Private Exchanges Driving Consumer Engagement

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

Check out Lockton Benefit Group’s Director of Exchange Solutions here at Lockton, Mike Smith,  as he shares his thoughts on achieving better consumer engagement in an article published by the Institute for Healthcare Consumerism.

Private Exchanges Driving Consumer Engagement: Lockton Benefits Expert Weighs In

PE Article

Catbert Gets ACA

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

Catbert ACA

My team and I have been up to our elbows with everything ACA and when someone shared these Catberts comic strips with me, I had to share them with you. Catbert understands ACA all too well.  Thank you Catbert for perfectly expressing what we’ve all been thinking!


In all seriousness, if you are needing assistance with your ACA compliance or reporting we are here to help! A few weeks ago we posted about some of the vendors in the ACA reporting game that have announced  they’ve reached capacity for 2015 and the announcements are still coming. Stay tuned for more updates, but in the meantime have a laugh with good old Catbert.


Private HIX Conference Recap

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

Today’s post comes from my colleague, Steve Tomac. Steve is part of Lockton’s Exchange Solutions Practice, and he recently attended the Private Healthcare Exchanges Conference. Here is his recap:

Last month, I attended Employee Benefit News’ annual Private Healthcare Exchanges Conference in Chicago, sponsored by SourceMedia.

As is the case with most private HIX conferences, the cast of attendees – more than 350 brokers, carriers and technology providers – was familiar and friendly. Insurance associates aren’t boring at all! We’re smart too, or at least I like to think so.


For me, the trick to getting the most from these conferences is to know going into them that I will always learn something new. This conference did not disappoint. In addition to hundreds of attendees, the conference featured 40 speakers over two days. That’s a lot of information! I’m happy to report I gleaned several nuggets related to new technology approaches and new private exchange experiences shared by employers.

But my biggest take-away is one with which I was already familiar: A lot of giants in other industries that stood still found themselves getting trumped by new players in their space.


Another take-away … Much like opening your eyes to a new idea, private exchanges don’t have to be that mysterious. As one speaker pointed out at the conference: “Private health exchanges are not a big deal, just another way to deliver benefits.”

The more I think about that, the more I tend to agree, and that actually makes me both excited and a bit calmer when I am asked, “What really is a private exchange?”

Finally, a reoccurring message shared by employers at the conference (and it seems I hear this all of the time) is that employee benefits communication and education are key to the success of their private exchange implementation and continue to be vital to the ongoing success of their overall benefit strategy.


Next up on the conference schedule is the Private Exchange FORUM September 1-2 in Baltimore.

My colleague, Mike Smith, Lockton Benefit Group Director of Exchange Solutions, is a featured panelist at the conference’s opening general session, entitled “Private Exchanges: What’s Working, What’s Not and What Lies Ahead.”

Look for a recap of his session and others next month. Until then … enjoy the last few weeks of summer!

More ACA Technology Vendor Updates

Posted by on July 2, 2015 | 3 Comments to Read

In case you missed it, last week we shared some of the ACA technology vendor cutoff dates. We have a few more ACA technology vendor updates we’d like to share.

The following ACA technology vendors have notified us of their cutoff dates for taking new clients this year:

  • ADP Major Accounts – June 17, 2015
  • ADP National Accounts – Mid-July 2015
  • Equifax – August 2015
  • Health e(fx) – July 31, 2015

Additional updates:

  • Sovos will be increasing prices in July
  • PlanSource will also be increasing the price of their ACA solution on July 2, and again on July 15 and August 15
  • WorxTime will continue to take on new clients; however, after Q4 they won’t be able to guarantee successful implementations by 2016
  • Maestro will only take 50 new clients per month through September

As you can see, time is running out faster than the fuse of a firework! If you haven’t found a solution to manage your reporting requirements, now is the time. If you have any other ACA compliance technology vendor updates to add, please send them our way by commenting below. Have a great Fourth of July weekend!

