How the Future of HR Technology Buying is Changing

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

Last week, our team had the opportunity to gather together during our semi-annual confab. It was a long, but fun and educational week. In between our BBQ binges and Whirly Ball tournaments we had the opportunity to discuss some of the HR Technology trends and vendors with an industry friend, Rhonda Marcucci. Rhonda heads up Gruppo Marcucci, a consulting firm out of Chicago. Our discussions had me thinking a lot about where this industry is heading from both the vendor and consultant sides, but also the employer/consumer side.

lincolnWith today’s technology advances and the trend toward “digital”, the buying experience is changing. Buyers have so much more information so easily available to them. With the click of a button, thousands of pieces of data are at your fingertips. With all of that information, it makes sense that consumers now use on average 28 different vehicles to research their large purchases. For instance, search “Benefits Administration” on Google and you get about 45,800,000 results! I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “quality over quantity” before. The same applies to this excess of information. Yes, just because you read it on the internet, doesn’t mean it is fact.

For example, a few years ago we had a client that sent our their own RFP for a benefits administration system and requested printed materials. They went into a bit of shock when they received huge boxes of brochures and binders. How could they possibly get through all of that data and still manage to do their day job? They would be responsible for all that data in making the right decision. And that’s when they called us…

temple inland

The commercial vendors must be able to make their websites engaging. In order to stand out from all of the other competition (and there is a lot in the tech space due to the low entry barrier), your website should have a slick looking, personalized interface consumers can interact with.  The battle is between the tension to engagingly provide information about value proposition, while at the same time protect the secret sauce that gives them a competitive edge. The desire for engagement goes beyond just the website though. Consumers are demanding that engagement throughout the usage of the product.

In companies, most large purchasing decisions are made by teams, which means tech companies have to appeal to more than one person within a consuming company. And while appealing to a group, they also have to note that there are many other vendors that offer a very similar service offering. What makes them stand out from those other vendors? It comes down to a culture fit. We have been seeing this trend a lot lately too: the final decision for a new HR Tech vendor coming down to two comparable vendors and the deciding factor ends up being the culture match of the vendor and the client.

What are you noticing as a buyer or seller of technology? Are there any other trends you’ve noticed?

 

6 Keys to Preventing or Resolving Implementation Drama

Posted by on January 21, 2015 | Be the First to Comment

The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

Recently, my team has been brought in on a few implementations that haven’t gone quite as expected. I understand that sometimes you might do everything right leading up to the implementation and still have some issues during the actual implementation. (Let’s be real, there has never been a perfect implementation. Something will go wrong!) But the degree of your issues might determine the success of the implementation and the use of your system from here on out. Throughout the implementation rescues, I have noticed a few things that potentially could have helped things from going sour.

How to prevent an implementation from going sour:

1.  Set expectations upfront

Make sure both you and your vendor agree on the terms of the implementation. This should include timelines, quality, and task responsibilities. Predict and plan for what will happen if (when?!?) things go wrong. What are the escalation paths?

Create Service Level Agreements (SLAs) can help keep vendors on the right track. We believe a vendor that’s unwilling to put themselves financially at risk (in a material way relative to the employer’s contract value) is not being a true partner.

2.  Make sure you’ve done your prep work

This includes having an assigned Project Lead and clean data to transfer. Implementations take some prep work ahead of time. Too often we see the momentum of a partnering decision waylaid by bad data and the extra delays the cleanup effort will require.

This also includes knowing the vendor you’ve just decided to partner up with. Are they new and less experienced with implementations? Is there a chance they might get bought out?

3. Have an escalation plan

Just in case you aren’t getting the service you need, you should know who to contact to get things back on the right track. Your vendor team should be able to provide this info for you.

Be sure to tie this to position and not just someone’s name. Turnover is a natural part of business and if your vendor’s staff is any good, they’ll have opportunities to climb the ladder or leave before your contract is complete.

200122275-002

What to do when an implementation starts to go sour:

1. Contact your service rep

Using your escalation plan, start with the person closest to your implementation, which most times is you client service representative or manager. If they are unwilling or unable to help, move up that chain until you can get someone to acknowledge and take care of your issue.

If you haven’t already done so, start asking around at industry events or every time you meet with your broker or consultant to find other employers using the same solution and/or vendor. Find out from those employers who their go-to person is. Often the maxim of “if you want something done, assign it to an already-busy person” carries over to the HR Technology space. Good representatives are important to identify ahead of time. Then you already have an introduction in place for when things get rough.

2. Be open to flexibility

We recently heard a vendor say that they “have never missed an OE date.” At first you might think this is a great thing, but for the client we were working with, it raised a red flag for us. Sometimes things get complicated and it is better to miss your goal OE date than have it up and running for that date, but unusable, glitchy, or error-laden for your employees.

3. Call Lockton

Ok, I am kind of kidding with this one. But know that we can help. Unfortunately, we have seen a lot of vendors mess up during implementation. Fortunately for you, we are well prepared to turn those implementations gone South right around.

Have you had a less than ideal implementation? How did you get it back on track? We’d love to hear more (war) stories. Share by commenting below. May the odds be ever in your (implementation) favor!

What’s Ahead?

Posted by on January 8, 2015 | Be the First to Comment

Wow, we are already a week into 2015 and I still don’t have a hover board! In all seriousness, I think 2015 will be a big year for technology advances. Since there are way too many areas of technology trends to discuss on this blog, I’ll focus on my favorite area…you guessed it! HR Technology! But before I get too far into what to expect for 2015, let’s quickly recap 2014.

For us, 2014 was the year of ACA technology. The demand for this new area of measurement and reporting sent a lot of clients our way. (So much so we’ve got a whitepaper on the way! Stay tuned.) I don’t blame them either. With the delays and the lack of requirements information regarding the Affordable Care Act, it’s easy to be confused. If it wasn’t for my team, who actively research the laws and requirements and seek out vendors, I probably wouldn’t be able to keep up! But, at the end of the day, ACA is here and employers need to have something in place to measure, track, and report their workforce and benefit offerings.  2014 brought to light several new vendors on the scene, existing vendors that are promising but not delivering, and a few existing vendors that increased or improved their functionality offerings.

Other noteworthy HR Tech happenings of 2014 would include:

  • The trend towards social and mobile
  • Mergers and Acquisitions (Aetna and bswift, Cornerstone OnDemand and Evolv, SAP and Concur Technologies, LinkedIn and Newsle, and the list goes on!)
  • Vendors going IPO (Tri-Net, CastLight Health, Paycom)
  • Talent Management taking center stage at the HR Technology Conference and Expo
  • Technology vendors taking over BOR responsibilities (Zenefits, Paychex, Paycom)

And now, let me pull out my crystal ball and let’s take a look into the year ahead!

  • Cyber security – as was seen in 2014, I think our data and systems have become more vulnerable. It’s not a matter of if, but when, you will be hacked. I think 2015 will bring more security breaches and in causation require us to look at our security standards.  Will cyber security insurance become a thing? If so, who will be responsible- employers or vendors?happy-new-year-2015-wishes
  • More M&A – the HR Technology landscape has been one big, ongoing development. Because the barriers of entry are so low, new vendors pop up left and right and just as quickly become acquired by the big guys. I think this trend will continue. I would even go so far as to say that carriers, too, will now be playing in the game of HR Tech Monopoly (as we saw with Aetna’s acquisition of bswift).
  • Still social – 2014 promoted social media and HR Technology integration. I think 2015 will take that integration one step farther.
  • Wellness integration – fitbits and other wearables have become a huge sensation in the U.S., especially for those involved in wellness programs. I think this industry will continue to grow and find new ways to integrate your daily activities to your wellness initiatives. (Hello Platinum Status!) I’m interested to see the data from these wearable and wellness program participants to the actual usage of benefits.
  • Get engaged – I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz around “employee engagement” lately. As the buzz continues, I think we will see more technologies try to address the issue. Employee engagement is important for attracting and retaining top talent in an organization and I think a lot of companies would buy into a technology that can improve their engagement. (Tinypulse, Kudos, Gratzi, Achievers, etc.)

Although, most of these predictions are completely out of left field, I’m curious as to what you guys think? Am I way off, or right on target?

Lockton Spreading Holiday Cheer

Posted by on December 22, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

I have to say, there are many reasons I love working at Lockton. Though hands down my favorite part is the people! There are so many great people working at Lockton. If you don’t believe me, take a look at this year’s collection pile for the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program. Lockton Associates could volunteer to adopt children off of the Angel Tree and buy presents for them. Each child’s presents were to be placed in a trash bag and dropped off in an empty office. As you can see, there was a lot of generosity spilling out of that room! I love that as a company, we can come together to help out our community! Lockton’s We Live Service motto goes beyond helping our clients, but extends to the communities in which we reside.

Angel Tree 3

Angel Tree 2

Speaking of great people, the entire HR Technology and Outsourcing Practice was in town last week for our holiday party. It was so great to spend time with those members of the team who represent our practice all across the country!

