The Shocking Reason Math Majors Shun Those of Us in HR & Benefits

Posted by on May 27, 2015 | Be the First to Comment

Let’s start your workday off with a little HR Tech humor! We’re always known as such a cut-up crew as it is, so I’m sure no one’s surprised one of our readers sent in the following screenshot to lighten your day.

Typically, when we hear a vendor say “No customizations allowed” we are in full support of their restrictions. After all, too many systems are broken by forcing a square process into a round workflow. But this capture below is a wonderful example of how two very well-known benefits solutions can break apart when forced to work together. (This is a pass-through window from a regular benefits administration system to a separate voluntary benefits enrollment system.)

This employer has 48 pay periods and wants the per-paycheck amount to be displayed for employees to see. Sounds easy enough, right? Ah, but it didn’t fit the Weekly, Monthly or Semi-Monthly frequencies the vendor offered standard.

forty eighthly

Hope you enjoyed our funny finding! Have you seen any comical attempts at customization? If so, please share!



More Strategies for Your Payroll Implementation

Posted by on May 19, 2015 | Be the First to Comment

Last week I started sharing our team’s checklist of items to consider when implementing a new payroll system.  And because there were quite a few items (okay, okay A TON of items) to think about, I thought it would be best on all of our brains to finish sharing the list today. Hopefully the first part of our list didn’t drive you to drink, but if it did we’re hoping you’ve all nursed away your hangovers and are ready for part two!

Getting Down and Dirty

  • Make sure the vendor is using an issues log. If not, suggest one be part of the project. Google Docs is a great way to share these logs so both organizations can edit, review, and manage.
  • Establish a risk management plan.
  • Request the requirements documentation/templates you will need to complete as soon as possible from the vendor. Getting these a little bit in advance will ensure no surprises. Generally speaking, this is the area where a lot of projects get delayed.
  • Sign up for the training classes that meet the project schedule early before they get filled up.
  • Don’t necessarily look to mirror existing processes and procedures. This is a time to make changes that are needed to make the organization more efficient and streamlined. Make Change Management an active and necessary part of the overall project.
  • If you have a lot of duplicate earning codes/deduction codes/job codes or unnecessary codes (for example), use this time to clean up items which are no longer needed.
  • Discuss your reporting needs with the vendor.iStock-Unfinished-Business-1
  • Make sure the vendor knows your GL requirements and confirm the GL is part of the test plan.
  • Depending on the full solution, various interfaces could be part of the project. If so, identify those interfaces in the beginning of the project and ensure the vendor knows the requirements and specs, etc. Confirm interface development and testing is part of the project plan. Too often we see these as “Phase 2” items and that really adds risk to a satisfying go-live.
  • If you have any problems getting data from your current system or concerns about your data quality, let the new vendor know immediately. Make sure to allot time to review the data before it’s provided to the new vendor. Good data is one of the most important tasks within the project. This too is an area where projects can get delayed.
  • If you have local taxes, discuss these with the vendor so everyone is comfortable. Some vendors manage these for their clients while others insist the client is accountable for keeping up with local changes.
  • If you have individuals who work and live in different states, discuss this with the vendor.
  • Ensure the vendor has a period of time designated for functional testing. Ensure a good understanding of what functional testing will include.
  • As needed, ask the vendor for help establishing User Acceptance Testing (UAT) criteria and test cases. Most vendors won’t have a full UAT plan, but some vendors will help the client put this together. This is one area that any vendor out there cannot be successful without the employer (or your consultant) picking up a huge share of the workload. Your company is unique – and no vendor can anticipate what needs to be tested from your employee’s point of view.
  • Often functional testing is the period where security and access levels are tested. If not, make sure security is tested early in the project. Allot time to test Employee and Manager Self Service.
  • Ensure the vendor is allowing for at least two pay periods of parallel testing. We see vendors advocating for this to be scaled back. We always encourage our employers to bake as much quality into their implementation as possible.
  • Some vendors will provide a test database. If the vendor is going to charge for the test database, it’s a good investment. Note- you may only need a test database for a year or so.
  • Be prepared for a period of dual entry with the old system and the new system. In other words, a lot vendors today load the final employee demographic data well in advance of go-live. This means you will be maintaining two systems (two systems of record) for a short time.
  • Make sure you have a go-live plan and in particular, a plan to triage any go-live problems, questions, etc.iStock-Unfinished-Business-7

