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Does your RFP look to the future?

According to the panelists from our Feb. 8 webinar, the best benefits RFPs reflect a “request for progress.”


Each February, we host a webinar to help benefits professionals think differently about their next RFP for benefits technology and services. Why February? Well, for many organizations, the second month of the year signals the start of request for proposal (RFP) season for new HR tech.

When it comes to benefits RFPs, this timing can be problematic. Fresh off annual enrollment season, many benefits professionals remember all too well the challenges they faced during just a few weeks earlier. This can result in an unconscious bias toward a new vendor that will simply “patch over” the problems that remain top of mind. The resulting RFP can sometimes reflect the HR team’s desire to run from problem rather than embody their request for progress—a concept near and dear to our panelists’ hearts last Tuesday. 

Here's a summary of some key takeaways from our panelists, Matthew Kaiser, National Director of Employer Tech Consulting at Alliant Insurance Services, and Lisa Ambrosetti, Lead Benefits Analyst at the Dana Corporation.

How have benefits RFPs evolved?

We began our conversation with some insights from Lisa about how RFPs for HR technology have evolved during her career. She noted that the previous mindset around price had given way toward identifying the right technology and services for an evolving world.

“With the advancements in technology—mobile, for example—we have seen price becoming less of a factor, especially out of the gate,” Lisa said. “From an evolutionary standpoint, we're asking ourselves what tools and accessories come with our vendor partnerships, and which tools and accessories really are going to benefit the employee. The more empowering tools your HR team has, the better they're able to help the employee.

This eventually led to a discussion of the concept mentioned above—a request for progress.

Benefits RFPs should focus on progress, not fixing the past.

“Usually, we run a workshop (with HR teams) where we'll have folks identify their opportunities,” Matthew shared. “It’s just a brainstorm—a free-flowing conversation about the frustrations they have and what’s keeping them after hours (instead of doing more strategic work). I love grassroots efforts where everyone's highest value is recognized. Is your highest value answered when open enrollment ends? Is that a very fixed piece of data? Is it something that could be automated? Or is your highest value really about securing some cost saving strategies for your organization? How do we free that up? All this then becomes a foundation for your request for progress.”

Lisa followed up with a recommendation to look closely at whether your vendors are, themselves, progressing.

“I’ll tell you, Dana is a fast-moving company. Keeping up with the electric vehicle market, driving innovation, and focusing on diversity are three key factors that we hear about daily. So, when we looked for a benefits administration partner, we were looking for someone who could go with us along with us on that ride. Who was innovative? Who was going to be growing with us? I think having that approach and mindset helped us get buy-in from leadership and opened our eyes to the whole decision-making process.”

Several times throughout our discussion, the topic of complexity came up. Benefits administration and the strategy that drives benefits programs continue to grow more complex each year.

Respect the complexity of benefits RFPs.

“For example, there are times that I am just buying technology,” Matthew said. “When buying a car, I know what I need so I'm just looking for price. I know I don't have questions. But with benefits technology, if I have hunger, if I've got a conviction that I'm suboptimal, I really don't have the answers. What I need is collaboration.”

In traditional Businessolver fashion, we ended our discussion with the one thing each panelist wanted our audience to walk away with. Matthew got us started.

Key recommendations for benefits RFPs.

“RFPs can be like exhaustive final exams with a thousand questions. That's intimidating. Believe me, if someone said, ‘Hey, read this big thousand-row spreadsheet,’ I'm going to freak out. There's no way that I have the time or the caffeine to get me through it. Instead, you need someone to summarize it down to your most critical factors. Your ability to be a part of the team is to commit to ten critical factors and provide a ranking of those ten items.”

Lisa’s final takeaway echoed Matthew’s sentiments.

“To have someone summarize and put those pieces together is super, super important, because it is very daunting. One of the lessons we've learned is that stakeholders can get overwhelmed. We need involvement up front. But then (for the review stage) it helps to only send those sections that are relevant to those people that are involved. ‘Hey, look at pages four, five, and six and just give me your opinion on these. We'll fit it in (to the final evaluation).’ Everybody's so strapped, so you need to keep it very focused for your stakeholders.”

Want to hear the entire discussion? Check out the recorded webinar, slide deck, and other valuable resources.

View all Posts by Mike Meyerring