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Open Enrollment Is a Non-Issue, Thanks to Self-Service

Costs have been reduced dramatically and quality has improved immensely.

September 18, 2003
Related Topics: Benefit Design and Communication, Human Resources Management Systems (HRMS/HRIS), Intranets/Extranets
Name: WellPoint Health Networks Inc.
Location: Thousand Oaks, California
Business: Health-care company
Employees: 17,000

When Chuck Moore was hired several years ago to upgrade WellPoint’s HRmanagement system, administration of even basic employee documents at thecompany was a significant problem. The HR staff received up to 2,000 faxes amonth that required some amount of data entry, but because everyone in thedepartment hated dealing with the paperwork, entering the data was "the lowestpriority, to be done at the end of the day," Moore says. Consequently,critical documents piled up in HR in-baskets, delaying filing and frustratingemployees, who logged up to 14,000 calls per month to the company’s humanresources call center. "At that time, a six-week turnaround to complete a payincrease was considered good, and errors in all of the data were common,"Moore says.

    The company initially implemented PeopleSoft 7.5 to centralize the HRdatabases, then upgraded to 8.0 in 2001 to take advantage of the new version’sself-service features. PeopleSoft 8.0 allows employees to see benefits options,update personal information, and view their pay history and 401(k) data onlineat any time. Managers can administer employee change information, such as payincreases and title changes, and complete employee reviews without sending hardcopies to the HR department to be entered into the system.

    WellPoint went live with the new version in August, with considerablesuccess. Employees started using it almost immediately with little training orencouragement, Moore says. As of November 2002, the self-service system hadtracked 17,000 separate users for the year, and managers had initiated anaverage of 300 promotions and 40 salary changes per month online.

    "Now when data is entered in the self-service system, it’s done byemployees and the information is updated immediately." That means, forexample, that a payroll increase shows up on the employee’s next paycheck--notsix weeks later.

    As a result, costs have been reduced dramatically and quality has improvedimmensely, Moore says. Within months of going live, paper flow to the HRdepartment almost disappeared. In 2001 they received 63,000 separate pieces ofpaper; by November 2002 they had received fewer than 1,100 documents for theyear, most of them via e-mail.

    But the most obvious example of the success of the self-service system wasthe ease with which the company completed its open enrollment in 2002. In thepast, WellPoint outsourced open enrollment to a vendor, which required months ofplanning and resulted in many errors and mishaps. Moore’s team used to beginplanning for open enrollment eight months before the event, working with thevendor to design documents and establish the process. "It was a huge task thatcost a lot of money and took an enormous amount of time," he says.

    However, since the installation of self-service, "open enrollment hasbecome a non-event," Moore says. In 2002, forms and benefits information wereavailable online, and employees were e-mailed reminders to complete theirenrollment by the end of October. "On the last day of enrollment, more than2,000 people made changes and there were no breakdowns," he says. And heestimates that the reduction in man-hours, paper costs, and errors saved thecompany $400,000.

    Except for monitoring the number of enrollment submissions and fieldingcalls, the HR team wasn’t involved at all, Moore says. "It trivialized theenrollment process, which means we can apply our resources to other projectssuch as improving recruiting efforts and reducing turnover."

    It has also changed the makeup of WellPoint’s HR team. "We don’t relyon administrative assistants anymore," Moore says. "Our focus now is onemployee relationship management."

Workforce, January 2003, p. 61 -- Subscribe Now!

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