Don’t Forget About

  • Review the processing schedule with the vendor early so it’s clear to everyone. Also, double check holidays, short work weeks, etc. on the processing schedule. Do you have off-cycle bonus runs?
  • Be discerning while making sure your previous vendor is aware you are leaving. Look for any possible service drops, gaps of coverage, etc. If your previous vendor is providing tax filing, ensure the service is turned off (to avoid duplicate 941 and quarterly filings, etc.).
  • If the new vendor is providing tax filing services, you will need to provide tax IDs, power of attorneys, rates for SUI, etc. Make sure all of this is completed on time. Failure to provide IDs or SUI rates, for example, will result in penalties, delays, and unnecessary confusion.
  • If the total solution includes a time clock import, ensure this is part of the parallel testing process.

This rounds on me!

Lift your glass and shout cheers to improved processes and an integrated payroll system! We truly wish you the best of luck in your implementation. If this is all way too much for you to take in, give us a shout! We have several payroll experts that can help guide you through this process. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @HRTechKaiser!

Smart Strategies for Your Payroll Implementation

Posted by on May 14, 2015 | Be the First to Comment

So you’re implementing a new payroll system, and wondering where to start? Well, lookie here, wouldn’t you know your neighborhood HR Tech geeks have compiled a checklist just to help guide you through the implementation of your new HR technology. (It’s like we were reading your mind!) You’ll notice that “establishing a drinking problem” is not on the list – although we’ve seen many folks pencil that particular item in over the years. We’re hopeful this information can not only save your implementation but also your liver!


First Things First

  • Obtain the project resource roster from the vendor and ensure the vendor has a designated Project Manager. Note – the size of the vendor team will vary per project. If you don’t see experience or competence in their selection, please advocate for a better assignment. It’s your right, and if they have excess capacity, they can often swap out agents.
  • Confirm everyone is aligned on the expectations of the project. This can be part of the project scope or a similar document. Hold it up against the expectations set in the sales process to ensure none of the vendor’s “sure, we can do that” throwaway comments are omitted. Ensure all stakeholders have a say and are in agreement. – This one is super important for success!
  • Ensure you are comfortable with the general roles and responsibilities of both your team and the vendor. Ask the vendor for a matrix or illustration of the roles and responsibilities. How much of their full-time equivalency (FTE) is expected to be consumed? Are you staffed appropriately for the duration?
  • Know the escalation points of contact on the vendor side. Hopefully you have an executive sponsor from the sales process that can carry over into implementation.
  • Establish a Steering Committee to inform about key project details, help remove roadblocks and obstacles, etc.
  • Confirm everyone (client team and vendor team) is aligned on the project timeline and key dates. Ensure the vendor is updating the project plan/timeline as the project progresses.
  • Compare scheduled vacation, out of office, and time-off to the project plan and timeline and adjust if needed. Many industries have busy seasons (such as Q4 in retail) that must be accommodated. You can’t have a key implementation tollgate right in the middle of an “all-hands on deck” time.
  • Schedule the weekly status meetings with the vendor and an internal weekly meeting.

Sidebar: With a Payroll go-live, Jan. 1 is always preferred, but quarter start is absolutely fine too. Avoid any mid-quarter starts if at all possible.

These are just a few of the items to consider pre-implementation to set your implementation on the right track. For the list of items to consider during the implementation, check back in next week. Hopefully the start of our list hasn’t already driven you to drink!

Survey Says: Employers Are Not Ready for ACA

Posted by on April 29, 2015 | Be the First to Comment

Our dear friend, Ed Fensholt, over in Compliance recently brought a Business Insurance article to our attention. It talks about employer reporting under the Affordable Care Act. Below are a few of his comments about the article that I thought were too important not to share.

ACA is a big deal….first reports are due by the end of January next year (the article mistakenly suggests employers with at least 100 employees must report…it’s actually worse than that: employers who, in 2014, averaged at least 50 full-time employees in the corporate family tree, including fictional full-timers comprised of part-time hours, will have some reporting to do.