Warning! Order-Taker Market Ahead for ACA Reporting

Posted by on June 30, 2015 | Read the First Comment

Ahh, please do not pity the poor HR Technology sales representative these days. In fact, you may want to consider cutting back on your church’s charity collections for this cadre as they are about to experience sales nirvana. Unfortunately, this windfall will come at the expense of American employers as they struggle to comply with the looming reporting requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Just like some observatory alerting folks to a rare celestial event, I think we are going to experience something the HR world hasn’t seen since the advent of workplace tax credits: a true and troubling Order-Taker market!

I know this phrase doesn’t strike fear in the same way shouting “asteroid impact!” would, but for employers out there with limited purchasing budget, I want to warn you prices may be going up considerably for help with ACA reporting.

For those of you who’ve never experienced an “Order Takers” market, it’s basically a condition where Demand outstrips Supply. All of a sudden sales reps don’t have to compete as hard to win business, companies increase their prices and buyers are forced to choose from poorer quality options.

demand and supply concept

That quality statement above might catch you by surprise – especially as there are still many good firms with capacity to help. But thoughtful vendors know they can’t oversell. One of my favorite ADP executives caught me at SHRM’s national conference and put it perfectly. “As a public company, we owe it to our stakeholders to only take on the business we can confidently install with quality.” As conscientious vendors fill up their dance card, employers are forced to turn to runners-up for attention.

We call that “controlled growth” and it’s a hallmark of vendor wisdom. Many vendors – public and private, established and upstart – have notified us of “stop sells”, increasing prices, restrictions to size of employer they’ll sell to or stopped participating in RFPs. All of these are signs of an approaching Order-Taker market.

At a recent speech in New York City, I had to answer a question about who was my favorite ACA reporting vendor. I answered the question, but included a caveat “right now.” I said if the audience waited long enough by December I’d likely be answering with my most flea-bitten, bottom-rung vendor as my favorite because they’ll be the only one left taking on new business!

If you, as an employer, think you need help in aggregating data from multiple source systems (payroll, leave administration, benefits) or don’t have internal IT resources to prepare the 1095/1094 form population, printing and distribution, you may want to look into securing your assistance as soon as possible.

We will survive this regulatory craziness! Someday this will become commonplace and be as exciting as COBRA administration (I promise!). But until those days, when we’ll all have something else new to worry about (tax reform?) your friendly HR Tech team just wants to make sure you’re prepared for what may come! Please post a comment to tell how your firm is navigating these waters. Any creative ideas or upstart vendors out there that want to tell a story?


Don’t Miss the Boat

Posted by on June 25, 2015 | Be the First to Comment

In case you haven’t heard, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) isn’t going anywhere. Earlier today, the Supreme Court approved federal subsidies for health insurance through the exchange under the Affordable Care Act. You can read more on the 6 -3 ruling from Lockton’s Compliance Services team.

missing the boat

So what does this mean? In short, ACA is here to stay, and as employers you have to be ready to report to stay compliant. You can ensure compliance utilizing technology (of course technology plays a role!) from one of the many vendors with solutions in this space. However, time is running out to be able to select and implement the technology needed to do the necessary reporting and filing you might need. Not only are you running out of time to implement, but you may also be running out of vendors from which to choose. Several of the big players in the ACA compliance technology space are drawing the line due to resource constraints and the upcoming implementation timeline cut-off.

The following ACA technology vendors have notified us of their cutoff dates for taking new clients this year:

  • ADP Major Accounts – June 17, 2015
  • ADP National Accounts – Mid-July 2015
  • Equifax – August 2015
  • Health e(fx) – July 31, 2015

As you can see, time is running out, folks! If you have questions about ACA technology, please reach out! We can help!

From Z to A: Everything You Need to Know About The Zenefits vs. ADP Battle

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

Game of Thrones has nothing on the world of HR Technology! You want political intrigue and warring factions? Check! How about a giant challenged by an upstart in the court of public opinion? Check and check! In case you haven’t heard, things got a little nasty this week after ADP stopped Zenefits’ automations from accessing ADP’s small market solution, RUN. Zenefits took their anger to social media and all HR PR hell broke loose! (That’s meant as PR as in public relations, not payroll – I couldn’t resist the cadence of the abbreviations.)

