Going Online with Benefits Software

Are you planning to take your brokerage or agency online with benefits administration and HR software? Whether you’re just beginning the process or ready to sign a contract, here’s what brokers and account staff should know about the process of going online.

Going Online with Benefits Software

Why Adopt Benefits and HR Software?

Clients using different systems

More than $1 billion was invested in the HR tech space last year, and many of these solutions are being marketed directly to employers. With the existence of more than 100 benefit administration software solutions, it is unlikely that your clients will all choose the same solution — or even the same five solutions.

Imagine your clients are using ten different benefits administration platforms. How is your team supposed to keep up with all of the updates and improvements those ten different systems make on an ongoing basis? In an alternative scenario, you choose a platform and incorporate it into your value proposition. Your team takes time to understand the system you’ve selected. You identify how you can improve your agency’s own internal processes and who is responsible for what. As a result, you are able to more successfully implement internally and with clients.

Millennials

The trend of employer adoption will only increase as Millennials rise up the ranks at their workplaces. Millennials continue to comprise larger shares of the workforce, and as they become decision-makers with your clients and prospects, they will be looking for a broker that can provide technology solutions to paper problems. Millennials are looking for a more efficient and intuitive benefits experience, and offering a benefits platform means you can provide it.

Ability to grow your book of business

We have identified two primary ways brokers can grow their business with benefits software: bringing on new business and adding lines of coverage to existing accounts.

Benefits and HR technology is a great tool to help win new business, as being able to tell prospects you can give them an HR platform for no cost is a huge value-add. If you can find a specific pain point for an employer and show them how software can solve that problem, they will let you be their broker.

A benefits platform makes it easy to add lines of coverage to accounts of any size. So, if you have groups who do not offer worksite products or disability benefits, you can easily add those coverages to their benefits package. This creates a triple win — employers offer a more competitive benefits package, employees have more choices, and brokers realize more ancillary revenue.

Expand Benefits & Increase Revenue

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Local competition going online

We are increasingly seeing this as a driving trend of the move online. As other brokers and agencies in local markets begin to make this transition, benefits technology moves from a deal-winner to a deal-qualifier. In other words, there is an opportunity to win new business as employers want to administer benefits and HR online, but aren’t currently doing so. However, as more brokers and employers move online, a tech solution will be a requirement to get a seat at the table, but not necessarily enough to win.

Can I use my carrier or payroll company’s benefits tool?

Brokers using payroll- or carrier-provided enrollment systems are often managing multiple different platforms, which is not the most efficient approach to benefits administration. By offering a single benefits administration and HR platform as part of your agency’s value proposition, brokers are able to get all their groups on a single platform and communicate information to multiple carriers and payroll companies at once.

One concern with using a carrier- or payroll-provided platform is the potential for misaligned incentives. In the event that your clients want to switch companies, your agency could lose the online functionality associated with going online. Alternatively, providing an autonomous platform directly to your groups allows you to maintain the benefits of going online regardless of which companies you work with.

The Timeline of Going Online

Once you make the decision to adopt a benefits and HR platform, the next step is to consider the timeline of the buying and implementation process. At BerniePortal, we recommend rolling out your new benefits administration platform with your clients during open enrollment. Because most groups will renew during the fourth quarter, it is best to be completely up to speed and comfortable with your new platform by that time.

Why do we recommend implementing during open enrollment? Our sister company, benefits brokerage Bernard Health, has brought thousands of users online with BerniePortal. We have found this is the best approach because you are implementing change at an existing time of change.

But it does take some advanced preparation to be fully implemented by Q4. Let’s review: 

Full implementation means you have selected a platform, contracted with the vendor, rolled out the system, attended training, and are comfortable working in the platform. You may even want to put a few of your smaller groups on the platform before the fourth quarter to establish best practices and resolve any issues. From start to finish, we estimate this process takes around 18 weeks.