These reports include individual forms due to each full-time employee (and perhaps others), with a copy to the IRS…the forms are due from the employee’s employer, even if the health plan covering the employee is sponsored by someone else (like a parent, other affiliate, or even a union plan) or even if there’s no health plan offered to or covering the full-time employee at all!

According to the survey described in the article, 90 percent of mid-sized employers (fewer than 1,000 employees) don’t yet have an in-house or outsourced solution in place to track hours and submit the required reports. That’s troubling; because these solutions can’t be installed overnight…the implementation window will begin closing before summer fades to autumn!

16 percent haven’t even yet considered what they have to do or how they’re going to do it!


If you have not yet begun thinking about the ACA reporting requirements (or more to the point, haven’t been educated about the ACA reporting requirements), you are behind the curve, and in a few short weeks will be so far behind you won’t be able to catch up! (PS- There’s a chance the IRS will delay this reporting requirement, but if it does so, it’ll likely wait until the last minute…we all hope it happens, but it is folly to bank on that possibility).

As Ed mentioned, it is troubling that so many employers have yet to find a solution to track and report hours. Not only is the timeline for implementation dwindling, but the capacity of the vendors is also decreasing. Don’t wait any longer to seek out a solution, or you could end up in big trouble. Your procrastination could cost you big $$!

This post wasn’t meant to scare you, but ACA is a big deal, my friends. It doesn’t look to be going away and from the survey results you can see most employers haven’t begun to act on the requirements. Lockton’s Compliance and HR Technology & Outsourcing teams are more than happy to help educate you on the reporting requirements and processes and suggest some possible technology solutions. If you have any questions on ACA reporting or ACA technology, please give us a shout.

Here is a PDF copy of the Business Insurance article: Most employers unprepared

Oh by the way, pay us some more!

Posted by on April 7, 2015 | Be the First to Comment

Is there a full moon because I have been seeing some interesting things in the HR Tech space recently?! Over the last few weeks, I’ve had two separate clients reach out with questions about billing recovery attempts by their HR Tech vendors.

The first, was one of many impacted clients to receive a letter from a very prominent benefits administration vendor informing the client that they would now be charged sales tax on their software-as-a-service, data processing, information systems, and implementation services… and also be required to pay the back taxes from 2013 and 2014. Exactly the letter every employer wants to receive…not! Just when you thought it was safe to go into the SaaS market for HR Technology, you get smacked with taxes for it! This unexpected cost definitely shows the value of a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) analysis- to prevent your sales rep’s oversight of potential taxes.


The second, received an email from their benefits administration vendor (a different vendor from the one previously mentioned) requesting back payment for a service they were receiving but hadn’t been billed for. This vendor had failed to include the COBRA premium in the monthly invoicing and wants the client to pay that back now. (The client signed their contract with this vendor in 2013…and they just now noticed the “glitch in their system” which left off the COBRA premium billing.) This client was also supposed to receive the decision support tool and total compensation statements; however, they were never set up, and most likely won’t be at this point despite being paid for by the client. Fortunately the cost of COBRA and the decision support tool plus total compensation statements are the same, so the solution was a creative strategy of suggesting the substitution of one service in arrears for the services that weren’t delivered.

I’m hoping this isn’t a new vendor trend and rather a few full moon coincidences, but I still wanted to give you all a heads up as to what we are seeing in the market and make sure taxes are something you and your vendor discuss prior to signing a contract so you aren’t hit with unexpected costs that could throw off your budget. It is also a good idea to keep an eye on your monthly charges to ensure you are getting exactly what you are (or aren’t) paying for.

If you have a similar experience, please share below or let us know if we can help escalate this issue with your vendors. Make sure to follow @HRTechKaiser on Twitter for the latest HR Tech-related updates.

