This year’s conference round-up for the national Unemployment Insurance and Workforce areas were great. Sagitec made it to many of the conference sessions and learned a lot. Most sessions were super-charged with current issues dealing with labor and employment, workforce development and Unemployment Insurance (UI) topics. We started with the NASWA Winter Policy Forum and ended with the NASWA Workforce Summit & UI Directors’ Conference, where Sagitec was the Diamond sponsor. Over 500 people attended this conference, which was the largest conference NASWA has ever held!
With such exposure and the myriad of discussions with administrators, deputy administrators, UI directors, CIOs, workforce directors, attorneys, managers, supervisors, and analyst, we thought of bringing to you our learnings from this year from these sessions.
So here are 6 key themes that captured the UI market mind-share this year:
- Technology modernization: Technology can simplify a lot of processes and it is no different with administering an unemployment insurance program and most peers at the conferences discussed the importance of having not only a current technology solution but one that can easily change to accommodate federal and state law and policy changes . A good system should make adding new benefit programs, changing business rules, affiliating agents with employers, registering employers and agents, submitting wages, making payments, submitting claims, and managing workloads easy for business staff and administrators. Self-service, which is how most consumers want to process information first, should also be a key feature in the solution and should enable stakeholders to independently manage their accounts increasing efficiencies for all parties. A solution that you invest in, should also stay current, be easy to adapt to changes, and provide the self-services claimants and employers expect.
- Consortium trends and shared components: We also saw a lot of interest in the consortium model, like the Maryland and West Virginia consortium we are working with, to develop and maintain systems. This concept allows partner states to pool their resources together to develop a single, common IT system. Each member state uses this base system and can configure it according to their state-specific law and policy requirements. By leveraging economies of scale, consortiums reduce the total cost of ownership for each state while reducing the strain that large software development projects can place on state UI and IT staff resources. In addition, there was a lot of discussion around sharing development burdens, costs and system modifications between states with with similar systems. The main theme was how can we maintain our systems with reduced budgets by working together.
- Security: Balancing a great portal experience with robust security is always a challenge and most agencies are finding their own unique ways of doing it. Security awareness trainings, cyber-security insurance, and strong firewall/security systems integrated with claimant or employer portals are all ways agencies are tackling identity theft, hacking, ransomware, and other cyber crimes. Artificial intelligence in predicting these attacks was also something of interest and many conversations were based on this trend. Predictive analytics to prevent fraud was also a big topic which brings us to point number 4.
- Fraud: The UI program is not only one of the government's largest benefit programs but it also has one of the highest error rates among all government benefit programs. While fraud is not the main cause for the high error rate it does account for some of the problem. The majority of the fraud happens without people realizing it. Some people continuing to claim benefits after they start working can cause improper payments along with claimants not always understanding how the program works. For the UI industry, many fraud cases are left unreported or not detected until identity theft victims of UI benefits apply for benefits and are denied or their current employment HR department contacts them about filing a claim while still working. With advances in predictive analytics, machine learning, and data modeling, these technology solutions can sift through historical claim data on previous fraud cases and come up with fraud models that can accurately predict the likelihood that claimants will commit fraud. These models, when applied to UI claim data, can actually prevent fraud before it occurs or catch it very early in the process to reduce the amount of improper benefit payments. You can read more about it here.
- Training: A solution is only as effective as your ability to use it. To make the leap from designing a great application to leveraging that design, you should have robust training and development services for your staff and external stakeholders. These training programs should fill the knowledge gap between the old and the new, allowing users to hit the ground running and effectively use the system on day one!
- Cloud: Lastly, the cloud was a big conversation topic too. Sagitec successfully implemented the first true cloud-based unemployment insurance tax system in the nation for the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) and the results in the first quarter were nothing short of extraordinary. The tremendous adoption rates we saw in the first quarter were what you would expect after the system was live for a year or more. Cloud solutions, if implemented properly, can provide you with great benefits like cost savings, scalability, security, staying current with technology, and reducing administrative issues.
Were there any other topics that we missed out on? Do write in and let us know.