Posts Tagged ‘Ascentis’

Should You Consider Automating HR and Benefits?

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

Automating HRSource: Ascentis White Paper, “Automating HR and Benefits Management for Strategic Success”

Maximizing the potential of the HR department
HR departments in mid-tier organizations are models of versatility. Their responsibilities include everything from answering employee questions about health benefits and vacation time and sorting out the process of employee reviews, to high level long term planning and organization of training, employee retention plans, management development and other important issues that fundamentally affect the productivity and success of the organization.

Most organizations of this size would agree that they would greatly benefit from their HR professionals having the opportunity to focus more of their energies on strategic issues, as is the case in larger organizations. It is no secret that the top-performing companies in the S&P 500 are the ones that have the strongest focus on employee development.

However, in reality, the majority of their HR department’s time and resources is consistently taken up with day-to-day tactical issues—up to five hours of every eight-hour day, some studies suggest.

For larger companies, the technology to automate HR and benefits issues has been available for some time, and is widely used. However the resources and infrastructure required to install and maintain one of these large and complex systems has made the cost of entry prohibitive, both financially and technologically, for companies in the mid tier. As a result, only about 15% of mid-tier companies have yet adopted a Human Resource Information System (HRIS) solution.

Today, software solutions are emerging that can provide a practical answer to organizations of this size. The problem then becomes how to choose the one that is the best fit for their requirements and that is affordable, flexible and agile enough to cope with constant change, whether it comes from within the organization or from legislation such as HIPAA and the E-sign Act.

What to look for in an HRIS
First and foremost, a good HRIS needs to be based on a solid, modern technology foundation.

A quick survey of the marketplace will show that there is a wide range of solutions available today. Further study, however, will reveal that most of them are designed for very large organizations, costly to set up and maintain, based on heavy-duty legacy technology and requiring the services of an army of consultants to keep them operational. Most of the systems designed for smaller organizations concentrate heavily on either HR functions such as attendance and compensation, or on benefits management, but lack the ability to combine the two issues.

To be a practical investment choice for a mid-tier organization, a satisfactory HRIS solution must have its HR and benefits functions highly integrated. It must be both agile and robust in order that it can easily be kept abreast of constant change, and it must be built on a tried and true foundation that is both easy to use and maintain, such as a modern database like SQL Server.

Ease of use is a vitally important feature for an HRIS. The learning curve on any new software is often a challenge for people whose primary function is non-technical, such as the average HR consultant. It is important that if the investment is made in a product, it is accepted to the extent that it becomes part of the fabric of the department. There are three things to look for that will make an HRIS easier to use and more accepted by staff:

  • Wizards: Wizard-based technology makes it easy for staff to enter or import information and make changes and updates, by following through a set of simple instructional, fill-in the blanks forms on the screen, rather than their having to learn to program or call in the consultants.
  • Strong HR facilities combined with flexible benefit capabilities: The system should be able to handle compensation, attendance and recruitment, and legal requirements such as FMLA and OSHA, while integrating them with benefits issues such as COBRA.

Role-based operation: A good HRIS solution should be able to cater to the needs of a wide range of people and functions within the organization, and should appear seamlessly tailored to their requirements. Role based administration is becoming increasingly important in the HRIS marketplace. With this feature, HR administrators can define what an individual can see in the system, allowing managers access to the information they need about their particular team, while locking them out of information that is not pertinent to them. Role based administration can extend further into proactive alerting—a particular manager or management level can be automatically alerted by the system that it is time to conduct a review, for instance, with those alerts being based on the specific mangers role and needs within the organization.

Benefits for the entire organization
There are three constituencies whose needs must be addressed in the selection of a new HRIS solution: HR and IT managers, the HR department itself, and the “customers,” i.e., the executives, managers and other employees of the company.

HR and IT managers must be satisfied that they have chosen the best tool for the job—one that is going to offer a good return on their investment of both financial and time resources; the HR department must find that the solution allows them to become strategic thinkers rather than data processors, and employees must find that they are receiving a more efficient service and are able to make better and easier choices.

Unless the chosen solution offers benefits to everyone in the organization, it will not succeed.

