Recently, I was a guest on Act Local Marketing for Small Business with host Kalynn Amadio. Each week, Kalynn shares information and actionable tips to help inspire and motivate small and medium businesses (SMBs) reach their business goals. In this episode, Kalynn and I discussed SMB Group’s 2014 Top Ten SMB Technology Trends and what they mean to the marketing and running of your business. The last of a four-part series, this post summarizes our discussion of “The Affordable Care Act Puts Workforce Management in the SMB Spotlight.”
Kalynn: You know, there are ten different SMB technology trends. We’re not going to have time to go through all ten things, but there is one more that I do want to talk about.
Even though we talk about small business and marketing and how to grow business on this show, I think we would be remiss if we didn’t discuss your prediction regarding the Affordable Care Act or ACA. I know it’s at the forefront of my mind, it’s in the media constantly, and it’s a real issue for people right now.
Laurie: Absolutely. Our prediction is really that the Affordable Care Act puts workforce management front and center for SMBs.
Many SMBs have already automated and integrated things like sales and marketing and customer facing kinds of solutions, because they see this as key to business growth.
But many have put workforce management solutions on the back-burner. They think of that as a cost area so they often limp along with a bunch of disconnected things and manual tracking to take care of things like payroll and time and attendance, scheduling and benefits.
Kalynn, as you said, the Affordable Care Act has made everybody kind of sit up and pay attention. We’ve gotten a little bit of a reprise because they’ve delayed the mandate for the companies with more than 50 full-time employees until next January to provide health insurance. It was supposed to kick in this January.
But, now everybody is realizing because a lot of, unfortunately, very negative publicity and all these issues that this is very complicated and it’s a situation that’s in flux.
SMBs are worried, and rightly so, about uncertainty, costs and regulatory risks. They are starting to realize that they need to be able to more easily do things like calculating employee eligibility for benefits, choosing the right plans, managing compliance and keeping costs under control.
So, for purely practical reasons, SMBs that haven’t paid much attention to automating in the workforce management are going to start to do so to gear up for 2015.
Kalynn: Yes, and it could take longer than they thought. The whole thing did turn out to be more complicated than we were led to believe. So, it’s probably a good idea to take this year and make sure you have in place whatever you need to have in place to make your life easier and so that you’re ready January 1st of 2015 to go live, you’ve got everything handled, you know what’s going on, and everything is taken care of from a legal stand point.
Laurie: It’s really about having the visibility into what’s going on in the workforce. Now there are a lot of cloud-based workforce management services for SMBs. With many of them, you can usually just get the modules you need. So maybe you just need payroll and time and attendance, right, but you can add other modules like benefits as you need them and they all integrate automatically.
Automating and integrating this gives you better visibility into things like hours worked, overtime, and all the things that you need to know about to make good choices, not only for ACA, but for other workforce management decisions.
Kalynn: Right, because any of those kinds of solutions you’re going to have reporting modules that will let you look at all of your data so that you can make the best choices, and so document it all.
Laurie: It’s like in your own personal life you want to kind of evaluate the risks and benefits of different healthcare options, right? Well, think of how complicated that is to do that just for your own family. It’s not easy information to sift through. Well, now think about if you have to make that choice for your workforce.
You want the ability to do a 'what if?' scenario kind of thing. What if I use this plan? What will it cost? What are the downsides? What are the upsides? In some cases—not that I’m advocating this—some businesses want to know if they should be cutting down workers to part-time.
So, you want to be able to play with all that. It’s very difficult to do that if you have any more than just a handful of employees without having some kind of workforce management solution to do it with.
Kalynn: It goes back to something that you had talked about at the very beginning of the interview. If you don’t have metrics that you can run reports with then you don’t really know what the health and well-being of your business is and what decisions you should be making. That’s just the bottom line.
Laurie: Yes, and again you want to have flexibility. Think about it; right now the economy is in a lot better shape than it was a few years ago, so your decisions today might be a lot different from they would have been four years ago.
And, you know what, in a couple of years hopefully the economy will continue to improve. We may have a very tight labor market if that happens and companies may go back to providing richer benefits packages. So, it’s all about being able to adjust and adapt to kind of get ahead.
Kalynn: Right; you want to have all your options available so that you can look and scoot them around on the table and see what happens and make some good decisions.
You can listen to the complete podcast discussion here.
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