There are seven criteria brokers should use to compare benefits administration software.
We’ve covered the first five in previous columns, from the vendor’s background to integrations and more, and now we’ll outline the sixth: the product beyond benefits. Does the firm have product leadership? Is its leadership sustainable?
As a benefits broker, your long suite is advising on health care benefits. You know a lot about the transactional challenges related to offering and administering a benefits package.
In fact, in most cases you know more about these challenges than your HR client does. That is part of why they hire you.
But your HR client faces transactional challenges that stretch beyond benefits. Though they stretch beyond benefits, they are also impacted by benefits, which is why it is important to understand how the software system you select handles them.
We see online benefits firms taking one or a mix of three approaches:
1. Address directly, included in the broker license
2. Address directly, but outside the broker license
3. Don’t address, but offer the ability to integrate with others who do
Let’s evaluate each of these approaches, one by one.
Address directly, included in the broker license
With this approach, the online benefits technology firm builds into its software the ability to do applicant tracking, onboarding, PTO tracking, time and attendance, compliance, and payroll -- or some mix of these items -- and then just makes it all available for the broker as part of its normal broker license.
Related: The role of self-service software
If the cost of the broker license is a flat monthly fee, this means the broker is getting the ability to give its clients PTO tracking for free, for example, as well as benefits administration.
The primary positive of this approach is obvious: it seems like it would be better to be able to offer more to your clients rather than less. If you can throw in PTO tracking with online benefits administration, that’s even better than just benefit administration. Time and attendance on top of that? Sweet.
But do you know anything about the nuances of PTO tracking? Or time and attendance? Does anyone in your firm? Is it worth your time for your firm to build up a core competency in that area? Are your clients looking to their healthcare advisor to be their go-to for that sort of thing, or do they want you to stay focused on keeping up with the ever-evolving healthcare landscape?
The thing to keep in mind: if you give your clients a system to track PTO or time and attendance for free, they are going to expect you to support it. That means helping them think through how to transition from their old system in addition to helping to answer questions along the way.
If the software firm you selected gave these features to you for free as part of your license for online benefits administration, then all of that support is going to have to come from you.
After all, they won’t be getting any additional revenue to help them provide any direct support to your employer clients. You or someone on your service team having to provide that support is the negative to this approach.
Address directly, but outside the broker license
With this approach, the software firm has built-in applicant tracking, onboarding, PTO tracking, etc., but they are add-ons the employer has the option to purchase. There is not a built-in assumption the agency must support them.
Instead, the software company can support them more directly. The software company can help the employer think through how to transition from the old PTO system to the new one most effectively. The software company can answer questions along the way.
Bottom line: The software company can support its own PTO feature while the benefits brokerage can focus on what it does best -- advising the employer on how to manage its health care benefits package.
The negative of this approach is the additional costs to the extent that you see supporting them as costing your firm money. The time you or your service people have to spend supporting them can end up being a wash or can work to your benefit.
Don’t address, but offer the ability to integrate with others who do
The final approach an online benefits technology firm can take is to ignore building any of the other features HR needs. Instead, this firm can work to integrate with other HR software firms who have products that address those needs. In certain circumstances, this approach can work exceptionally well.
The primary positive of this approach is that HR certainly won’t be expecting you or your firm to support HR software that is completely different than the online benefits technology you’ve incorporated into your value proposition.
One negative of this approach, in general, is that different software companies are going to have different agendas, different priorities, and thus different product roadmaps. Diverging interests among software companies all used by the same HR client can lead to an unhappy client through no fault of your own.
Another negative of the approach is that each company is going to have a separate sales and marketing budget that has to be covered by what it charges the employer. As a result, their fees will be higher than what an online benefits technology firm would have to charge if it had the other features available as add-ons.
If your client finds itself paying a lot for HR features and could cut those costs by going with a broker who had selected a software firm that took either the first or second approach, it could put pressure on you.
Just like with each of the seven criteria brokers use when selecting the right online benefits partner, there are always tradeoffs. It is best to know those tradeoffs when making your decision.