Technology Alone Shouldn’t Decide Your PEO

Mobile HR Management

More businesses are considering technology when deciding about whether—and which—PEO to engage. However, employers that overemphasize tech platforms may put themselves at risk of engaging a firm that can’t address the true needs of its workforce.

“You need to start with HR,” said Michael Mendenhall, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of TriNet, a PEO which targets small and medium-sized businesses.

SVP Michael Mendenhall: @TriNet looks at technology as an underlying service that provides mobility and access to HR data on an ongoing basis. Share on X

In an interview with the HCM Technology Report, Mendenhall said TriNet looks at technology as an underlying service that provides mobility and access to HR data on an ongoing basis. At the same time, PEOs must pair technology with an HR effort that’s tailored to “the nuances” that exist within different vertical markets and subcategories.

“Professional services and financial services have very different nuances in how they want HR to work,” he said. “So technology is very important for providing the ability and mobility, but you shouldn’t just base your decision on that.” Companies that do could “wind up with problems very quickly.”

In Mendenhall’s mind, technology has worked itself into the core of the HR function. “What people want is simple,” he said. “They want to have a great user experience and be able to get information quickly, in real time.”

And as the HR world has embraced mobile solutions, so have PEOs. At TriNet, “we’re really looking at user experience relative to mobility, so that users can click through and easily access” the tools and information they need. TriNet designs its technology “for the mobile experience first,” Mendenhall said. “Then we go into other applications.”

Vertical PEO Needs

TriNet has been steadily increasing the number of verticals it works with: In late 2017 it covered 12 industries and sub-industries. Today it covers 18, ranging from accounting and hospitality to manufacturing, skilled trades and technology. In June, the company launched TriNet Professional Services, an industry-specific product designed to address the unique HR needs of professional services firms such as consulting and advertising.

TriNet Professional Services provides a bundled solution that includes benefits, payroll administration, performance management, applicant tracking, time and attendance, and expense management. The company said the real differentiator in its approach is the involvement of HR professionals who are expert in the professional services vertical.

A technology platform supports product by improving efficiency, cost management and risk mitigation. The company’s mobile app gives employers access to HR tools and updated information.

At the time, Jimmy Franzone, the company’s senior vice president of strategy, said TriNet Professional Services “continues our journey to provide small and midsize businesses with high value, comprehensive HR solutions tailored by industry.”

TriNet’s vertical/SMB strategy seems to be paying off. During 2018’s third quarter, total revenue increased 7 percent year-on-year, to $875 million. Net income rose from $43 million to $51 million. (The average number of worksite employees it managed declined 2 percent, to 318,000.)

Mendenhall sees that strategy continuing. “What’s exciting to me is the opportunity here in the vertical industries we’re in, to help try to build success for these companies,” he said. “To help them not have to worry about all of these pieces of HR that they would have to figure out very quickly.”

TriNet’s approach, he said, “isn’t really about us, but about them, and how we build and tailor a program for industries and sub-industries that all have different needs”

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