Team pic

On behalf of the Lockton HR Technology and Outsourcing Practice, Merry Christmas and Happy New Years to you and yours!

NexGen Cloud Conference Recap (Part 2)

Posted by on December 17, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

In case you missed the first part of Brad’s conference recap from the NexGen Cloud Conference he attended, you can read it here.  As promised, here is the rest of the recap. (And yes, it is just as geeky as the first installment.)

What if, as humans, we could process information as IBM’s Watson does? It was proposed that within 15 years we’ll be able to link the human neocortex to the cloud to access thousands of documents and pages of data within seconds.

Google engineers have been busy; Rather than just a key word search, they are working towards understanding the meaning of documents and not just the words. Google will remember that you searched on a specific topic a week ago and will notify you that new information on that same topic was just released three seconds ago and provide you with the link.

nexgen 2

It has been suggested that Google glasses will be able to link to facial recognition technology: it will scan someone’s face as they are waking towards you and within seconds ping their Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc., profiles and provide you with everything about them ─ including what they had for lunch, what they did over the weekend and the funny (?) video of their kid trying to sing Christmas carols ─ before they’re even close enough to say hello.

Google’s purchase of Nest was not because they want to be in the air conditioning business, but rather to track utilization and tendencies of heating or cooling your home, then sell it back to the utility companies. It was suggested GE would like to put microchips in washing machines to report how much laundry you do, how much soap you use, and if you fill the machine too full. What is you smart refrigerator reporting back to Samsung? Disney is redefining their process through the wristbands used to track purchases and movement throughout their theme parks. Phillips redesigned and digitalized the light bulb and are creating new revenue streams.  Every company is becoming an IT company.

nexgen 1By 2020, more than 50 percent of domestic smart objects will be able to communicate directly or indirectly with a smartphone. For instance, I can open my garage door with my smartphone. In a Japanese train station, there is a mural with images of food and grocery items. With a smart phone, people can scan the items they want, and the items will be waiting for them when they arrive at the grocery store at the next train stop. Sure it’s convenient and easy for the shoppers, but the store can now track what you purchase, how often, what day of the week, seasonal purchases, and ultimately, advertise to you accordingly. Some department stores in the U.S. have transmitters to alert shoppers of discounts as they approach that specific section of the store. Could the day come when the department store reminds me of my wife’s birthday (not like I need that…), the styles she is most interested in based upon past purchases, and of course, the right size. (Am I right, fellas?)

It appears Locutus of Borg was right. (Well, ok, so maybe my inner geek is showing.)

What do you think about the direction technology is headed? Cool or scary? Share your thoughts below!

NexGen Cloud Conference Recap (Part 1)

Posted by on December 16, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

A few weeks ago, one of my teammates Brad had the opportunity to go to the NexGen Cloud Conference in San Diego.  (I know what you might be thinking, just stay with me for a second; this isn’t going to get too geeky.) Here is his quick unpacking of some of the sessions he attended (okay, and a few of the geeky facts he picked up):

The sessions ranged from what you would expect at a cloud conference to hypothesis on technology in the year 2030. Jules Verne would be proud. One of the speakers, Ray Kurzweil, a Director of engineering at Google, spoke about the acceleration of technology in the 21st century and the impact on businesses, the economy, and society in general. A significant distance was traveled during the hour presentation; to start, he posed the question: can we reprogram biology to alter life? As an example he used our ancient ancestors. Twenty thousand years ago, humans didn’t know when or where their next meal would come from, so they would gorge on thousands of calories when available to be able to sustain periods of famine. But today, thanks to Trader Joe’s, I know for certain when my next meal will be. Studies have been successfully conducted on animals to allow them to eat ravenously and still not get fat. Scientists have been able to successfully “turn off” the genes that tell bodies to store fat. (Read: that’s a sell order on Sanofi-Aventis!)

nexgen 3

According to Tiffani Bova, Vice President and Distinguished Analyst at Gartner, there are a number of trends that will impact our future. For starters, we need to think of what technology can do for any business – the trend to digital books, window cleaners, cigarettes, bitcoins, and cars. (Some cars today have more computing power than horsepower!) There are hotels that have tags in the restroom that patrons can scan to inform the maintenance staff the restroom needs attention. Think of the time and money saved by having maintenance know exactly where to go when, rather than hitting every restroom in a 200,000 square foot convention center.

3D printing is not just reserved for the busts of presidents. Scientists have successfully used a 3D printer to create an esophagus and used it as a transplant when no donors or organs were available. They have yet to tackle more complex organs, but it is on the horizon. How mind-blowing is that?!