ACA Data You Might Not Be Capturing

Posted by on April 2, 2015 | Be the First to Comment

Affordable Care Act data you may not be capturing to complete the required IRS forms due first quarter 2016

Below are some of the common pieces of data that HRIS systems are NOT collecting for your IRS forms due the first quarter of 2016:

  • Employee offer of coverage code for each month in plan year (Part II, Row 14, 1095-C)
  • Employee share of the lowest monthly premium (minimum value where applicable) (Part II, Row 15, 1095-C)
  • Employee applicable 4980H safe harbor code by month (Part II, Row 16, 1095-C)
  • Social Security Numbers for dependents enrolled on your medical benefits plan (Part III, 1095-C)
  • Name of person to contact and contact number at applicable large employer member (Part I, Rows 15-16, 1094-C)
  • Total count of 1095-C documents submitted with 1094-C transmittal (Part I, Row 18, 1094-C)
  • Full-time employee count by month (Part III, Rows 23-35, Column B, 1094-C)
  • Total employee count by month (Part III, Rows 23-35, Column C, 1094-C) Aggregated group information when applicable (Part IV, 1094-C)
  • Place to document Notice of Subsidy form by employee with aggregated data for reconciliation or defense (when required).

(We would hate for you to measure, track, and offer affordable coverage to employees who ultimately went to the exchange, and you did not have defensible data to avoid penalties.)

Check with your current HRIS vendors to ensure that this information is being captured and is available for reports so you can maintain compliance with the ACA reporting mandates. If you have any questions on ACA technology, let us know!

The 4 Most Common Employer Goals for Benefits Administration (Cont.)

Posted by on March 26, 2015 | Be the First to Comment

Welcome back from spring break! Earlier this week, I shared with you the first two of four common goals employers have when looking for benefits administration systems. You can read about the first two goals (the desire for one system and the ability to customize) here if you missed them. I know you are all dying to know the other two, so I won’t beat around the bush any longer. Here they are!

Common Goal #3 – Ease of use for employees

– This has gotten a lot better recently. Benefitfocus really challenged the industry with their great user experience four years ago. By now, a lot of other vendors have caught up to them – but since this is a huge part of Benefitfocus’ identity in the market, they continue to prioritize resources for design and technology. Even the most traditional firms are catching the ease-of-use bandwagon. The current ADP’s Workforce Now and Vantage products have improved their user interface considerably from previous versions where enrollment events were confusing or intimidating for employees. They’ve also invested heavily into UX (User Experience) with a swanky and gritty Innovation Lab in New York’s Silicon Alley. The programmers and other hipsters are transforming ADP’s HR Tech for mobile and the Millennial consumer at a breakneck speed.

– To help you evaluate a vendor’s efforts, the use of video, avatars, and decision support are three areas where vendors are differentiating from each other. For example, if voluntary products are part of your offering, pay attention to how those last three innovation areas are able to support them. Will decision support cover both core benefits and voluntary?


Common Goal #4 – Customer service

– This has been the most frustrating aspect of the Benefits Administration space. Service has continued to be negotiated out of our industry (credit for this fantastic insight and turn of phrase goes to our friend, the infamous Rhonda Marcucci). In addition, a lot of the victims in the merger and acquisition war have been some of the best servicers in our industry (SHPS, Aliquant, Workscape, etc.). Alas, good soldiers all – too bad that overly good service makes it difficult for a business model to succeed! That being said, we’ve seen some vendors aggressively address this with either fees at risk or even more innovative methods. We have one national vendor that agreed to offer all Lockton clients a segmented implementation and service team to improve our customers’ consistency of service. Other vendors are also very responsive to Lockton’s agitation as we have a sizeable book of business with each.

– We feel the best vendors are willing to put Service Level Agreements (SLAs) in place to help their clients rest easy after contracts are signed. Not everyone is able to do this, but it’s certainly a way to objectify a subjective process. Speaking of subjective, there are even a couple vendors who do away with many of the technically measured SLAs and just focus on customer satisfaction. It’s an up or down vote and it controls at least 2% of fees paid. That certainly won’t bankrupt anyone, but it does show a willingness to put customers’ satisfaction above profit margin and that is a beautiful sight in our book. Give us a holler if you’d like to have some recommendations in this area of the vendor landscape as it changes frequently!

How do these goals differ from your organization’s when looking at replacing your benefits administration system? Did we channel your inner frustrations – or do you have some unique needs not captured here? Please share by commenting below. Please follow me on Twitter @HRTechKaiser for more insights and the latest news in everything HR Techie!

The 4 Most Common Employer Goals for Benefits Administration

Posted by on March 24, 2015 | Be the First to Comment

Have you ever felt like you’re alone? That no one could possibly understand you and your needs? Well lay down on Dr. Kaiser’s couch and let’s explore those HR Tech concerns. That’s better, your breathing has calmed. Tissue? Would you be surprised to find out that there are others just like you out there? HR and benefits leaders fed up with their systems and the confusing marketplace of alternatives? You are not alone!