While I’m an outside observer and not able to judge intentions, I think I can summarize what you need to know, summarize how this may impact our industry (stay tuned for our next blog post) and submit both blogs as my audition tape to be the color commentator in the “HR Tech Gladiatorial Smackdown” that’s sure to follow.

Of course it would be easy to jump on the bandwagon of evil corporate empires that squash innovation by stamping out competitors. However, I don’t think that’s an accurate picture of what’s going on. We’re already to the he said/she said portion of the deathmatch, but several missteps have come to light that may serve some humble pie to the uber-rapidly growing Zenefits. At the same time, ADP has not done themselves any favors, and may have created a well-funded competitor.


The Players

I’m going to assume you know ADP since they pay one out of every six Americans, and have a better credit rating than the United States (that’s true, look it up!). Zenefits, however, may be new to you. They are a Bay-area-based startup with a HUGE war chest of cash ($500 million last I heard!) that’s been in business two years. They are a disrupter to the small employer broker market, bringing their start-up-hip-technology and mindset to an often ignored section of the business-to-business marketplace. They posit that by offering free HRIS (Human Resources Information System) software, they can supplant more typical brokers. (Full disclosure: Lockton, for whom I work, is a broker but not one that typically serves the same small employer market as Zenefits. I’m attempting to write this – and every article – as a disinterested, objective advisor. I owe that to you, my faithful readers!)



Zenefits doesn’t offer payroll – and has said they will not go down that road. Just between us, if the lawsuit or settlement goes ADP’s way, I bet they’ll reconsider that statement. After all, I could build one hell of a payroll system with only five percent of their cash! So, without payroll, they must send deduction data to the employer’s payroll system for benefit elections, as well as process new hires and life events (births, marriages, etc.). This should have been a perfect complementary match: Zenefits does HR and benefits, ADP does the payroll, everyone’s happy.

Here’s the Rub

For whatever reason, Zenefits did not go through the front door of ADP to get system access. That’s actually an easy door to find: Here’s my guess as to why: ADP requires partners to embrace an API-driven data exchange model, and sign on for liability of data in transit and at rest. If that sounds expensive to you, you’re spot on! Also, it would slow down Zenefits’ explosive growth by putting the interface before the IPO.

Instead, Zenefits had employers set up a third-party account within their system. This is a common practice as smaller employers often have accountants, bookkeepers or outsourcers help in this fashion. What happened next is what I expect triggered ADP’s reaction to shut down Zenefits’ access. Instead of using humans to enter transactions into ADP’s RUN, Zenefits coded some software to automate the data exchange. ADP asserts that this is less secure and calls it “screen-scrapping.” They point to excessive server utilization due to this process and have shut down the access. Zenefits claims it’s secure. And that’s how we have a disagreement.

It Got a Little Mean After That

Zenefits took to social media to generate a petition and put pressure on ADP. Of course, they did it in the most hipster way: with a hashtag. #ADPPeeved

ADP responded with a public declaration of their intent. They cast aspersions on the security of Zenefits’ data handling. (Please check out ADP’s side of the story, if you’re interested.) There was a Saturday CEO-to-CEO phone call that didn’t let off the pressure, so this week, ADP filed a defamation suit against Zenefits.

Wednesday, Zenefits updated its blog with a “gotcha” revelation that ADP was releasing a competing product called Opum. However, their claim was based on one ADP sales representative’s email to a mutual client. Between the rep’s errors and Zenefits’ hearing what it wanted to hear, it’s pretty funny. Here’s how ADP responded: Optum Insight is a harmless benefits product owned by UnitedHealth Group that has no connection to this squabble.

If this level of knee-jerk reactions continues from Zenefits, we should have some great blog posting adventures to share together! ADP is playing everything safe (as far as I can tell), refusing to comment past the news release postings, but stay tuned true believers. We’ll update you on the news as it breaks. Our next blog post will focus on the impact of this squabble on employers and our HR Technology industry, and how employers can be prepared! Please post any comments using the comment link below.

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

Posted by on May 27, 2015 | Read the First 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 | Read the First 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!