As rewarding as it is to be an entrepreneur—there’s nothing like building a business yourself—it’s also a lot of painstaking work. Most owners tend to do it all: sales, marketing, hiring, benefits, payroll and more.

These tasks are often a fulltime job on their own, and they take a business owner away from growing the company, doing strategic planning and tackling urgent issues. That’s especially true today, with COVID-19 making running a business that much more complex.

One area that’s increasingly time consuming for entrepreneurs is HR administration—especially with the challenges caused by the pandemic, says Sophie Ouellet, Vice-President, Business Development, Group Benefits, at Sun Life.

“We see many entrepreneurs with small businesses trying to do it all. People who aren’t HR experts spending too much time on administration, such as running payroll, tracking time sheets or figuring out drug and dental plan eligibility,” she says.

According to a 2017 report from Plum Consulting, Canadian small business owners spend 100 days a year on administrative tasks. That number has likely grown over the last several months. 

“It’s not where they thought they would be spending their time when they launched their business,” says Ouellet. “Their time is better spent on growing their business.”

Fortunately, HR administration is one of the easier duties to outsource. Small business owners can work with firms who specialize in helping small and medium-sized organizations manage payroll and benefits, as well as other HR administrative functions.

Cost-effective digital solutions

One of the advantages of working with a digital firm that offers administration solutions is that they can bring modern HR-related technology to your business. New, cloud-based systems specifically designed for smaller operations let users input important HR data with a few clicks and then update across many platforms. These programs are cost effective, as they come with a per-user charge, meaning that a company with a staff of five will pay less than a business with ten employees.

“These systems simplify administration and reduce time spent on these tasks,” says Ouellet.

Group benefits are key to finding and keeping good talent

Many digital administrative solutions combine various HR and group benefits features, allowing for a single and streamlined enrolment process. Companies know that their talent is their greatest resource. In today’s competitive market, where benefits aid in retention rates and overall employee health, these platforms provide a straightforward and cost-effective way to offer benefits.

In 2018, Sun Life partnered with Rise People, a Vancouver-based company that combines benefits administration, HR, time and attendance, and payroll in a cloud-based platform to bring group benefits administration to Canadian small businesses. 

 Employees can manage their benefits on any type of device—mobile, tablet or laptop—to enroll in a group benefits plan. Once enrolled, Rise creates a personalized online dashboard that shows employees key information about their Sun Life benefits including their coverage details, dependent and beneficiary information. From the Rise platform, they can link directly  to Sun Life to submit claims, review their claims history and find health care providers.  

These kinds of digital experiences are a must in a world where business owners need to act quickly and employees are now used to doing everything from hailing a cab to ordering groceries online.

“Everything is changing fast, and owners need to provide the services and experiences that their employees expect and are used to,” notes Ouellet. “Recent cloud-based innovations have greatly simplified administrative tasks—including group benefits plan management—and the results are a game changer.”

Not one-size-fits-all when it comes to health solutions

Each employer has its own benefits needs—what a retail operation might want will be different from what a company with many manufacturing facilities will require. That’s why it’s important that whoever is helping you build your benefits plan tailors a program to your employees’ needs. That will be even truer going forward as workforces become more diverse and inclusive.

Digital solutions can help companies create more business- and employee-specific plans since they make it easier to offer flexible options—and employees know exactly what’s available to them.

Through a digital portal, staff can monitor their health spending accounts, which can increase coverage customizability and choice for employees. They can get access to more mental health supports, such as Employee and Family Assistance Programs (EFAP) and, in certain cases, pharmacogenomics testing. Online platforms may also offer easier access to virtual care, where staff can engage with health-care professionals over chat and video. 

Ultimately, having the right benefits for the right person allows employers to play an active role in helping prevent employee health problems before they become an issue.

“Keeping employees healthy, productive and at work is a great reason to offer a benefits plan,” Ouellet says. 

As the pandemic continues—and as companies start to really ramp up growth once it’s over—now’s the time for entrepreneurs to outsource more admin tasks so that they can focus on building their business.