When our company was a startup, as the founder, I managed benefits, HR, personnel support, finance… the chief cook and bottle washer syndrome. As we grew, I was surprised at how much benefits management requirements expanded.
The demands on our time came from competitive shopping medical benefits, workers comp benefits, short-term and long-term disability and 401k benefits, among others. Before we knew it we had 3 vendors to manage on different payment schedules with different filing requirements. And just because we aspired to be a paperless office, that didn’t stop the ‘documentation requirements’ for distributing safe harbor paperwork and quarterly reports and managing annual renewals.
People want choices you may not be able to offer
As our headcount eclipsed 15 people and we had different profiles of employees that were motivated by different benefits, it got even harder. It’s one thing to manage the transactional realities and costs of benefits, it’s another thing to take the time to understand what your team wants and offer them options.
We participate every year in the Best Places to Work survey, and for the past 5 years we only got dinged in one category—benefits. No matter how many new benefits we added, no matter that we covered more of the premiums, we still couldn’t keep up with the reality (or the perception) of choice that our growing team wanted. People work for more than a mission, culture or salary, they work for their entire package. Benefits is a serious consideration and factor in job selection and satisfaction.
HR & Payroll Management have gotten a little testy of late
I started talking to other entrepreneurs and more than a few had brought in a strategic benefits management companies. You’ve likely heard commercials for unicorn superstar Zenefits, although they’ve been getting some bad press in their battle with ADP. There are some valid points raised about who owns data on employees, how that data is used and who is benefiting from the value of that data.
For most startups that want to stay out of the mud flinging, you are just seeking help, more competitive options, more tech-savvy benefits administration and happier employees as a result.
Here’s what we’ve gotten as a result of engaging an HR management firm
Since our HR management launch (annual renewals completed and the new interface up and running), our HR manager is assured of compliance with all the new documentation requirements, we’ve been able to move to a single source and interface for all health benefits, 401k, PTO/benefits administration, LTD/STD and other benefits like employee purchases.
The benefits themselves, because they are group purchased by the benefits management company, are on par with those of a Fortune 500 company. Instead of 2 or 3 plans, you can offer 10 or 12 that appeal to a broader range of employees.
And, we have benefits that we ordinarily wouldn’t have explored, that may really matter to a few employees. Among these are pet insurance, telecommuter tax credits and discount programs on travel and computer purchases. We even got a better deal (7% less) on Apple purchases… which anyone buying computers knows is practically impossible to find.
Why should this matter for an entrepreneur?
As a founder, you’re heads down on your product offerings and selling your services. Your people are focused on what they’re getting in exchange for their time spent with you. They compare benefits when they consider a job. They remember when they’ve told you their benefits didn’t cover something and you did nothing about it. In the years to come, if we don’t satisfy a broader range of more demanding employees, we won’t have anyone to celebrate our growth with.
Next year we’re going to do that Best Places To Work survey again and you better believe I’m going to be watching the feedback in the benefits column. I will also start promoting our benefits in recruitment messages.
Our people, and the ones we seek to hire, take us to where we’re going and if benefits matter this much to them, they need to matter to us. When was the last time you did an employee survey? Do it. I bet you’ll be surprised.
(Note: The provider we selected was TriNet because of their emphasis on entrepreneurs and rapidly growing startups.)
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