For a detailed recap of the questions that should be asked for HR and IT managers, HR Personnel, employee expectations, and a list of essential features, please download the white paper or contact PCS for a copy.

The Future of HRIS
In looking at HRIS solutions, it is important to look at the longer-term prospects for the technology. The HR industry is in a state of flux, and any product that a company installs today must be based on a platform that can readily and rapidly adapt to change, and must offer concrete plans for coping with the future.

In an ideal world, widespread, electronically enabled end-to-end HR management and benefits enrollment would be the norm. Employees themselves would be able to perform many operations such as online benefits enrollment and selection, the updating of personal information, and other tasks such as viewing compensation and benefits information that are currently performed for them by an HR professional. Relevant data would be routed based on business processes, allowing role-based task assignment and monitoring, allowing team leaders to manage their own staff without the constant need for the services of the HR department.

Two things are helping turn this concept of complete end-to-end benefits enrollment into a reality. First of all, the advent of the HIPAA Administrative Simplification laws. By making the acceptance of standard electronic data formats mandatory for all carriers and benefit vendors across the country, HIPAA makes it possible for software vendors to create a common interface using these new data standards, allowing enrollment information to be transferred to the insurance carriers and TPA’s electronically, eliminating the error prone manual system that exists today.

Secondly, leading vendors of HRIS solutions are ensuring that their software is fully Internet enabled and able to transfer data electronically to benefits carriers. This is a key concept in making complete end-to-end benefits enrollment a viable proposition. It enables the user through employee self-service to access and use their HR and benefits information from just about anywhere. It makes electronic benefits enrollment possible and will also allow online premium remittance, whether via the Internet, a Virtual Private Network, or through a standard modem connection.

Conclusion
In today’s rapidly changing business environment, the need for the HR department to be freed to be a more of a strategic force in the organization has become apparent. In order for this to happen, it is essential that mundane, day-to-day tasks be automated.

This automation must be brought about in such a way that the HR department can truly become more productive, rather than simply exchanging one set of tactical tasks for another, and it must be done cost-effectively. The solution chosen has to be easily usable and configurable by regular HR staff. In a constantly and rapidly changing environment such as HR, it isn’t practical for every minor change in policy to require precious resource be spent on employing outside consultants to reconfigure systems.

The chosen solution also has to offer significant benefits to end user employees, whether they will use it in a “self-service” fashion, or still receive their answers through the HR department. These benefits include immediately apparent advantages such as faster and more accurate responses and less reporting errors, but also more important and long-term features such as a broader range of benefit choices.

Lastly, the chosen solution has to offer a solid return on investment. Not only through greater employee satisfaction and the freeing of the HR department for more important strategic functions, but in actual terms of reduced benefit costs through greater efficiency in plan administration, less errors and faster pick-up of problems and issues.

For Additional Information Contact PCS or visit the HR Section of our website.

Legal Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only and by no means should replace or substitute other legal documents (governmental or non-governmental) reflecting similar content or advice. If you have any questions concerning your situation or the information provided, please consult with an attorney, CPA or HR Professional.

Automating HR and Benefits

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

HR AutomationA White Paper By:
PCS Partner, Ascentis Corporation

How automating HR and benefits can lead to significant cost savings for your organization.

The role of the HR department has become increasingly complex in the past few years. Even in small to mid-sized businesses, the range of areas that the HR department is expected to cover has expanded significantly. With that increase in complexity and range has come a new problem – the need to contain costs. The areas that the HR department is now responsible for have become significant cost centers within the organization. As a result, it is important that the CFO becomes much more involved in what’s going on within HR, as it starts to have more of an impact on the company’s bottom line.

This paper focuses on the three main areas within the HR department where the need for cost containment can be easily identified and significant savings can be made.

  • Eradicating benefit errors
  • Managing attendance
  • Automating compliance

Eradicating benefit errors
The cost of providing benefits to employees has increased dramatically. To prevent these costs from spiraling out of control and start significantly affecting a company’s bottom line, it has become imperative that organizations put in place effective HR and benefits management systems. This will have the added payback of providing a more timely response to employees and will reduce the vast amount of errors that are currently an issue for benefits managers.