How to Choose a Platform

The Buyer’s Workbook

The buyer’s workbook will cover how to select an HR system and what the buying process entails. Compare different vendors’ features and ask the right questions using the guidelines provided in the workbook.

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Features

In addition to benefits enrollment and administration, you may also want to look for:

Onboarding

Notices

Payroll Integration

PTO Tracking

Offboarding

Employee Self-service

Customer Support

Not every benefits platform offers the same level of customer service and support. Due to the high volume of expected and unexpected benefits issues that can arise, this is a key point of comparison.

One key item to consider is a quick turnaround on support issues. How quickly does your support team member get back to you? Are you consistently waiting for a response? Has it caused issues with your clients?

But in particular, this also applies to buildouts. BerniePortal handles all build-outs in one to three business days. It makes the implementation process easier on brokers to have a dedicated team as part of their licensing agreement to handle the build-outs. Not to mention, you have product experts handling this work, instead of having your team figure it out on their own or having to pay a separate, third-party contractor in addition to your software vendor.

Pricing

When comparing benefits and HR platforms for your agency, a key consideration will be price and the vendor’s licensing model, or how your agency will pay for the product and what the license includes.

Some options may include a flat fee license or a minimum plus per-employee-per-month license. Here’s why a flat-fee “wholesale” license may benefit your agency more than a PEPM model.

The PEPM model creates a disincentive for agencies putting all groups onto the system, because the price goes up with every employee addition. As a result, brokers don’t get the full value of their investment. Most agencies adopt a platform to streamline their processes, but if you end up only moving the groups that demand technology, the ROI is minimized.

In comparison, a wholesale model incentivizes you to get all your groups online. This allows you to take advantage of efficiency gains across your book of business, resulting in a higher return on your investment.

To effectively estimate and compare pricing models, calculate the cost of bringing your entire book of business online, not just one or two groups. Typically, a wholesale pricing model results in more ROI than the PEPM model.

Training

How effective is the vendor’s training around marketing and implementing your new platform with clients and prospects? You should leave training feeling more than comfortable communicating the value proposition to current and prospective clients. BerniePortal provides a go-to-market strategy at in-person training, as well as marketing materials to use as you roll out our software.

How to Administer Benefits and HR Software

Guide to Implementing Benefits Administration Software

This guide will help you navigate through your benefits administration software implementation from the initial planning stages to the steps you can take to ensure that your implementation holds up long term.

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Develop a strong understanding of the platform

If you don’t have a good, working understanding of the system yourself, it will be really challenging to implement with your clients. This is why selecting a platform with robust training and quality client support is so important. BerniePortal sets the standard in this area, providing in-person training sessions, a dedicated Client Success team member, and ongoing webinars and other resources to ensure new partners are completely up to speed on their new platform.

As Client Success team lead Lindsey Van Cleave says:

“We have done all of the wrong things, and found all of the right ones, when implementing an HR platform with our own brokerage clients. This sharing of knowledge can save our broker partners countless hours of heartache and frustration.”

Want to hear more from Lindsey Van Cleave?

Download “How to Bring Your Agency Online” to hear from Lindsey about maximizing the value of your new agency.

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Implement strategically

First, implement strategically with your team. Then, with the input of your client success team, define a process to train your clients, and pick a small group of clients to move online first. You will likely know which groups to prioritize, but ultimately, you will want to develop a strategy for bringing all clients online at their renewals.

Share the good news

Tell current clients that enrollment will be online this year and incorporate the benefits platform as part of your agency’s value proposition. Don’t feel like you have to “sell” your clients on using a benefits platform. Simply say, “We’ve compared leading benefits platforms and think the system we’ve chosen will really simplify the enrollment process for you and your employees.” After all, your clients have trusted you to manage their open enrollment process for a long time.

Because BerniePortal was created out of benefits brokerage Bernard Health, our team provides expert advice and robust support when it comes to the roll-out process. From sharing the news to handling objections, our team provides a tried-and-true go-to-market strategy that ensures agency success.

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