Ok, so this conversation is imaginary, but truth be told, we hear very common themes from the employers we’re helping infrastructure their business. After a recent engagement with a mid-market client wanting a replacement to their Benefits Administration system, I thought it would be helpful to share some of the more common employer desires for their next Benefits Administration solution. We see these same goals listed for many of the employer clients we work with.

Common Goal #1 – Employer desires one system to run all HRIS functions, if possible

– While we always start our clients off by looking at single source solutions to minimize frustrating Vendor Management duties, often we recommend our employer clients to break off portions of their infrastructure with high complexity or importance to their identity as an employer to “point” solutions that specialize in that area. Benefits Administration is one of the most frequent pieces addressed this way. Others include ACA Compliance, Time and Attendance, and Talent Management.

  • Most of the stand-alone Benefits Administration solutions are usually excellent at working with a separate payroll/HR vendor. That being said, our implementation oversight teams often have to advocate for these vendors to prioritize the connectivity feeds to payroll and HR.

– Sometimes your existing HR, Payroll, or Time technology vendors are able to provide Benefits Administration services as well. For example, to pick the most common vendor in the marketplace, ADP’s WorkforceNow suite is an all-in-one application that’s doing rather well in some of our clients’ evaluations. It has better Benefits Administration functionality than most other all-in-one solutions out there and most telling to our buyers: up until recently their benefits module was strong enough to be sold stand-alone without payroll. Very few other vendors can say that about their benefits modules in the mid-market. It will offer less than the stand-alone Benefits Administration vendor solutions, but will be the most integrated offering.

– Carrier connectivity can be a problem if the vendor isn’t heavily versed in the benefits domain as is the case with many of the payroll vendors who only scratch the surface of benefits complexity. As a great attempt at a proof statement, Paychex offers free carrier feeds to their BeneTrac clients to assure them they understand and can handle the connectivity needs. While it may sound smoother than it actually turns out to be, it’s a great marketing technique.

Common Goal #2 – Ability to customize

–  This is a scary word for our teams as most of the dissatisfaction we’ve seen with vendor solutions after the contract has been signed originates from customers’ customizations or ongoing maintenance of those customizations. There are times customizations make sense – but they are very rare indeed – and expectations need to be crystal clear of the ongoing maintenance. We much prefer finding a solution for our employers where “configuration” is possible within the toolset/options included in the standard product (flipping switches vs. writing code).

– The higher-end solutions can accommodate a lot of plan and communication complexity within their solutions without requiring professional services work. Vendors in this space include bswift, BusinesSolver and Empyrean among others. Of course, each will have different areas of strength and a well-researched Business Requirements Document (BRD) can save an employer buyer a whole heap of heartache!


Stay tuned for the other two most common employer goals, which we will share later this week. In the meantime, what are your thoughts on these goals? Are they pretty similar to those of your organization?

Businessolver Vision 2015 Recap

Posted by on March 11, 2015 | Be the First to Comment

A few weeks ago one of our own, Paula,  attended Businessolver’s Vision 2015 in San Diego.  She has provided a quick recap and some of her thoughts on the seminar from keynote speaker Maria Ferrante-Schepis.

vision 2015

First, a few quick stats from Businessolver:

  • 73% of employees do not understand ACA because it’s “too complicated to understand”
  • The average enrollment takes 19 minutes
  • The average cost for employee benefits is $4,000/annually for the employee and $19,000/annually for the employer
  • The need for Decision Support, or as Businessolver calls it, Recommendation Engines, is driven by:
    • Confusion in purchasing plans by 86% of the population
    • 38% are not confident they are making the right choice
    • 42% do not use what they purchase effectively

The Keynote Speaker was Maria Ferrante-Schepis, and she knows how to engage a room with her passion for insurance.  She has a book out there, “Flirting with the Uninterested”, which became a top seller for Insurance on Amazon.

