How online HR/Benefits administration can benefit your business

John Galley, President, EBenefits Solutions, UPMC Insurance Services Division

As companies grow, the demands on human resources departments also increase. To satisfy demands, employers have to be aware of the advances in self-service technology in HR that can increase productivity and create real cost savings.

HR departments can see tremendous benefits from technological innovations such as online HR/Benefits administration.

“Online automated HR/Benefits administration is attractive to companies with a sizable work force — generally 200 or more employees — because at this size, HR departments can become bogged down with daily administrative activities,” says John Galley, president of EBenefits Solutions, which is part of the UPMC Insurance Services Division. “Automation of these activities via the Web can eliminate these daily tasks for HR departments so that they can focus more of their time and energy on strategic initiatives that have a greater business impact. Online HR/Benefits administration also saves companies money, while increasing efficiency and security.”

Smart Business spoke with Galley about the benefits of online HR/Benefits administration and why it matters to employers.

Why would an employer want to make use of online HR/Benefits administration?

For many companies, the HR function has become more complex, difficult and time consuming. Oftentimes, more strategic initiatives can be squeezed out by the daily demands and volumes of administrative issues that must be addressed because they affect the work force every day. Fortunately, solutions are available.

The advantages of online HR/Benefits administration to an employer are many. Massive amounts of paperwork associated with benefits and payroll can overwhelm an HR department. There is a need to handle a number of documents that need to be filled out, signed, dated, reviewed, entered into various internal and external systems, such as carrier databases and the employer’s payroll/HRIS (Human Resource Information System) platform, and then filed. But online HR/Benefits administration can automate much of that process for employers.

Online HR/Benefits administration frees staff from duplicate paperwork, prevents errors and places all employees’ files in the same system, making it easier to access and retrieve. Other databases, such as a carrier system or payroll/HRIS platform can then be securely updated in an automated fashion via an electronic exchange.

Online HR/Benefits administration can also include a host of special features, such as embedded communications tools that allow HR departments to customize messages to various employee populations. The most advanced technologies do much more than handle open enrollment — they handle new hires, life events such as marriages, birth of a child, divorce, etc., as well as employment events such as a promotion or a move from part-time to full-time employment. Each of these has benefits and other HR implications that may be automated by a single solution.

And, because HR/Benefits administration virtually eliminates mailing costs and reduces time and other third-party related costs from operations, most companies realize a return on investment of 200 to 300 percent in the first year. In short, employers can receive better service at lower costs.

What advantages are there for employers with an online HR/Benefits system in place?

Most employers are thinking about strategies to help advance their work force so they are better equipped to handle change and move more swiftly. What is their communications strategy? What is their portal strategy? How can they move wellness initiatives forward to provide meaningful impact on medical trends and other lost productivity costs?

An online HR/Benefits system can provide answers to these key questions — the most advanced and state-of-the-art technologies in the market can create an integrated and seamless experience for employees, one that allows them to easily navigate a single system to accomplish their daily HR/Benefit activities.

These technologies also provide a gateway into other platforms such that wellness, absence, and other key initiatives can be easily and seamlessly managed through the same integrated portal. Because employees could perform all of these tasks without contacting HR or leaving their desks, this saves time for employees and HR staff, thus increasing productivity for the employer.

The right online HR/Benefits system ensures greater security and privacy of information for employees. Electronic exchanges are secure and data is protected via various levels of security. For example, HR administrator access can be limited to HR administrators only, and the information they have access to can be further limited by role, department and location.

What strategic advantages can an employer gain?

We have found that getting the work force onboard with online communications can help to make the organization more nimble and quick. Key messages can be communicated instantly to the work force, and these messages are actually heard and, when needed, responded to.  Our work force has been given online tools to help them make decisions about which medical plan option might be best for themselves and their families. This saves them time and money and helps them make better decisions and better use of their pay, which increases employee satisfaction.

Lastly, because we have a fully integrated HR/Benefits portal, our employees can easily navigate among sites without having to remember separate Web addresses, user names or user IDs, and passwords. This integration helps employees quickly and easily get where they need to go and is one of the key reasons that we achieve more than 90 percent participation in our wellness program each year.

Employers need to think beyond just employee benefits when developing their Web strategy. They should think about all aspects of online self-service for employees and if they are looking for a strategic partner, find one that has the ability to offer additional services when they are ready.

John Galley is president of EBenefits Solutions, part of the UPMC Insurance Services Division. Reach him at (412) 647-3393 or [email protected]

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