Insurance companies Unum and Colonial Life are digging the gig economy, having selected on-demand staffing company Wonolo to provide benefits counselors.
The Wonolo platform matches clients with pre-vetted benefits counselors around the country, according to AJ Brustein, cofounder and COO at Wonolo and 2016 Workforce Game Changer. Rather than the traditional ways of enrollment, companies use this app to find a counselor in real time based on where they are geographically and if they have availability. The company can then hire an available counselor on-demand to work with enrollees.
“A Fortune 500 company working with a start up, Unum and Colonial have seen the benefits of being able to work with a supplier that is flexible, nimble and creative at solving problems,” said Brustein. Unum and Colonial Life belong to the same company, Unum Group. “It’s a commingling of cultures that’s been helpful for them and for us.”
It’s a smoother experience for the enrolling companies and for the people dispatching these jobs, he added, and it hopefully will modernize the insurance industry.
“There’s a lot in the insurance and financial industries that has been status quo for while, especially in terms of tools and processes,” he said. “With Unum and Colonial leading the way in digitizing their processes and revolutionizing the way they’re doing things, this will positively impact the insurance industry.”
Colonial Life did a trial run with Wonolo in 2015 and signed up 180 benefits counselors in those test markets, according to Colonial Life’s website. The company saw increased sales and officially partnered with the startup this year.
“One of the main aspects of our growth strategy is forming collaborative relationships with organizations that can help us rapidly evolve and acquire new capabilities,” said Richard Shaffer, vice president of enrollment for Unum and Colonial Life, in a statement. “Wonolo has provided us with a new way to manage and develop our workforce and helped us embrace change to better serve our customers.”
Amy Hollis, voluntary benefits leader at Willis Towers Watson, said that this move is in the opposite direction of a major trend in the benefits world: self-service. Under this, enrollees rely on an electronic portal for information rather than a person-to-person conversation. For example, an electronic portal might use predetermined questions to understand enrollees and then guide them to information or support relevant to their own unique situation.
It’s interesting that Unum and Colonial are going in a different direction and providing in-person counselors for employees on-demand, she said. Large markets are committed to self-service, but this could be a trigger of a new trend in the smaller and mid-sized markets.
“The primary motivator of self service has been cost management,” Hollis said. “But does that adequately replace person-to-person conversations with the employee and counselor?”
Andie Burjek is a Workforce associate editor. Comment below, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Workforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.