Managing benefits has traditionally been the role of the HR department. It’s a complex and time-consuming task, even in a relatively small company, and can soon require a disproportionate amount of the HR department’s available resources unless the right tools are made available to them.

Accurate enrollment
The amount of paperwork generated in traditional benefits management is staggering – both for the employer and the employee. Consider what happens during open enrollment in a 200 person company. If that company offers ten benefit plans and each of those plans involves just four documents, then the HR department has to deal with 8,000 documents in an accurate and timely fashion.

The question of accuracy is very important. If each of those documents is filled in by hand by the employee and then that data is transcribed and transmitted to the carrier by the HR department, the room for error is obvious. In smaller companies where an insurance broker is also involved in the picture, another layer of complication and room for error is added.

Despite the best of efforts, mistakes are made as insurance carriers enter benefits data from handwritten, photocopied, and faxed employee benefits enrollment forms. And, most HR departments don’t have the tools or the time to reconcile insurance carrier invoices against their own benefits information. Inaccuracies rapidly add up.

The amount of time wasted in clearing up noticed errors is a problem in itself, but it pales in comparison to the issues involved if an employee or an employee’s family member ends up without coverage due to an HR error. The potential liability is huge.

The answer to this problem is to provide employees with an online benefits enrollment system. The employee can use their computer, either at work or at home, to compare and contrast different benefit plans and fill out their personal information. This data can then be electronically submitted to the insurance carrier upon HR approval. The process will be the same for a new hire or for making changes due to life events.

The HR department maintains control of the process by monitoring an employee’s whereabouts within the enrollment process and can define communications templates that encourage employees to complete processes and to ask questions.

Managing attendance
While attendance management may seem like the most basic and simple of HR tasks, it presents more problems than are initially obvious. Relying on all managers to consistently log employees’ sick or vacation time is an ideal situation, but does not always happen. This creates accruing liabilities that affect a company’s bottom line.

The main areas that can benefit from automation are time clock management and vacation, sick, and other time-off policies. Many employees don’t keep track of how many vacation days and sick days they are entitled to or have taken and consistently ask the HR department how much time they have available currently and in the future. This equates to time and effort wasted on mundane tasks executed by highly-paid HR professionals. If an employee could log onto a secure HR system and simply look up the information they need and even view the amount of leave taken and then make an online leave request, this would eliminate the time the HR department would spend on these type of questions and would allow them to devote more time to strategic development.

From a departmental manager’s standpoint, an HRIS can provide the following scenario:

  1. An employee makes a request for vacation.
  2. The employee’s manager receives an email from the employee requesting time off. If the manager happens to be out of the office or unable to acknowledge the request, the email will automatically be forwarded to another decision maker.
  3. Once the request is received, the manager can use a calendar view to check whether the request will clash with other department members’ absence.
  4. The manager can also verify at this time that the employee is titled to the time off.
  5. Then the manager can simply accept/reject the time off request accordingly.
  6. If the vacation or medical leave request is approved, every system from HR, to payroll, to benefits, will automatically be updated.

Calculation of vacation time is often a contentious issue. If it is sloppily managed, employees can take more paid vacation time than they are entitled to because it can’t be proven that they haven’t already taken it. Online leave request ensures that leave is taken and that leave requests are accounted for.

When terminating an employee, companies typically pay a salary for leftover vacation. If proof of what has been taken is clearly available, it can make the termination process run quickly and efficiently. If absenteeism is becoming a problem, automating the reporting and managing and logging sick days is a good way to track and control whether there is an issue. A good attendance management system should be largely self-managing.

Once a company has defined unique business rules, the HR department should have to expend little or no effort in ensuring that it is running smoothly. In addition, having a single, electronic access point, directly integrated to the payroll system offers an easy solution to these issues.

Automating compliance
Compliance is a current hot topic. It isn’t necessary to be willfully negligent to be confronted with serious and expensive problems. Even the most compliance conscientious employer who meets the variant interpretations of specific regulations may encounter unexpected litigation and find their efforts fruitless. Many companies presume that they are adhering to strict regulation guidelines when in fact they’re at fault for violating a compliance specification located somewhere in the fine print.

