January 12, 2004

Benefits Enrollment

Self-service solution speeds benefits enrollment

Janis Beal
Employee Benefit News November 2003

Sypris Electronics, a leader in complex electronics manufacturing services, historically spent seven months each year on benefits enrollment. It was imperative that Sypris implement a new solution to save time and money, and our recent transition to a new system now allows for complete benefits enrollment online through an employee self-service portal.

This recently implemented project achieved immediate return on investment (ROI), as well as a very positive response from benefits staff, HR directors and employees. The implementation also yielded some valuable perspective on the process of replacing an outdated benefits enrollment practice.

Similar to the traditional benefits enrollment procedures at many companies, Sypris' HR department produced enrollment documents and distributed them to employees. Employees were tasked with reviewing and completing the forms for staff, which then entered the data into multiple computer systems. Sypris completed the enrollment cycle by filing all of the paperwork for more than 1,500 employees working in five locations. Needless to say, it was a very lengthy and time-intensive process. As soon as we finished the annual enrollment, we had just a short break before it was time to start the cycle again.

In 2001, after more than forty years of paper enrollment, Sypris decided to purchase an automated benefits enrollment solution. We began reviewing vendor offerings for software that would work well with our current IT system. The company needed a solution that would integrate seamlessly and communicate with our Cyborg payroll software.

After reviewing a number of offerings in the marketplace, Sypris chose Cyborg's Interactive Workforce, a Web-based employee self-service solution. We were extremely pleased with the implementation and functionality of the company's payroll solution, and knew we could expect superior customer service and a quick and seamless integration of this best-of-breed solution.

Presenting a case for the purchase to upper management was simple because we were confident that the new solution would demonstrate immediate ROI and pay for itself within a year and a half.

Sypris implemented Interactive Workforce in twelve weeks and began preparing for the first online benefits enrollment in company history. The Web-based system resides on Sypris' fully encrypted Intranet. It integrated seamlessly with the payroll solution because all of the field names matched allowing the systems to easily communicate. The ease of the complete integration, including programming and customization, allowed Sypris to complete everything in-house and avoid the expense and time of hiring outside consultants.

Selling employee self-service to Sypris' hourly employees was tougher than expected. Many of these workers had never used a computer, so they required some extra training from HR to reinforce the ease and accessibility of the new system.

To ready employees for the new enrollment process, HR created a short, one-page instruction sheet for employees to review. This document gave employees a template to follow during the open enrollment so they could key in their own data accordingly. HR directors at each site also met with employees and walked them through the basic process. Overall the user-friendly system required minimal employee training.

Training for the hourly employees was completed in groups of twelve in Sypris' computer labs so employees could walk through the system with assistance. HR managers trained employees during their respective shifts and did not require a separate time commitment. One Sypris location with limited computer access held one-on-one training sessions.

Before the rollout, an initial test group of employees tried the system. Some software engineers in the test group were uncertain about the privacy and security of the system. However, after testing and learning about the solution, the engineers felt completely at ease with the rollout.

After the enrollment, employees and HR managers gave feedback via phone and email applauding the simplicity of the system, saying it was the "best technology enhancement" and made processing data so much faster.

First-year results

In November 2002, Sypris held its first-annual online benefits enrollment. With the new solution, Sypris eliminated all of the time-consuming production, execution and filing steps associated with the historical benefits enrollment process. Specifically, Sypris achieved the following results with Interactive Workforce:

* Reduced paper by nearly 70%
* Reduced enrollment time by 50%
* Reduced HR staff allocation by one person

The reaction from employees and HR directors was extremely positive. Everyone was pleased with the ease of use, smooth transition and reduced time commitment of the entire benefits enrollment process.

Employee self-service drastically improved accuracy of the HR database. Upon logging in and seeing all of their data, employees corrected birth dates and updated dependent information such as Social Security numbers and marital status. Employees can also make address changes in real-time, one of the hardest things for staff to track.

The system's value was also extremely evident during the recent tax season. Instead of employees calling HR to change their tax exemptions, people were able to tap Interactive Workforce directly and make their own modifications. This would have been a relatively simple process for HR to complete, but call after call adds up and can take a lot of time. HR saved resources and time by enabling employees to handle the changes directly. There is also something to be said about the connection between employee empowerment and overall employee satisfaction. Our workers recognized and applauded the perks and appreciated being granted the ability to manage their own information.

The initiative at Sypris so far has been a success. In fact, by purchasing the system we were able to reduce staff, supplies and associated burden by 29%. Along the way I've discovered that implementing an HR solution that demonstrates immediate ROI and pleases the entire staff isn't easy, but with our vendor we met the challenge and reaped the benefits. - EBN

Janis Beal is the Director of Human Resources at Spris Electronics in Tampa, Fla.

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Posted by Craig at January 12, 2004 02:30 PM