It seems all multinational organizations are moving to the “cloud”. It’s been the main buzzword for a while, and HR management systems are finally seeing a decisive shift from on-premises software to SaaS. Global HR teams are recognizing the need to move to more agile and engaging HR technologies with higher levels of flexibility, usability and data. According to The Forrester Wave™ report, SaaS is becoming the default deployment model for HR management systems as companies replace the older on premise solutions.

However, while the move to the cloud is inevitable, HR teams still have to decide whether to choose the best of breed specialized solutions or implement a single HCM systems to address various topics like payroll, compensation, benefits, recruiting and employee engagement.

All cloud HCM providers have their strengths and weaknesses. Among the usually cited strengths are having just one global system, no integration, low cost of ownership and a consistent approach. There is no doubt that HCMs are very good at core HR and payroll, however they rank very low on benefits management and employee engagement.

Here is a list of 5 things to consider before choosing an all-in-one HR solution to solve your global benefits problems:

1. Is it actually built for global benefits?

This one is very important. Most cloud based HCMs are nascent and therefore their main focus is on developing core functionality rather than investing in getting global benefits right.

It may initially appear to be cheaper, but might end up being more expensive as you try to configure a system that isn’t built for benefits administration. You know what they say; the only free cheese is in…

Questions to ask:

      - What is your total investment to date in the benefits module?
      - What is your annual investment in the benefits module?
      - How many developers are purely focused on the benefits module?
      - What is the support model for benefits?
      - What is your roadmap in relation to global benefits functionality?

2. Is it a truly global solution? Will it actually work in all your countries?

Global benefits requirements are so complex and different in each country, most multinationals must adopt a ‘glocal’ approach in administering and communicating their benefits packages. While HCM vendors try to cover everything, optional and most importantly free benefits modules have limited functionality for local markets.

For smaller companies that operate in a single country it probably makes sense to include a benefits module as part of their HCM implementation. However bigger global companies with various benefit offerings, legal requirements and high level of complexity will find it challenging to make those benefit modules work for them.  It comes as a surprise to many that systems built for the US don’t always work in other countries. As result they might exclude necessary capabilities like salary sacrifice and auto-enrolment in the UK and flexible spending accounts in Asia.

There is also an issue with most HCM providers choosing to outsource the benefit implementation to partners that may or may not have the expertise of implementing global programs.

Questions to ask:

     - How many other companies use your benefits module globally and who could act as a reference?
     - In how many countries/languages have you implemented the benefits module?
     - Do you have a specific benefits knowledge base that educates the employee through their enrolment journey?
     - How does the system adapt to deal with specific local employee benefits challenges?
     - What do you see as the biggest challenge today in global benefits administration?

3. Can it fully automate benefits administration?

If you are considering introducing HR technology for your benefits you probably expect it to automate and streamline the administration. And rightly so! Why else would you invest time and money in implementing a solution if you would still need manual labour and paper after that?

As of today, only specialised benefits software solutions can fully automate benefits administration, removing paper and manual intervention, therefore eliminating errors. Great examples are determining eligibility or dependant eligibility tracking functionality. HCMs track benefits against jobs and not people.  As soon as someone changes jobs, they get the benefits related to that job so the consequence with this approach is that it can’t take account of an individual’s historical entitlements or special agreements. This means that HR teams then have to keep a secondary spreadsheet to track what benefits people have as individuals.

Questions to ask:

     - How have you removed paper from the benefit enrolment process?
     - Where paper is still a legal requirement how does your system create an auditable record?
     - How are dependants and beneficiaries managed through the system?
     - How do you determine benefit eligibility?
     - With how many global vendors do you have pre-agreed report templates?

4. What will your employee experience look like?

Integrating SaaS to manage benefits globally gives employers the opportunity to choose a solution with an intuitive UI and other user-friendly features, such as automated intelligent notifications of required benefits enrolment actions, to reduce the time, effort and stress involved in clearly communicating benefits to employees.

As mentioned earlier, unfortunately most HCM solutions fail to invest in their benefits modules, which makes the UI look very rigid and much more reflective of a piece of low engagement business software.

Another important thing to consider is whether or not the solution is mobile-ready. Nowadays, it is not worth investing into a benefit solution that is not tablet/smartphone compatible as more and more employees expect to be able to access their information anywhere and anytime.

Questions to ask:

     - How is the employee experience supported through the benefits enrolment process?
     - Do you have the ability to include workflows to capture all required information first time?
     - Does the system communicate to the employee when important tasks are outstanding?
     - Does your system show historical benefits selections?
     - Is it mobile friendly?


5. Will it help with employee engagement?

Employee engagement has been another popular buzzword for some time now, with almost every global company introducing special engagement programs hoping to attract and retain the best talent.

Reward and benefits are probably the easiest way to attract and engage employees. Therefore, making sure your benefits technology doesn’t only enable that but is also able to track and report on the level of engagement should be very high on the priority list.

Questions to ask:

    - Does the system allow us to create a branded experience for our employees?
    - Will the system pro-actively communicate with our employees?
    - Do we have the ability to develop and deliver targeted communications for select groups of employees?
    - Can the system track global trends in employee engagement and spend?
    - Can the system track employee user path and behaviour?

Hopefully you found this list useful and feel empowered to challenge your benefits software vendors to get get exactly what you and your company need to solve global benefits issues.

You can download the full list of questions by clicking on the link below: