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Business Officer Magazine

An Easy Way to Enrich Employee Discount Programs

Spotlight: Comprehensive and Doctoral Institutions, from "Business Briefs" department in the February 2010 issue of Business Officer

By Marlene Anderson

At the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), we found that our employee discount program was falling into the "burdensome" category. Limited participation resulted from the small number of vendors and offerings, and out-of-date information. But, the idea of finding time to create a new program that was of real value, complying with conflict-of-interest rules, and devising a plan that we could easily administer seemed daunting.

As a way to meet that challenge, the human resources (HR) department contracted with an outside vendor, PerkSpot  to create and manage our employee discount benefit. The online program began in June 2009, and we've had excellent results so far. According to the November 2010 utilization report, UNO had a 37 percent participation rate. In November alone, there were 83 new registrations, and employees accessed the site 336 times. The vendor keeps the site updated, with frequent additions of providers and offerings, some of which are recommended by program participants.

Benefits at Your Fingertips

After careful consideration, we contracted with an online resource that offers discounts and rebates on goods and services from some of the top brand names in the United States. We've realized a number of positive improvements with the new program, including:

  • A greatly expanded list of products and services. Our provider finds national and local businesses, such as Best Buy, Dell, and Verizon Wireless, that offer discounts on their merchandise and services. In our previous program, we had products from only six vendors, but now more than 500 participate. Some of the most popular products are computers, electronics, and vacations.
  • Outsourcing of vendor contracts. Our HR and legal departments negotiated a three-year renewable contract with our provider, which makes arrangements with all the other individual companies.
  • A customized Web site for UNO. Once registered, faculty, staff, and students can access information about product and service offers directly through the provider's Web site or through the UNO Human Resources Web page.
  • Confidential transactions. Payments are handled between the participant and the vendor. In this way, HR does not compromise its relationship with faculty and staff, because no confidential information is passed between HR and PerkSpot. In addition, a disclaimer included on the Web site states that UNO does not endorse or imply endorsement of any of the companies offering products or services within the discount program.

Little or No Cost

A great attraction of the discount program is that there is no direct cost to the university. The provider generates its revenue from the participating companies. Our provider also handles vendor evaluations and establishes preferred product categories. We can also request that certain vendors be screened out if we feel they are not appropriate.

Indirect cost was only for the HR staff, who spent approximately 35 hours on vendor selection, contract negotiation, and initial rollout.

The result has been a no-risk rewards program for UNO. Since the launch of the site, more than one third of UNO faculty, staff, and students have registered. As of November 2010, there were 1,105 participants. At a time when salaries and other benefits remain somewhat static, we've been able to create an employee discount program that has met and exceeded expectations for administration and staff.

SUBMITTED BY Marlene Anderson, director, human resources department, the University of Nebraska-Omaha 

Business Officer Plus