5 top tips when implementing flexible benefits platforms

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

What do you need to consider when changing your flexible employee benefits platform, or when putting a new one in place?

It is firstly important to understand your workforce, and their employee benefit and wellbeing needs, so that the platform you select can cater for all these requirements. We believe data and analytics should play a vital part in helping you do this in the context of your wider Employer DNA.

Secondly, with the right skills it can be relatively easy to put together a slick website that looks and feels great, but what about the ‘behind the scenes’ functionality? What makes it tick and does it really do everything you actually want it to do?

Here we look at five areas that are key to you getting what you need out of your benefits platform, both for you and your employees.

What do you want from your employee benefits platform?

It is vital that you understand exactly what you want the tech to deliver. This may be efficiency gains and reduced admin for your HR and payroll teams. It could be a central communication hub for all things benefit and wellbeing related. Or perhaps you want a quick and easy way for employees to see what you offer them, where they can then make educated and informed choices to meet their lifestyle needs. Most likely it will be a combination of all of these things! 

What is key is to make sure you are clear on what your objectives are and that these are communicated effectively to your chosen platform provider. Equally important is to understand what your role is in helping to achieve these. 

If you discuss your requirements openly with the provider and they explain clearly what can and can’t be done to meet them, then you are starting off on the right track. You may need to compromise somewhere along the line, unless you go for a completely bespoke platform that is customised for you. 

Do you understand your time and resource commitment? 

To successfully implement a benefits platform there needs to be a partnership between you and the provider. You both have a lot at stake, so it is very important that you work together to fully understand what is required and will be delivered. This will involve quite a bit of your time (at certain stages) so you need to be ready for that. 

The platform provider will need to collate a lot of information and, for the most part, you will be the source of that information. This may be your HR team, payroll team or via the benefit provider/broker.

Don’t forget that you will also want to review the site thoroughly before you make it available to your employees. The last thing you’ll want is for employees to access and see incorrect data. So allowing enough time for testing is a really good idea! 

A clear project plan, overseen by a good project manager, will help with all of this and everything should then slot into place. When the appropriate time and resource is committed to the project from the outset, any potential issues can be ironed out early on and risk mitigation then kicks in at the right times.

"Your aim should be full automation: from getting employee data, to sending communications, to reporting."

Why is employee data so important for successful implementation? 

So, you’ve selected your platform provider, you’ve agreed everything that is required and what can be delivered, everyone is on board and signed up.

Now, at some point you’ll need to provide the data. Sounds easy? In theory, yes, it should be! But, I have gone through many implementations where there are rules around benefit eligibility which are dependent on specific data, only to find that the client doesn’t hold that data or it is incomplete!

Data is King! It is the most important piece of the implementation puzzle. 

You can build the most amazing looking platform that does all manner of whizzy and exciting things on the face of it, but all that is driven by data. If the data isn’t there, the tricks won’t work! You’re aiming for it all to happen seamlessly and for full automation. More on this later...

The data needs to be complete, up to date and accurate, with all ‘rules’ identified. There will always be exceptions to every rule, so it is equally important that those exceptions can easily be identified from the data and rules built to make them work. 

Don’t forget that data will also need to come out of the platform to go to providers, payroll and also for your own use; e.g. management information (MI). Make sure this is also automated as this will help to reduce benefit administration and so impact on bottom line costs. Also, think about how easy it is for you to access the data as and when it’s needed and the ability to ‘self-serve’ when you might want to. 

Automate. Automate. Automate.

Your aim should be full automation: from getting employee data from your HR system, to triggering actions/tasks in the platform, to sending communications to employees, and then providing reports to providers and payroll. 

This links back up to the ‘Data is King!’ point above. As long as the data is complete, accurate and up to date, then it should be possible to create a process where there is no manual intervention with the data files passing back and forth. 

There should always be an allowance for checking of course. But the process of sending a data file between you and the platform to then be uploaded, and then manual processes to open selection windows for new joiners, and so on, should be seen as a thing of the past. 

Using the data and configured rules, the platform should be able to accept the data from an automated feed and then perform tasks based on the rules and data that feeds in. As a result, the user experience should be closer to ‘real time’, rather than having to wait a few weeks to access their benefit choices as used to happen.

This will save everyone time and money. Your employees will be more engaged as they can interact with the platform straight away. It also means we are eliminating those annoying human errors and issues that are traditionally associated with manual intervention! 

Is your flexible benefits platform actually flexible?

One of the biggest grumbles I have heard over the years is ‘You call it a flexible benefits platform, but it’s not very flexible. We can only change benefits once a year.’ 

Well, yes in some cases this will always be the case, depending on the benefit or the rules that apply to a benefit (which may be enforced on you by the provider, although they are improving). 

Generally, however, flexibility goes way past that now. True flexibility will allow your employees to select the benefits they want, when they want, and to access the platform 24/7 from any device.

For years we’ve talked about ‘anytime benefits’ but what are these and can the technology accommodate them? Gone are the days when you have an annual window and have to choose all your benefits in that window to run for the next twelve months. For example, 4me, our digital employee benefits platform allows employees to select what they want, when they want it

You should also have the flexibility to launch a new benefit at any time of the year and not wait until the next annual window, as might be the case with some older platforms.

If you would like to talk about implementing a new employee benefits platform and discuss how data and analytics can be used to make sure you select the right one, please get in touch with your usual Barnett Waddingham contact to find out how we can support you. Alternatively, please contact me below.

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