Benefitdecisions: How technology is easing the burden on HR staffs

When employees are hired or leave a company, the process typically involves HR staff inputting or changing information in a variety of places.

“HR is adding them or removing them from payroll, typing in information and sending it to the insurance provider, and using seven to 10 different systems to handle the various tasks,” says Liz Howe, director of Business Development at Benefitdecisions, Inc.

Companies are alleviating that burden by automating processes through benefit administration systems.

“They recognize the burden that HR people face. And employees are becoming more technologically savvy and want information at their fingertips,” says Howe.

Smart Business spoke with Howe about benefit administration systems from both employer and employee perspectives.

What are the advantages of benefit administration systems?

From an employer standpoint, HR personnel can easily see who is enrolled in benefit plans. These systems help eliminate errors because the plans are entered into the system once, along with employee and employer contributions. So when an employee enrolls, there’s no question as to whether he or she has a dependent or not, for example. Because everything is computerized, that also eliminates paperwork.

Once employees are enrolled, HR can reach out to carriers with information about who has enrolled and at what level — employee and spouse, employee and family. With a benefit administration system, all those characteristics are readily available.

For employees, they can point and click to find out exactly what will be deducted from their paychecks and the coverage available in their plans.

How detailed is the information provided?

It varies. You can have one focused solely on benefits, with employee information, plan description, plan summary, deductions, and employee and employer contributions. Other systems can have a total compensation statement built in, showing employees how much their benefits cost the employer.

Benefit administration systems also can house HR information such as designation, education, paid time off — anything typically tracked by HR. These systems are scalable to the company’s size and needs.

Have there been any recent developments?

The big push at the moment is toward having mobile apps to allow employees to enroll and make changes online through their smartphones. They can enter the system from home, or if they’re at the doctor’s office and need a group number, they can retrieve that on their phone.

Health care reform, and the state insurance exchanges, will probably lead to some other advancements.

What would keep a company from implementing a system?

Security is a concern that makes some companies hesitant. But companies use the Internet already, so they just need to ensure their connections are safe.

There also may be employees who don’t have access to a computer on a regular basis, although many of them do have a smartphone. Employers can place a computer kiosk or iPad station in a centrally located area for employees to enroll and check information.

Of course, there are always people who don’t want to use an electronic system. Those cases can be managed the old-fashioned way, although it’s not recommended. If you move to an electronic system, it’s best to make a complete switch.

What training is involved?

Every company does it differently. Usually, HR has specific training on the administrative aspects. Supervisors are trained so they can educate their staffs on how to use the system. Employees who need extra help can get one-on-one sessions with instructors, although sometimes that isn’t necessary. Benefit administration systems tend to be very user-friendly and easy to understand from an employee perspective.

Implementation can be a bit tricky. However, over time you’ll see how many errors are eliminated and how much time is saved. No one ever says they were disappointed in the results, they say they can’t believe they didn’t do it sooner.

Liz Howe is Director of Business Development at Benefitdecisions, Inc. Reach her at (312) 376-0452 or [email protected].

Insights Employee Benefits is brought to you by Benefitdecisions, Inc.