7 ways to simplify picking your next employee benefits vendor

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Selecting a new employee benefits provider is a complex process. When you are working with human resources solutions and technology, there are a lot of eyes on the process, from the CFO to IT and HR ⁠— so the stakes are high and the pressure is on.

Each step in the process is highly detailed and includes discovering all of the available vendors with an RFI, narrowing down your list, and weighing each option before making the final selection. Not only that, but the process is costly, so picking the right vendor the first time is crucial. Whether you go it alone or enlist the help of an independent advisor, don’t issue your next employee benefits RFP without exploring these seven tips.

1. Define scope and stick to it
The abundance of solutions in the current landscape is one of the reasons that running an employee benefits RFP is such a daunting process. As the list of available features continues to grow, it’s critical to clearly define and maintain control of your scope to keep your project on track and within budget. It sounds fairly fundamental, but we’ve all been there.

When you’re looking for a straightforward recruitment solution, but a vendor shows you an AI tool for applicant tracking that is admittedly cool, it’s hard not to subconsciously add it to your list of requirements. It’s important not to let anyone shift the conversation away from your priorities. By sticking to your fully-defined scope, you can maintain objectivity as you score your vendors. Providing a justifiable recommendation based on established needs rather than the appeal of new functionality.

2. Prioritize user experience
As you prepare to issue your RFP, be sure to include questions that will help you evaluate the end-user experience. Ask each vendor for a short video that represents a standard user experience. Ensuring the solution not only meets your needs but also is easy to use will pay dividends in the long run. After all, you want to be the hero that delivered a much-needed solution rather than the unofficial software support person that has to assist with the payroll solution everyone grumbles about.

3. Consider ease of integration
Employee benefits technology creates huge amounts of valuable predictive data. But, in order to make the most of that data, your systems have to play well together. You don’t want to be stuck with a tool that becomes a frustrating data silo. So, include integration capabilities in your RFP questions and connect with your IT team when it comes time to evaluate your options.

4. Communicate your current state
Every employee benefits vendor that receives your RFP will want information about your current state and your future vision. This information is incredibly valuable to their process, but you don’t have time to answer every question from a dozen vendors. If you’re working with a consultant, they should act as your gatekeeper and field these questions for you, but occasionally vendors are frustrated by what they view as the consultant’s interpretation of your needs.

Consider proactively providing vendors answers in a document attached to your RFP. In your own words, offer key information about your current state, the challenges you are facing and what the perfect solution would look like. With this information, not only will you save a huge amount of time and back and forth with vendors, but you’ll also receive solutions that better meet your needs. An additional tip: if you are concerned about oversharing, get a mutual non-disclosure agreement in place first.

5. Embrace a collaborative evaluation process
Once you’ve received your RFP responses, the hard work of weighing and comparing them begins. Whether you’re working with a consultant or evaluating vendors yourself, the results will be more useful and accurate if the process is collaborative.

When working with a consultant, being at the table during the evaluation process will give you a better understanding of the vendor landscape. Then, when a final recommendation is made everyone is already on the same page. There’s no painful back and forth as you try to navigate the details of the consultant’s selection. Likewise, if you’re managing the RFP yourself, collaborate with stakeholders as you evaluate shortlisted vendors. By doing so, you’ll have better buy-in and faster adoption of the new solution.

6. Prepare to be transparent
Selecting solutions for an entire organization is a heavy burden. To find the right fit, you have to balance the organization’s priorities, employee needs and a host of other varying factors. And, at the end of the day, someone inevitably wants to know why one vendor was chosen over another. It’s important to be able to answer that question and prove that the decision was based on data. Be prepared to explain your process ⁠— how you (or your consultant) selected the vendors for the RFP, the criteria for the short list and how you arrived at your final recommendation.

7. Leverage RFP technology
As the number of employee benefits providers and solutions increase, running an efficient and effective RFP process becomes even more imperative. Consultants and employee benefits managers are increasingly using technology to streamline and automate the creation, administration and evaluation of RFPs. RFP management software empowers consultants and employee benefits to:

  • Create and store RFI and RFP templates
  • Collaborate internally to establish scope with stakeholders
  • Centralize vendor attachments and documents
  • Communicate current and ideal state with every vendor at once
  • Evaluate and compare vendor responses side-by-side
  • Share evaluation data and selection information with executives

Selecting a vendor is never easy, but it doesn’t have to be painful. By defining the must-haves, collaborating on the evaluation process and leveraging technology to help score proposals and compare options, picking your next employee benefits provider won’t be like pulling teeth.

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