1. Thoughts from Benefitfocus One Place Conference

    On May 7, 2014, I was a panelist at the @Benefitfocus One Place user conference and it was a huge success. Fantastic company, fantastic culture, customer centered, and unbelievable employees. Shawn Jenkins has done a fabulous job of creating an unbeatable company culture and product.

    While I was there, I was asked two questions as a panelist but felt I’d like to add more color to what I said. The following is an extended version of what my answers were to the questions I was asked as part of the panel.

    Question 1. How does the concept of “HR Standardization” impact the benefits area? How can a customer do this or get closer to this or get closer? What are the benefits?

    Standardizing HR benefits processes is more than just standard operating procedures. It includes automating and integrating the recruiting process, the on-boarding process, and the benefits enrollment process. It is not just good business and a cost savings to the employer but provides a great start to new employees and existing employees while reducing employee turnover. If an employer invests in connecting and automating these key areas they can expect better employee relations, improved retention and reduced HR operating costs.

    Let’s consider benefits and how standardization of this area is key to the employee experience. As an employer, you do have control over how your team accesses the information about each benefit, how they get information about what is covered, how eligibility is determined (waiting periods and effective dates), and the technology/systems used to administer and execute your benefits enrollments. What you don’t always have control over is your providers where the employee is forced to interact with their systems to view and process claims. So it’s really important that you give them a good employee experience around all aspects of enrollment, including areas such as “Initial Enrollment”, “New Hire Enrollment”, “Open Enrollment”, and “Life Events” which you can control.

    From our experiences at @Aasonn, this comes down to is how you select and configure the various systems you choose, how these systems are integrated with your core HR back-end and your payroll systems, and ultimately how you integrate all of these systems to your benefits provider’s systems. Best of breed systems that are connected well can achieve amazing results and provide a seamless employee experience.

    In order for automation and integration of your core HR processes and systems to work, you need standard ways of processing the different employee and benefits events so that integration and communications become repeatable and consistent processes across your entire enterprise. Each of your company’s locations need to process these different benefits events the same way, every time, to all employees regardless of location. This means that you need standard operating procedures and integrated systems. The obvious exceptions apply for differences in local laws and legislation as well as union contracts. If you standardize these processes and procedures, you can have well-orchestrated integrations, which will dramatically improve the employee experience.

    Let’s be honest, the choices an employee makes concerning their benefits during the Annual Benefits Open Enrollment Periods are among the most important an employee will make for themselves and their families all year. Once enrolled, you also need to be able to support the different life events they will have during the year too. At all times, the employee should be able to easily review and, if necessary, change their benefits choices to meet their current needs. Unfortunately, too often it is difficult for them to understand and process these transactions internally.

    Question Number 2. We have an Open Enrollment coming up in the fall but we haven’t decided on our new payroll vendor yet, what do we need to consider? What are some of the areas to consider relative to integrations between systems?

    Fall is little more than four months away, depending on when you begin the Open Enrollment period. If the payroll vendor is a software vendor, and you have to implement, configure, customize, test, and deploy, you have less than one month to make that selection and start the process. And that is only if you’re only a single country employer. Typical, well planned payroll implementations will take at least six months, at a minimum, so you should plan on processing your Open Enrollment period with your existing payroll system.

    During your vendor selection process, you need to establish whether they support data migrations, support for integration of your enrollment software and time and attendance systems, whether they have experience in Cloud-to-Cloud integrations or Cloud-to-On-Premise integrations, and do they provide effective change management guidance and end-user training.

    The next dilemma to be planned out in this scenario is to plan for a migration of data from your old payroll system to your new one, which includes all benefits data captured during the fall open enrollment. This data will be converted to the new system and it needs to be tested thoroughly to be sure that nothing is misinterpreted during the data migration.

    Finally, you need to do very detailed testing of the integrations from your new payroll system to your benefits enrollment software and don’t forget to test the processing from the employee side of enrollment, since it may be quite some time before you put that system to a test again.

    If the new payroll vendor is a service, you still need to determine the support they provide to accommodate the necessary integrations to your other systems, as in the new software example above. Since these vendors typically are more turnkey or maybe an outsourcer, it’s much easier to get up and running for payroll, but still, the integrations will be required. And in some cases will need to be built depending on the vendor’s compatibility with your other benefits and time and attendance software. If you are successful, and you test thoroughly, you may be able to accomplish this off in a much shorter period of time.

    The key to success is heavily on the vendor side and your internal capabilities for technology support. If you have a trusted systems integration advisor who has experience in Cloud technologies, you will have a much greater chance of success. There are a number of moving parts in such an endeavor so your vendor selection and evaluation process and project planning will determine success. In both scenarios, the robust features of the vendors API’s and the extent to which they have prepackaged process libraries to specific software or SaaS vendors will reduce the risk of such a decision, the timing of the go-live, and the ultimate cut-over to the new payroll software or service.

    About the Author:

    Allen Peterson is the CEO of Aasonn. Aasonn is a global consultancy who has implemented and integrated HR/Talent systems for over 1,600 SAP/SuccessFactors customers in 30 countries in just the last seven years. Today they are building a new division to deliver HRO using highly integrated Cloud solutions with highly standardized HR processes. Their new HRO solution is based on the Employee Experience. The new offering will be available in the second half of 2014.

    Originally Posted on LinkedIn (



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