Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Vivamus convallis sem tellus, vitae egestas felis vestibule ut.

Error message details.

Reuse Permissions

Request permission to republish or redistribute SHRM content and materials.

Benefits Leaders Are Optimistic About AI’s Potential, But Knowledge Lags

Businessman at computer with images symbolizing AI

There’s no doubt artificial intelligence is a growing part of the workplace conversation, and many workplace leaders’ feelings about the growing tech are evolving.

Now, a new survey explores how some business leaders feel about one specific application of AI—using it to help manage and communicate about employee benefits.

The majority (73 percent) of benefits leaders believe AI will have a positive influence on benefits administration, according to a survey of more than 800 directors and vice presidents of total rewards by HealthEquity, a financial technology and business services firm based in Draper, Utah. But many still have concerns about the technology, with more than two-thirds (69 percent) saying they aren’t knowledgeable about AI solutions that could help with benefits.

Benefits leaders are “optimistic, but realistic” about AI, said Shuki Licht, vice president of innovation at HealthEquity. “It’s an exciting time, but it’s important that companies using AI are transparent so everyone can feel confident about the results.”

[SHRM Resource: Artificial Intelligence in the Workplace]

Among areas in which they expect to use AI in benefits, leaders say recommending health plans and improving member access to care are top priorities. Overall, benefits leaders are looking for solutions that streamline the administrative process as well as personalize—and improve—the employee experience, according to the findings.

“The biggest potential is not in micro-level insights, but macro-level optimization,” said Jess Cloud, vice president of IT operations and transformation at HealthEquity. “We’re talking about automating mundane tasks like data entry at a broad scale, enhancing and personalizing employee and beneficiary experiences like plan selection, and generally taking the edge off processes that are cumbersome in our health care system. This ensures that service can be remarkable, without compromising brand or a sense of human touch.”

Cloud added that AI can provide proactive and preventive interventions to employees about their benefits, such as nudges, reminders and coaching. That has the potential to improve employee health outcomes, she said.

Respondents to the survey also said improving benefits effectiveness (38 percent of respondents) and saving time (29 percent) were the main reasons they would incorporate AI.

Concerns Include Security, Accuracy

While many benefits leaders are optimistic about the potential of AI, they are still cautious. Top concerns include data security and privacy (34 percent), accuracy and reliability (22 percent), and employee experience (16 percent). Benefits leaders also worry about employee experience and stress their desire to retain a “human touch” with the employees they serve.

What employers should keep in mind, Cloud said, is that AI is a way to enhance and support workplace functions, not replace them.

“It's not unlike a spotter in powerlifting—it supports and enhances performance but can’t be the source of strength in and of itself,” she said. “You have to have a strong framework in place to uphold the organization’s core competencies, brand voice and data integrity. Applying this in a business context, especially in a regulated industry, requires a lot of effort and tooling your organization probably hasn’t had before.”

Although there are some risks for AI use and adoption, there are also risks from not using it.

Those include “falling behind in a digital era and failing to meet the evolving needs of employees and others,” Cloud said. “If we could have made things easier or more efficient for our folks and chose not to, what does that say about how much we care about them?”

Knowledge Is Power

The HealthEquity survey found that positive sentiment about AI in benefits increases as total rewards leaders learn more about the technology. Among those who strongly agree that they’re knowledgeable about AI, 92 percent believe AI will have a positive impact, and 85 percent say they’re likely to choose a benefits partner that uses AI.

But knowledge about AI—especially in benefits—still lags. Just 31 percent said they feel knowledgeable about AI solutions.

The fact that benefits leaders are in the early stages of understanding AI's capabilities “highlights the need for a strategic approach where AI supports, rather than replaces, human interactions,” Cloud said.

“Form counts for a lot here. We must integrate AI to reinforce—not overshadow—the human elements of our service,” she said. “AI should be extending our capacity to deliver personalized, proactive service while preserving the warmth that characterizes our approach to benefits.”


​An organization run by AI is not a futuristic concept. Such technology is already a part of many workplaces and will continue to shape the labor market and HR. Here's how employers and employees can successfully manage generative AI and other AI-powered systems.