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Building Stronger Communities and Companies Through Technology

Knowledge | June 27, 2016

LifeWorks Northwest believes that just as touching a single life can strengthen an entire community, touching the life of one employee can strengthen its entire organization.

LifeWorks NW is a community health provider that offers prevention, mental health and addiction services to nearly 19,000 Portland area residents each year. As it was providing critical outreach to community members, the organization also saw the opportunity to strengthen its own human resources (HR) processes, such as retirement planning. In 2015, LifeWorks NW turned to BCI Group as its technology consulting partner.

“We place a strong focus on providing benefits that enhance our workplace,” says Heather Hopson, a payroll and benefits specialist at LifeWorks NW. “Thus, we regularly evaluate our plans to ensure that they meet our employees' needs.”

LifeWorks NW turned to BCI to assess its retirement plan. BCI conducted a series of surveys with the nonprofit's 700 employees to learn what was important to them in a retirement plan. “We found that offering a different model with lower administrative fees was particularly attractive to employees,” Hopson says.

Human resource information systems

BCI is at the forefront of helping companies understand and deploy HR technology—the type of technology that builds stronger companies. It’s a complicated business. Industries as varied as nonprofits, manufacturing, food services and more, use a managed service that provides centralized views of HR data, called a human resource information system (HRIS). The information the HRIS collects, in turn, is used by human resource management (HRM) or human capital management (HCM) groups to complete other HR processes.

The HRIS technology “looks at all the pieces—HR systems, payroll systems, record keeping systems and more—and finds ways to optimize the communication and work,” says Corey Coleman, a retirement consultant at BCI. “It’s important to remove the element of human error, which is why we advocate for automating as much as possible.”

Coleman says record keepers have been at the forefront of a “technology arms race” in an effort to innovate. Today, for instance, companies can choose from several automated payroll feeds on the market, but as late as 2013 they barely existed. The trick, Coleman says, is to encourage clients with smaller retirement and benefits plans—like Hopson’s team at LifeWorks NW—to receive the trickle down benefits of technological advances.

That’s the sweet spot for BCI—finding benefits, business solutions and retirement planning for small to mid-size businesses across the Northwest. “Tech automation can add a lot of value to small companies who don’t get as much assistance from their vendors because of their size,” Coleman says.

Creating transparency

BCI took a deep look at LifeWorks NW’s plan, analyzing the fees and potential vendors that would offer the best value for their employees given the feedback they received. “In the end, we wanted to find a model that would be efficient for our HR team to administrate, yet provide a solid financial planning option for our employees,” says Hopson.

After careful consideration of the options, LifeWorks NW decided to stay with its current retirement planning vendor, but chose a different investment platform that met its objectives for efficiency and appeal to employees. Among the features of the new platform, all new hires are now auto-enrolled in the plan and some administrative duties are now handled by the vendor. With the transition, LifeWorks NW’s employees are able to easily make changes to their contributions and more, online, with the click of a button.

In some instances, implementing these kinds of HR technology changes can present obstacles between record keepers and payroll vendors. But all the meetings, testing and data analysis is worth it once the project gets rolling, Coleman says. “HR is always overloaded, so anything they can get taken off their hands is a win,” he says.

The team at LifeWorks NW says the partnership with BCI is more than just a win for HR, it’s a win for the entire team. “Working with BCI has been great,” Hopson says. “They did all the leg work and were extremely knowledgable as they helped us take on this huge project...they’ve done a really good job of keeping us focused on our goal to help our employees plan for the future.”

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