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HR outsourcing services provider works for tech startup

A growing startup outsources its core HR functions to TriNet. The company does not have to maintain its own HR department, but instead uses the cloud-based service.

Ironically, MomentFeed Inc. is growing too fast to worry about setting up an in-house HR department. Instead, it opted for an HR outsourcing services provider.

The vendor to which the Los Angeles-based mobile customer experience management startup turned was one more than 14,000 other small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have chosen for their HR outsourcing services: TriNet Group Inc.

TriNet itself has grown to nearly 2,600 employees, and has become a category leader in the HR outsourcing services market for SMBs.

HR into the cloud

Founded as a traditional HR services bureau two decades ago, TriNet is now completely cloud-based, and has expanded its offerings to include the full gamut of core HR functions.

Ashley Woodcock, MomentFeedAshley Woodcock

Over the years, TriNet has added risk and compliance, hiring and applicant tracking, expense and performance management, benchmarking, and recently, through acquisition, even foreign worker visa applications. The San Leandro, Calif.-based company also does HR consulting in such areas as wellness and employment law guidance.

Hiring TriNet for MomentFeed's HR outsourcing services was one of the first things Ashley Woodcock, director of finance and operations at MomentFeed, started at the company in 2013.

Startup outsources all HR functions

TriNet now handles payroll and benefits for MomentFeed and its 85 employees, and the HR outsourcing services vendor also acts as a consultant, helping its client to set up other HR processes and benefits, such as a wellness program.

"We don't have anyone internally who's specific to HR," Woodcock said.

One of TriNet's key selling points, Woodcock said, was its ability to aggregate the buying power of all its clients and their nearly 334,000 employees to get rates on health plans and other benefits that only bigger companies could otherwise enjoy. TriNet runs on a per-employee, per-month software-as-a-service pricing model.

"We established our partnership with TriNet and we are able to offer our employees very competitive benefits packages," Woodcock said.

Pravin Kumar, vice president of product management at TriNet, noted that while the company has a big presence in the tech vertical markets for HR outsourcing services, it is also strong in financial services among small to midsize firms in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and other cities.

Meanwhile, TriNet is also growing its business in life sciences, another sector with a lot of entrepreneurial action.

HR services, then tech

TriNet is starting to see itself the way Uber and other influential service companies do by sort of positioning the tech in the background.

Pravin Kumar, TriNetPravin Kumar

"We are a full HR services company powered by technology. Many of our customers basically say 'TriNet is our HR,'" Kumar said.

"We really have to have technology at our core, but we don't approach the customer's problem as a technology company," he said. "We approach it as a full services HR company."

As for the technology, TriNet runs its own cloud out of two data centers and pushes out updates in batches of about 5,000 to 6,000 customers on a given weekend.

Kumar said TriNet's business model would not be possible without cloud technology.

The company started out as an on-premises software vendor delivering standard HR services, but "over the last six or seven years, we have invested tremendous amounts into our cloud platform," Kumar said.

"Our platform is a full-blown HR platform," he said. "I wouldn't shy away from comparing it to Workday's [platform], or any of these other cloud platforms."

Millennial-style benefits

As for MomentFeed, it is able to fulfill its Millennial employees' desires for what Woodcock called "a more unique experience," with such benefits as incentives to enroll in fitness programs of their choice, meet with a nutritionist or attend a yoga class.

"Anything that benefits their well-being we find makes people more productive when their company is supporting their wellness," Woodcock said.

TriNet's role on the benefits side, among others, is to strike deals with health plans, and even big retailers such as Apple, to obtain discounts as part of benefits packages. In that sense, Kumar said, the company acts like a co-op.

"We're negotiating like a large employer," he said. "I know of companies on our platform with five employees, and they offer benefits comparable to a Facebook or a Google."

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