It is estimated by the year 2030, we will have the ability to augment immune systems with 3D printed biological T cells. Current studies cannot identify cancer cells yet, but successful studies have been conducted with T cells for Parkinson’s patients. Imagine if, as a doctor, you could just download and print new immune system T cells for your patient’s with identified diseases.

3D printer

Healthcare providers will be able to 3D print casts for broken bones configured specifically for the patient. In the past, you got to pick the color, now you can pick the design. There are medical advantages too; Points can be selected to apply pressure at specific spots to heal breaks and potentially avoid “compartment syndrome” (the swelling that requires additional surgery to fix).

The internet has drastically changed the way we watch TV or listen to music, but can it change the fashion industry too? What if you could buy a program to 3D print clothes?  According to Tiffani, by 2017, nearly 20 percent of durable goods e-tailors will use 3D printing to create personalized product offerings. Although the internet didn’t kill the music industry, it has changed the landscape. Could the fashion industry follow a similar path?

Stay tuned for the rest of the conference highlights tomorrow!

Extra Payroll Deduction for 2015

Posted by on December 11, 2014 | Read the First Comment

Raise of hands: Who knew that 2015 has a possible 53 payroll deductions (if an employer pays weekly)?  Since January 1, 2016 falls on a Friday, the pay cycle is pushed back to December 31, 2015, resulting in the possibility of  53 weekly deductions.

payroll 2

This rare event happens every eight to ten years. That’s not as often as a leap year, but you still need to have a plan in place so HR/Payroll and Benefits Administrators can execute on this anomaly.  In general you have two decisions to make and relay to your HRIS vendors:

On the compensation side:

  1. The employer can pony up the extra compensation (at 3.7 percent more) OR
  2. The employer can divide an employee’s current salary by 27 periods and key it into the payroll system.  Yes, employees will see less per paycheck. OR
  3. The employer could not pay employees for the last pay period. Yes, employees will probably notice this too!

Most companies choose option 1, as option 2 causes some morale issues and option 3 causes even bigger morale issues.  (As a reminder, this happens every eight to ten years with a 3.7 percent average increase to payroll.)  Employers need to weigh the pros and cons of their decision and relay that decision to their HR/Payroll vendor right away.

On the benefits side:

  1. You can keep deductions as is.  If the employer has shared deductions being $X amount with employees, and then you take out one extra week, you have overdrawn the pay system and the employees have paid too much in benefits. OR
  2. Typically there are two months in the year with three pay periods. In 2015, there will be three months with three pay periods.  Employers generally tell their payroll vendor to suspend benefit deductions for one pay period (except 401k, garnishments).  We recommend you tell your vendor now what you have decided to do with regards to suspending third pay period deductions.  We suggest to wait until 2015 year end to actually have the pay period deduction suspended (rather than earlier, in say, May) in case an employee leaves mid-year.

It’s also important to note that annual benefits under flexible spending accounts (FSA) and health savings accounts(HSA) – medical reimbursement programs - are capped by Federal Law. For employees contributing the maximum amount, this payroll period issue might impact payroll deductions into those programs as well.

Will you be affected by the extra week? What steps have you taken to prepare for this extra deduction? Have you notified your Payroll or HRIS vendor of your plan? If you have any questions about this 53rd week payroll deduction issue, please comment below or shoot me an email at HRTech@lockton.com.

OSHA Implementing New Rules for Reporting Workplace Death

Posted by on December 8, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

I am a part of a group within Lockton that is currently studying for the SPHR/PHR certifications. Last week in our study session, we talked about OSHA, and as luck would have it, I also came across the following update to some of their workplace rules.

First of all, deaths in the workplace happen more than you might be aware of. There were 4,405 reported work-related fatalities in 2013, according to OSHA.

OSHA

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) maintains a list of the “fatalities and catastrophes,” on which workplace deaths are tallied. OSHA has announced that two changes with the current Recordkeeeping Rule will go into effect January 1, 2015. Broader reporting requirements will go into effect which will require employers to report all severe work-related injuries. Employers with 10 or more employees will be required to comply by reporting the incidents of any work-related hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye within 24 hours. Previously, employers only had to report the accident if three or more employees were hospitalized from a workplace accident or illness.

The other change in rules includes the industries exempt from the reporting requirements. Based on their “relatively low occupational injury and illness rates,” certain industries can be exempt from routine injury and illness reporting requirements by OSHA. The exempt industries will be based on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and injury data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The previous list was based on the old Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system and injury data from the BLS.

