Would you take a full-time job that didn’t offer good benefits? More importantly, would you stay at a job where accessing your insurance information, time off and paycheck, and other benefits was a hassle every time you logged into the company portal? Benefits administration (BA) software is there to make the perks, amenities, and core services your employer offers easy to set up for administrators, and even simpler for employees to use.
Attractive benefits packages are not only a key factor in attracting top talent to your startup or growing small to midsize business (SMB) but they’re also how you keep those employees happy and show them they’re valued. But no matter how great the benefits and perks your business offers, you need a benefits administration (BA) experience within your HR management platform that makes it easy for human resources (HR) to administer and customize plans. HR also needs to give employees a straightforward and intuitive self-service portal from which to view and manage benefits.
BA is one of those core pieces of functionality you can find in a wide variety of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications. Most HR management software includes BA features but, in this roundup, we also included tools that manage BA from within online payroll and enterprise resource planning (ERP) platforms.
Whether as a standalone benefits management product or as a BA module within all-in-one enterprise software, businesses should seek out BA features that make HR’s job easier. For one, look for products that give employees no-hassle access to their benefits information across both desktop and mobile devices. For another, make sure to carefully evaluate products to make sure they ultimately streamline the benefits plan, especially its configuration and tracking process. The products should also give employees the greatest possible flexibility when choosing the right health coverage and added benefits for themselves and their families.
Covering the BA Basics
The 10 BA tools included in this roundup—APS OnLine, BambooHR, Cezanne OnDemand, Fairsail HRMS, Gusto, Kronos SaaShr, Namely, Paychex Flex, SAP Business One Professional, and Zenefits—all cover the core functionality your business should look for as a given from any BA platform. For starters, you need basic health benefits and insurance across medical, dental, and vision, with most adding life insurance and disability, too. Also be careful to ensure they provide secure data integration with major carriers and insurance providers. This also means syncing up with important compliance regulations, including the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).
The other side of offering those core benefits is payroll integration and management of retirement funds, such as a 401k plan. Check the standalone BA software and HR management platforms your business is considering to make sure the software can sync up with your preferred payroll provider or established payment processing service, such as ADP or QuickBooks Online Plus.
The software should also be integrated across your entire organization. For the HR administrators who are doing the brunt of the work, the goal of a cloud-based SaaS solution is to make it easy to set up plans and configure benefits. It should also give them a single pane of glass from which to oversee whether employees have registered, and let them make ad hoc changes when needed, without worrying about errors or added manual steps. Tools such as Gusto, Namely, and Zenefits, make it easy on benefits administrators, offering an intuitive benefits setup process and comprehensive admin dashboard.
Source: Lockton, Inc. Click image for full view.
On that theme of streamlining the benefits process for the HR and IT departments, the other absolute must is an easily accessible and navigable self-service portal for employees. The more a benefits portal allows employees to set up and customize their available benefits, such as the ability to set variable rate or custom health plans, the less work there is for administrators to do.
Users should also have the ability to access their benefits from anywhere, whether from a desktop app or on their smartphones or tablets. Benefits and health insurance plans often contain information employees need outside of the office. By using the Zenefits app, for example, a user can pull up a copy of their insurance card directly from the app while at a doctor’s office or other health-related appointment. Benefits are supposed to be convenient, so the easier they are to access when an employee needs them, the more enticing the package will be.
Automation, Premium Benefits, and Startup Perks
If you’re looking for added functionality from an HR management platform, tools such as BambooHR, our Editors’ Choice for HR management, will give you capabilities such as applicant tracking (AT) and performance management built in. But, when it comes to straight-up BA, you can’t beat Zenefits, our definitive Editors’ Choice in this category, when it comes to sheer benefits options, added features, and ease of use.
Top-end tools designed for BA for startups such as Zenefits, as well as more expensive options such as Namely, offer a variety of added modules to further customize the benefits platform. Zenefits includes benefits modules for options including workers’ compensation, property and casualty insurance for businesses, and a stock option benefits module to help recruit top startup talent. Namely does include higher-level benefits within the platform such as tax-free commuter savings and an employee wellness benefit that covers gym memberships.
Source: The Guardian Workplace Benefits Study, GuardianAnytime.com. Click image for full view.
Along with comprehensive HR and payroll platforms such as BambooHR and Gusto, the startup-focused BA tools also automate benefits onboarding and processes wherever possible. Features such as future dating allow employees to make benefits changes long before an impending status change (such as getting married) in order to automate that process and ensure a smooth benefits transition. Services such as Gusto even offer recommendations to employees for personalized health plans via an automated algorithm. Some software makes the BA process easy, with a simple, intuitive user experience (UX) while others go steps beyond that, automating and contextualizing the experience for maximum personalization and organizational efficiency.
Finally, don’t sleep on the data. Most BA tools include some form of benefits reporting for compliance and audit purposes But the top tier platforms—BambooHR, Gusto, Namely, and Zenefits, along with the expanded ERP reporting in SAP Business One Professional—can give you deeper business intelligence (BI) data on the type of benefits and plans your employees are choosing and why. This BI data is packaged up in smart-looking data visualizations for you to present to management and executives. After all, every piece of data your business collects is valuable.
BA isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing. The solution your startup, SMB, or larger enterprise organization chooses will be based on a host of factors, not the least of which are the HR and payroll tools in which you’re already invested. If you’re building out a BA program from scratch, particularly for a new startup or SMB, we recommend Editors’ Choice Zenefits. But depending on the specific needs of your organization, any one of the software solutions in this roundup may be just right for you.