Over half of the employers in the U.S. have said they will expand their use of technology in order to manage and marginalize costs related to employee benefit programs according to research conducted by Prudential Financial Inc.

Technology to the Forefront the fourth iteration in a series of five research briefs that underscore findings from Prudential’s Sixth Annual Study of Employee Benefits: Today & Beyond illustrates that most employers have a comprehensive understanding and expectation that the importance of benefits technology will grow thoroughly within the next five years.

Half of those polled stated that they found it important that their benefits systems interface with their insurance carrier’s systems. Fifty-nine percent said that they are looking for their insurance carriers to offer a “plug and play” system (the flexibility to adapt and connect to other carriers or a third party administrator) while 49 percent noted that benefits technology has improved worker productivity.

Employers who were polled all agreed that they would utilize online tools much more frequently if the websites were simpler and functionality was more of a goal. Overall they stated that the functionality of the sites was generally convenient regarding employee benefit online activity but they cited that it became increasingly muddled when submitting claims, integrating payroll processing, managing/tracking employee absences and recording evidence of insurability.

When it came to employee use of benefits technology, their use was, not surprisingly, low to average. Employees mostly utilized the technology for online enrollment and 401(k) management. Employees who utilized the online tools were pleased overall rating most features as “good.” Employees did, however, take issue with functionality when it came to obtaining educational material about insurance and retirement plans and downloading needed forms, this poses a problem because these are the functions that employees use most.

The research was conducted through the internet during April and May of 2011.