The seven deadly sins of choosing a flexible benefits platform

30th Sep 2015

As an organisation we’re frequently asked to take part in flexible benefits beauty parades. On the one hand these are a great opportunity for us to showcase our wares and explain what our platform can do for the organisation in question. However, over time, we’ve become aware that this showcase approach does very little to illicit the real information that the organisation needs to make a decision.

In fact, what often happens is that an organisation is lured in to selecting a provider based on the whistles and bells exhibited rather than because they can deliver an intelligent service that meets the client’s needs.

The simple analogy is like a child in a sweet shop – a distinct over excitement at the options available. However what the analogy doesn’t take in to consideration is the often expensive consequences of making the wrong choice in the employee benefits arena. It’s all very well planning for the future, and scalability is without a doubt an important factor here, but paying over the odds for functionality or additions that are not required for some time, is not a sound business decision: knowing they can be added when required is far more prudent in my opinion.

With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of what we’ve called the ‘seven deadly sins of choosing a flexible benefits platform’. This what-not-to-do list can be tackled in advance of any selection procedure, beauty parade or not, with the aim of helping avoid common pitfalls.

Sin number one: 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.

Sin number two: 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.

Sin number three: 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?

Sin number four: 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 needs 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?

Sin number five: 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.

Sin number six: 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.

Sin number seven: 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?

There are many flexible benefits platforms out there that really do promise the world and whilst some organisation will need this approach, it is worth identifying your current needs, future requirements as well as the nice-to-haves in order to select the most suitable provider. And also treat beauty parades as exactly that – designed to show off a platform’s best attributes. The technology is only part of the picture – the provider’s people, their skills and their ability to get the job done in supporting your use of platform are equally as important in delivering a successful flexible benefits strategy.

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