Baby Steps Ease Transition

November 9, 2001
When Mary Theresa Fosko took over as HR administrator for Cabrini College two years ago, she was surprised to find that all of the employees' health-plan information was stored on paper. "Everything from benefits enrollment to disability insurance was done on spreadsheets."

Name: Cabrini College
Location: Radnor, Pennsylvania
Business: Private Catholic college
Employees: 215

As a result, reporting was nearly impossible, and she spent hours every day trying to manage all the data. After only two months, Fosko gave up and began searching for a way to streamline the process. "There had to be an easier way," she says.

She convinced the college to move the data to the Web through an electronic human resources service. The hosted application gathered Cabrini employee information in a centralized database, which it manages from its Web site. Fosko and employees access the information via a browser and pass code.

Fosko began the transition by moving parts of the enrollment process to the Web. With the old system, employees came to her office to go through the benefits books, then she helped them fill out the paperwork. "That's all been eliminated," she says.

Employees now use a self-serve option to choose their benefits online. Their custom Web site links to the benefits packages that the organization offers, allowing employees to research plans on their own time, not Fosko's. Once they've chosen a plan from one of the two providers, they download a form that can be completed online or by hand, and deliver it to Fosko. She signs off on it and mails it to the insurance company.

"They could complete the forms online and e-mail them to me, but that takes a greater comfort level." She is making the transition to the Web in small steps to make sure employees are comfortable with the change. "Some of the older employees have required a little coaxing," Fosko says, "especially those who aren't PC-literate."

Even without the e-mail option, putting this piece of enrollment online has reduced the time Fosko spends on benefits paperwork from 10 to 15 hours a week to less than 2. "For a one-person department, that's a lot," she says.

She spends most of her time now doing strategic planning and forecasting benefits trends for the coming year. "I'm doing what the VP hired me to do."

She plans to add the e-mail option in time for open enrollment next year. To make that transition go as smoothly as possible, Fosko will install enrollment kiosks around campus so employees "won't be too far away if they have questions."

The last step will be to convince the insurance companies to automate their services so the entire administration process, from enrollment to claims submission to invoicing, can be done online. For now, she still has to mail everything to the insurers. "The insurance companies are uncomfortable about doing benefits online," she says.

Because Cabrini is such a small client, Fosko hasn't had much luck wooing the providers. "I tried to convince them that this was a better way, but they didn't welcome me with open arms." She hopes that as more small customers request online options, the insurers will see it as a customer-service issue and take the next step. "That's just how insurance companies are."

Workforce, November 2001, p. 65 -- Subscribe Now!