You can read more about the new OSHA rules on OSHA.gov or this article from the Kansas City Star.

I understand that not all of us work in the industries that will be affected by these rules, but is there anyone out there that will be? If so, what will you do differently?

5 Take Aways From This Year’s OE

Posted by on December 2, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

5 things to take away from this year’s Open Enrollment

Open Enrollment for most employers has wrapped up, or is close to being over for the year. We compiled a list of a few things that we came across and hope you can remember to make next year’s OE even smoother than this year’s!

1. Remember to review benefit elections every year, even if you aren’t changing anything.

Consumer Driven Health Plans (CDHP) are subject to IRS limits, thus are subject to changes in deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums on an annual basis. Health Savings Accounts (HSA) are also subject to IRS limits, which affect the maximum amount you can save in your account. Double check that your elected amounts comply with any changes to the IRS limits.

2. Pay attention to communications.

There is no doubt that your HR team works hard to provide communications to make enrolling clear and easy. Go ahead and take a look at them. They are used to seeing a lot of the possible questions you may have, and probably have already addressed them in the communications pieces.

3. Think about the level of coverage you may need.

Just because certain benefits are offered, doesn’t mean you should elect them, for instance ancillary coverage, critical illness/disability coverage, etc. In addition, as your salary increases, you may need to increase coverage to reflect your new financial reality.

4. Review your options and evaluate what is best for you and your family.

Healthcare is a subject that should be discussed with your family. Have discussions with your spouse to go over your options in detail and make decisions based on what’s best for everyone. At times, a spouse may have alternative benefits available to them through his/her employer. While family coverage may have been the best option in the past, nowadays some employers are only offering subsidies for employee only coverage. That means you could have two married people covered by two different carriers or plans through their respective employers!

5. Don’t forget about wellness!

A lot of companies are starting to integrate wellness programs into their benefits. These programs offer opportunities for wellness credits (which can offset a majority of costs associated with benefits), discounts/lower premium rates, and additional incentives, bonuses, awards. If your company is offering one, look into it what it takes to qualify for the discounted premiums. You could save a significant amount of money just by tracking your workouts and attending informational sessions!

What did you learn as you enrolled for your benefits this year? Feel free to share any lessons learned, real life stories, or tips with the rest of us by commenting below.

HR Technology Success Secret: Good Testing

Posted by on November 25, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

HR Technology Success Secret: Good Testing. Here’s three keys:

Pat, one of our project managers, recently sent in this “War Room” photo to our team to celebrate the crucial state of parallel testing. This is a stage where the implementation has been theoretically completed, but to ensure a great go-live, open enrollment, or new company launch, the system must be banged, stretched, twisted, and overloaded (those are all technical terms!)

Testing War Room

Here’s three quick keys that our team believes predict success:

1)      Involve users from all levels of the application

  • If managers will be doing performance appraisals, have a couple test out that functionality. If new hires will go through onboarding, set them up to go through!
  • Getting field buy-in on an application can help smooth the disruptive change resistance that will naturally come.
  • Try to identify and involve “influencers”-  loud voices or prominent cultural and thought leaders inside your organization, no matter what their title.

2)      Focus on technical and  functional testing

  • Make sure your IT and security departments (who should have been a part of the selection and implementation process from the beginning) are testing from their perspectives as well. Confidence has to be utmost on day one of the new system.

3)      Don’t just test at today’s volumes – dream bigger

  • If your company’s three-year plan has you doubling in size, make sure you’re testing data loads at three times your current size to ensure your HR Tech infrastructure doesn’t end up constraining the growth of the business. (which cannot be a very pleasant conversation!)
  • Practice a re-org, a merger, or a divestiture of a business line while you can still blow out the system and refresh with clean data. Break it open and look at where the seams are. After all, you’d rather know now than when you’re trying to run year-end report and get home to the kiddlets.

By the way, we practice what we preach too. As you could imagine, we have built massive spreadsheets to rule the world. (Ok, they really just calculate Total Cost of Ownership and determine solution fit based upon an employer’s Critical Factors, but at least I think they could launch the space shuttle if not rule the world!) When we roll out new releases to our team, we huddle up during one of our bi-annual confabs to have a Hack-a-thon on the new toolset to expose any errors or weaknesses. There’s always pizza and beer to be had just to make a fun time more exciting!

testing

If you’re interested in joining us in our next Hack-a-thon, or have any other tips for quality assurance, user acceptance testing or parallel testing – please post a comment or send me a note @HRTechKaiser.