For instance, an average of 450 employment lawsuits are filed in the U.S. each day and 57% of companies have been named as defendants in at least one employment related lawsuit in past years. Lawsuits by disgruntled employees are one problem. But nowadays, a company can face suits from candidates who were never hired, as well as from former employees months after termination.

Compliance with federal and state regulations involves a mind-boggling array of topics, most of which fall within the purview of the HR department. OSHA, FLSA, COBRA, EEO, VETS, SOX and EDA all have minutely detailed requirements, many of which are open to individual interpretation and they all have severe penalties for infraction. It is a never-ending, full-time task to keep up with these requirements, ensure corporate compliance and follow the required reporting procedures.

Human error is seldom seen as an acceptable defense in cases of compliance infraction. Nor is it sufficient for management to simply pay lip service to compliance issues such as OSHA. It’s now essential that an entire company, from the employee on the factory floor to senior management, understand the ramifications of non-compliance.

Compliance management comes in several forms

  • Managing company documentation to define a set of policies and procedures. Ensuring that every new employee has read the company guidelines and understood the expectation to comply with those guidelines along with state and federal regulations.
  • Training staff to maintain a code of conduct, ethics and expected behavior.
  • Setting processes in place and ensuring careful documentation and monitoring of every step.

In addition to these practices, many organizations are now choosing to automate as many of their compliance maintenance procedures as possible. For instance, if HR has both benefits management and payroll automated and linked, it is an obvious move to add in COBRA compliance to this mix. This particular piece of automation offers the added benefit of preserving privacy – an important HIPAA compliance requirement. Forms and templates necessary to maintaining compliance can be built-into many parts of a corporate intranet, making it easy for employees and managers to adhere to reporting requirements and understand the regulations that pertain to their particular activity or sector of the company.

Compliance automation plays a critical role in both preventing violations by ensuring that requirements are automatically monitored and fulfilled, and in defending alleged compliance violations. The best defense against an alleged violation is a watertight reporting system and automatic documentation of everything related to a specific case. For instance, in a case of proving OSHA compliance, an updated, organized on-line injury reporting system in the factory is going to carry more weight than the standard illegible notebook.

In addition, some compliance authorities, such as VETS-100 and COBRA will waive strict reporting requirements if it can be proved that appropriate data-collection and tracking systems are being used.

Conclusion
This paper has determined three areas where automating HR and benefits management processes can provide demonstrable and direct benefits to the corporate bottom line. Eradicating benefit errors managing attendance and automating compliance will provide significant time savings and reduce costly errors and liability.

A more subtle benefit is the amount of mundane, repetitive work that will be alleviated from the HR department. By automating the minute tasks that use a significant amount of time, HR personnel will be available to focus on more complex and needed planning and management tasks that will benefit the long-term growth of the organization.

HR automation should be a simple operation. A good solution will allow HR managers to use processes straight out of the box that mirror or improve their current way of working, without requiring months of set-up time and complex customization processes. HR managers should be able to customize and control each individual process intuitively, with minimal training and without extensive IT knowledge. The HR system should offer seamless connectivity between all parts of the organization – everything from benefits, to time and attendance and payroll with just a single point of entry from a single individual.

By putting good business processes in place, those processes will largely manage themselves. Employee morale and conduct will improve throughout the organization with clear, defined guidelines, easy places to access information and fewer inaccuracies in matters that are truly important to their well-being. The bottom line is this will save your organization money and time – both immediately and in the future.

PCS Ascentis specializes in automating HR and payroll processes for mid-sized organization with integrated and powerful – yet easy-to-use and learn – HRIS, payroll and timekeeping software solutions. PCS Ascentis understands the critical requirements of reporting, and how to create a virtually paperless open enrollment period using employee self-service.

Call your PCS Sales Representative to find out more about how an HRIS system saves money and time and more importantly increase the engagement of your employees.

SOURCE:  White Papers prepared by Ascentis Corporation.

Legal Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only and by no means should replace or substitute other legal documents (governmental or non-governmental) reflecting similar content or advice. If you have any questions concerning your situation or the information provided, please consult with an attorney, CPA or HR Professional.