will easily interact and share data. Every day, HR staff loses valuable time doing simple, often redundant data entry because the different services their companies use for payroll, benefits administration and claims processing can’t talk to each other.

Enter APIS. The same technology that has created seamless user experiences in the consumer market can now make it easier for different HR systems to communicate and share data.

What is an API?

An API (Application Programming Interface) is a protocol for different applications (whether on your phone, desktop, or tablet) to talk to each other and easily exchange data. You’ve probably already used one this morning: When you open the weather app on your phone, it uses an API to retrieve weather data for your location from an existing database such as The National Weather Service.

An API is not enough – you need deeper benefits integration

Running a business is much more complicated than a simple weather app, and an API that only shares basic employee data will not eliminate the operational struggles of most HR departments. Deeper functional integration is necessary.

By making the connections between different systems almost seamless down to the functional level, deep integration can unleash greater productivity, reduce unnecessary errors, and increase trust between employees and their employer.

Here’s what deeper benefits integration can do for you:


It takes the middleman — and the errors — out of leave management

Many companies say that managing employee leave and absences is one of their biggest challenges.

Leave is typically approved or denied by the insurance carrier, who then sends that information to the employer to enter manually into their systems to help them manage payroll and staffing. As an employee’s circumstances change (as is common with unpredictable events like childbirth, illness, and injury), so do the details of their leave. The carrier continues to update the employer about when an employee will begin leave and when they are expected to return to work. HR must again update this in their own systems.

With each new update, the chance for error increases and the time available to HR staff to attend to other matters decreases. For a company with thousands of employees, it can quickly become overwhelming.

But with deep integration, the details of an employee’s leave are already in the system, the update is reflected in the client’s HCM platform (such as ADP or Workday) in real time, and the necessary changes to payroll and building access are easily triggered.

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It provides employees with a smoother online experience

It’s a common scenario: An employee has filled out the paperwork to establish Evidence of Insurability, but a week after their submission, they still haven’t received a decision, or even heard if the carrier received their form. The employee is frustrated — after all, they did what they needed to do. Why this delay in getting a decision?

Inefficient systems aren’t just a hassle for HR staff — they can also erode trust between an employee and their employer.

Deep integration enables automation of routine processes. The system can recognize (based on data shared through the API) when an employee requires EOI and lets them easily answer the necessary questions online. They can often receive an immediate decision. No stops and starts, but rather a seamless, continuous process that can (most often) be done in one sitting.

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It brings billing into the 21st century

Companies pay for coverage based on how many employees they have, how many dependents those employees have, and what type of coverage those employees elect.

Yet that information is constantly changing, as employees join or leave the company, and others experience qualifying life events — they may get married and want to bring their spouse onto their policy, or an adult child may turn 26 and become ineligible — that change their level of coverage, and thus, the company’s cost.

In the old way of doing things, this would mean that the bill a client received at the end of the month would already be wildly out of date, and HR would have to manually reconcile the invoice with the current reality.

With an advanced API that allows for deep integration across systems, an employee’s status and elections can be updated in real time; paying the bill at the end of the month becomes a matter of just a few clicks, rather than hours of painstaking work.