Top tips for choosing a flexible benefits provider

Flexible benefits schemes have never been so popular, or so accessible.

Flexible benefits closer look

If you read nothing else, read this…

  • Treat the assessment of flex providers like an interview. Do not be afraid of asking for detailed information about the organisation and its track record.
  • The technology behind a flex scheme has to deliver on all an organisation’s business objectives, with scope for future growth too.
  • Always ask for added value; this is a competitive market.
  • Do not assume things will be included; always check, down to the very last detail.

According to research published by benefits software provider Staffcare in October 2014, more than 80% of respondents with more than 100 employees now offer some form of flexible benefits scheme, compared with just 11% offering full flex a decade ago.

The market for flexible benefits is huge and there are many providers, so before beginning their search for a provider, employers must be clear about what they want, says Derek Miles, managing director of business consultancy Aspira.

“They need to be clear about the range of benefits they want to offer, which are core and which are flexible, and whether the technology will allow all the choices employees want, or whether it offers too much choice,” he says.

For employers looking to select a flex provider, here are the key factors to consider.

1) Research the market

When assessing flex providers, employers must be thorough in researching their experience and track record. They should ask what the provider has done for similar organisations, and what the outcomes were. Implementing a flex scheme is a long-term process, so it is important to choose a team that can meet the employer’s requirements and that it can work well with.

It is also worth checking that the provider is ISO compliant, has met certain standards on security , and has the sound financial track record that comes with a well-established organisation.

2) Understand their technology and capability

That means looking beyond the front-end look and feel, and delving deeply into capability and how flexible it is, says Matt Duffy, head of online consultancy of Aon Employee Benefits.

“[Employers] need to know that it will work with all their requirements, including being mobile and tablet friendly. Will it link to HR and payroll? Is there a seamless link to other platforms through single sign-on? These will all make implementation smoother. Understanding future capabilities will show if there is room for you to grow together.”

3) Are they innovative?

Look at what they are doing differently to help employers and employees. Employers should ask providers how they will make a scheme stand out from competitors and get the business results and employee outcomes the organisation needs.

4) Look for added value

Ask prospective flex providers what added value they can offer. This might include the supply of promotional materials, such as posters to display around the workplace, or email templates to use when sending out flex programme communications

Kuljit Kaur, head of business development at The Voucher Shop, says: “[Employers] should be able to analyse detailed management information to ensure that the scheme is providing the return on investment [they would] expect. It is in the best interest of the provider for a scheme to be a success, so they should be happy to help with promoting and analysing it.”

5) How much support will they provide in running the scheme?

While it may seem safe to assume some elements of flex provision, it is always worth asking how much support a provider will give. For example, can it offer enough choice, such as single or multi-retailer vouchers, gift cards and e-codes for staff discount schemes? Will it be proactive in proposing cost-saving ideas? And will it help to find the most effective way of communicating the flexible benefits scheme to staff?

“Remember that when choosing a flex benefits provider it is going to reflect the HR team’s efforts and so must be up to the job of fulfilling employees’ requests in a timely and efficient manner”, says Kaur. “Ultimately this will ensure that the scheme is a success and achieves an organisation’s business objectives.”