Insurance is an important construct of our society.  Maria is of the opinion we need to talk about insurance in new ways.  There’s so much distrust surrounding insurance; our job is to help close the gap between the industry’s intentions and the consumer perceptions.  She states innovation will drive the change in perception, and innovation itself is an important competency in all industries.  The essential need of business today, facing unprecedented change, is to reimagine business.  We see this in our space and it is still surprising how many of our vendors are moving along as if nothing big is underfoot.  We see this in the resellers setting up shop in Costco and Walgreens – there are those out there attempting to change how health insurance is purchased.

Innovation is the intersection of:

  1. Insight
  2. Idea
  3. Experience

If someone only holds two of these they are inventing, not innovating.  Survival will be dictated by the ability to innovate and do something different to make the business/product offering stand out.  The weakest link for innovation is insight; this is where data analytics are playing a bigger role by the day.  Status quo is going to be fatal.

Maria referenced what she calls a Napster Moment – “When someone who has no business being in your business reinvents your business (and puts you out of business).”  Another great quote from the day was, “You can’t read the label sitting inside the jar!”  This is what is generally behind creative disruption, one certainly hopes.

The market is shifting to a need for authenticity because insurance has a negative emotion/experience.  It is only purchased for when bad things happen, so no one wants to think about it.  If you get in an accident and don’t have insurance, you’ll go broke.  If you don’t have health insurance, you will pay extra taxes. The list goes on.

To gain authenticity (that “you’ll know it when you see it” authenticity), several key components are needed.  Insurance has a reputation of distrust and we are largely associated with this group as brokers.  In reality, we are just innocent nerds attempting to connect people with their benefits, yet we are still considered part of the “gang” at times.  There are six steps to building authenticity, which I think we can use to look for in the vendors we work alongside with:

  • Be Easy to Understand – use simple, everyday language
  • Be Down to Earth – real, human, and approachable
  • Be Memorable – interesting and refreshing
  • Be Positive – warm and comforting
  • Be Credible – trustworthy and unbiased, have the employee/employer’s best interest in mind
  • Be Relevant – understand and know me, speak to me

The opposite of these – and something we see all too frequently – is confusion, impracticality, negative experiences, unreliability, irrelevance, and many vendors are just plain forgettable.

Just as we struggle with making technology fun, those on the insurance side are working to make it sexy.   Maria advocates cleaning up the symptoms which impede relevance in the insurance industry:

  1. Out-dated communication models
  2. A face-to-face requirement to enroll
  3. The commission model
  4. Need for human intervention
  5. Invasiveness
  6. Traditional levers and risks
  7. Insurance Companies themselves

Across the country people are working to separate the symptoms from the real problem of relevance.  Education is going to be key. There’s a drive to make people understand how insurance is a sharing model. Maria showed a video that asserts, with insurance, we can move to a Collaborative Consumption, and this is happening with some crowd-sourcing sites specific to covering health costs.  I was not aware of the Medical-Sharing Ministries out there who are, at the moment, exempt from ACA.  She even showed a site in Germany where people could pool money for healthcare costs, a set premium per individual.  When someone needs to use the funds all members have to vote to determine if the money should be released.  I think there are going to be some crazy, innovative options coming out in the next couple of years.  Some will be laughable, and some may just gain traction and surprise us all.

Now I’m not advocating for my health costs to be part of any Kickstarter Campaign; however, the tides are shifting due to the ever changing regulations and evolving millennial workforce.  There is a smart rat out there who is going to make insurance fun somehow.  I, for one, am interested in seeing how they do it and I will bet on few things, it will be online, it will be slick, it will rely on technology, and we will get to play in the space.

ACA reporting: No rest for the weary HR technologist

Posted by on March 5, 2015 | Be the First to Comment


I am so honored to have contributed an article to Employee Benefit Advisor magazine earlier this week. If you haven’t yet, you should check it out. It’s a quick update on how HR technology plays a role in the Affordable Care Act reporting requirements.

You awake with a start. At first, you don’t know where you are. Your heart is pounding and you are running behind — in fact — way late. That final exam is today and you haven’t studied. In fact, you haven’t been to one class in more than a month. You thought you had dropped the course, but now you realize your grade and your graduation depend upon this test for which you are totally unprepared… Read the full article here.

I hope you were already aware of all of the information in this article, but if not, I hope it calls  you to action with regards to your ACA reporting needs! The time to start addressing the ACA requirements within your company is now! How has your company started collecting the data needed for ACA compliance? Please share below.