Are you wondering what to look for in a third-party benefit provider? It’s that time of year when you might be selecting a third-party benefit vendor – and it is an important decision, which means it requires a robust decision-making process.  It’s partly because of the obvious reasons of wanting the best product, but it’s also because of the importance of the relationship – between you and the provider, and between the provider and your workforce.  Why?  Well, whether you like it or not, your workforce will see the provider as an extension of you, with your employees thinking and evaluating them as if you and your team were providing them the services directly.

We caught up with Debra Corey, Group Reward Director at Reward Gateway after we heard that she knew a HR Manager who was fired by their CEO because they weren’t happy with what the provider had sent out to employees, thinking it didn’t fit with how they should treat their employees!

Here are her tips when it comes to what to look for in a third-party benefit provider.

“In addition to the obvious task of evaluating the provider’s product, here are some questions to consider as part of your decision-making process:

  1. How does the provider’s values align with your company values?  As I said above, your provider is a reflection of you with your employees. For this reason, you need to make sure that their values, and thus their behaviours, are as closely aligned with yours as possible.  This will ensure that their approach to supporting your employees, as well as how they run their business, are aligned with the way it’s done at your company.  Get a copy of their values and look at them side-by-side against yours, and at the same time, discuss how they are brought to life in other aspects of their business.
  2. How much will they listen to you?  A true partner will listen as much as they talk, which is key in your relationship with a provider.  Find a provider that will listen to your needs and then show you that they have through the actions and support they provide.  Ask them for examples of how they’ve done this with other clients and the outcomes and differences it’s made.
  3. How flexible are they in working with you?  The last thing you want is a provider that only knows how to live by the rulebook.  Trust me, this will cause you problems down the line when you need something done unique to your needs, which I promise you will happen. Find a provider that has a flexible and fluid approach to you and your needs, helping you come up with solutions together.  Ask them for examples of how they’ve been flexible with other clients, making sure that you have similar definitions and interpretations.
  4. How much will they provide thought leadership? Just as important as listening, is a provider that will question, challenge and provide thought leadership. This will help you in getting the best for your employees and for your company, as they’ll inspire and help you with innovative and new ideas.  Ask them for examples of how they provide this thought leadership, and how it’s helped their clients in the past.
  5. What is their sense of urgency? It is absolutely critical to have a partner that is there to support you, especially in your times of need.  You can often assess this in the initial meetings, seeing how they follow up based on listening to exactly what you need and by when.  In the same way that I tested my future husband on our first few dates, I’d suggest testing your potential providers.  Try giving them a few requests to see how they do, and score them based on how well they treat your requests with a sense of urgency.
  6. How is their product and technology set up for the future? We all talk about future-proofing our benefit programmes, so it’s important to do the same when working with benefit providers.  Discuss with them how they’re working with their clients to ensure the product will continue to meet their needs? How are they building their product vision or roadmap to ensure it meets the needs of their clients today and in the future?  Discuss these with potential providers upfront so there aren’t any surprises in the future.
  7. What experience do they have?  And finally, discuss with them the direct and indirect experience they’ve had with companies similar to you.  Make sure they understand your situation and the challenges you have based on your business, workforce, or existing technologies, and that they have experience dealing with these.  Ask for specific examples so that you can see how they’ve helped these clients, and see how this aligns with what you believe you need.

To end, let me share with you a quote which says “There is no wrong time to make the right decision”.  So go out there and take the time to make the right decision – it will be right for you, your employees and your company!”