By Richard McKinley-Price, head of benefits management at Jelf Employee Benefits
Eighty per cent of employers with more than 100 employees now offer some form of flexible benefits scheme compared with just 11% a decade ago (according to Staffcare research in 2014), which means that there is also a growing demand for flex technology platforms and growing number of providers on the market.
We have identified the seven deadly sins that many organisations commit when selecting a provider:
1. Not understanding your objectives
You need to really identify what you want to achieve by implementing flexible benefits before you look for a provider. Having an idea of what success will look like will help you evaluate the options out there.
2. Not doing your research
There are many flexible benefits providers in the market so you need to ensure you check their track record and experience, especially whether they have helped similar companies to yours or those with similar requirements. In particular, it is important to check the provider is financially sound as a business.
3. Not identifying the provider’s capabilities
Just how flexible is their technology? For example, can it interface with your human resource information system and payroll platform? Does it offer a real-time view? What is the reporting capability of the system – will it serve the needs of staff, HR, finance and C-level staff.
4. Not checking out the provider’s security
Legally, your chosen flexible benefits system must comply with data protection regulations. So choosing a partner that meets certain security standards is essential. For example, this could include Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) to ensure that your data is imported and exported securely to the system.
You may also want to consider how their technology is accessed, for example is it externally hosted or does it need to be installed on your internal IT infrastructure? If it is web-based, is it compatible with all main browser versions to allow your employees to easily access their benefits?
5. Not checking the provider’s scalability
Does the platform meet your requirements now and if you decide you want to change or add extra functionality as your needs evolve, is this simple and easy to do? This also applies to overseas capabilities too: if you have existing overseas employees, or have the potential to expand overseas in the future, you may want to ensure that you choose a flexible benefits provider with technology that can span different languages, currencies, tax treatments etc.
6. Not getting value for your money
Be wary about large implementation fees and make sure you get best value for money all round. It could be worth negotiating some employee engagement support as this is a key issue in driving employee benefits strategies. A provider that works with you to not only understand the communication channels that work within your business, but also uses your brand and key messages to deliver tailor-made communications, can be essential to the success of your employee engagement.
7. Not finding out what support is available in the long term
The hard work doesn’t end after you’ve implemented and launched your flexible benefits platform, so you need to consider what ongoing support your partner will provide to ensure that your benefits strategy is a success long-term. For example, will you be able to access regular, tailored Management Information (MI) to quickly and easily monitor performance against your key performance indicators?
In our experience, many organisations arrange a beauty parade of providers and then are lured in by functionality they don’t really need: having a plan of absolute needs and a softer wish list will help identify the platform which is most suitable for both the now and in the future.