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With managers and supervisors now spending 10 percent to 40 percent of their time in meetings and the rest dealing with strategic issues and managing paperwork and employee benefits changes, it’s no wonder they are seriously looking to, or are already using, technology to help manage day-to-day details. Having a benefits management system in place means there is less paperwork to track.
With the ability to cut the time required to execute many tedious tasks in half, software can be a great help to professionals and managers, but what is the best way to decide which solution best meets the needs of an organization?
Flexibility and scalability. HR software should provide flexibility in importing data from multiple Excel spreadsheets, databases and paper documents—and be able to interface with all kinds of systems and data. The software should accommodate company-specific eligibility rules, employee classifications, company locations, etc.
Ownership of the data. Organizations should have full ownership of their data and be able to transport it to any Application Service Provider (ASP). If the data resides on a carrier’s proprietary server, it is often not transportable without additional charges, should the organization decide to switch carriers.
Security. Established ASPs should have daily backups, backup servers, added protective layers, and other systems and procedures in place to safeguard information from being lost or accessed by unauthorized personnel. HR and other managers should have exclusive authority to decide who will be allowed access and to what degree.
Robustness of the eligibility engine. A truly capable enrollment engine will evaluate each enrollment activity and apply any necessary combination of rules, messages, prompts and options specifically designed to meet the exact eligibility requirements desired. Managers should not have to modify their eligibility rules to accommodate a piece of software. The software, instead, should accommodate it.
Self-service. Employee access should be a natural extension, given the wide access to computers at home and at work (70 percent of the population has home access) and the time- and cost-saving possibilities. Enabling employees to enroll themselves saves processing time and money and increases satisfaction.
Reports.Software should offer multiple views, big-picture assessment and the ability to drill down to enhance decision-making when it comes to reporting.
Linking with carriers. Connectivity should be judged not only by the number of carriers with which the software has relationships, but also by the type of connection that it enables. Many providers enable transmission of a generic ANSI 834 file, which may or may not be accepted by the carrier, a factor often influenced by the size of the group. Managers should look for providers that offer clean, validated transfers (ensuring the eligibility of the transaction), customized to each carrier’s needs to avoid issues.
Customer service. As managers enter into partnerships with their ASP providers, they will want to know if they will quickly be able to talk to a live person or if they will become a prisoner in voice mail “jail.” As a general guideline, managers should be able to expect a response to inquiries within 24 hours from a direct contact that can help.
Costs vs. benefits. A slightly more expensive system could more than pay for the difference with features that enable employees to maintain their own records and offer greater convenience, time savings and accuracy. These factors should be considered and weighed.
These days, many new technologies will be offered to managers and supervisors. With so many advances in computers and administrative technology, there is no reason for anyone to be shackled behind the fax machine, or photocopying in triplicate while taming drawers full of files. Armed with the right knowledge, managers will be able to better find a solution to meet their company’s needs.
Art Brooks is vice president of BeneTrac, a Paychex company and provider of the web-based electronic enrollment and employee benefits administration software online at
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