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How a One-Person Benefits Team Becomes an Army

Let’s start with a story that may sound familiar to many benefits departments. Teresa is the head of HR at a manufacturing company. The workforce is not only culturally diverse, but geographically diverse. She has upwards of 1000 employees across several cities and is about to head into open enrollment. Did we mention Teresa is a one-woman benefits team? This may sound like a recipe for disaster; however, many benefit departments are in a similar position. Being asked to do more with less is a common refrain from company leaders. In fact, this falls within some of the top challenges facing benefit professionals.

1.    Lack of Time. One-to-one benefits support can be difficult throughout the year with a fully staffed department. So, take away resources and add open enrollment, and you have mission (nearly) impossible. Benefit practitioners consistently say they don’t have enough time to talk to each employee on an individual basis.
2.    Lack of Resources. Benefit teams are pressed to do more with less. They are challenged to keep large-scale HR initiatives on track while also responding to employees' needs. During open enrollment, this can be especially difficult as phone calls and emails demand attention.
3.    Lack of Understanding. Most employees don’t understand the value of their benefits or how to use them. This makes sense, as plan designs and options continue to evolve year over year. It’s hard to keep up! 

Employees are a company’s internal customers, and there’s no arguing that a benefit administrator's goal is to drive informed decisions for their internal customers. But with the challenges they're facing, it can be like walking uphill in the snow for seven miles. So, how do you make sure your customer receives a high-caliber experience with a human touch?

For lean organizations, adding additional headcount may not be an option. As a result, some companies look to their benefits technology provider for additional help using a dedicated support center. For peak periods such as open enrollment, lifting the burden from benefit administrators can make all the difference. By working with a support center, you can bring the human touch back to benefits and further the power of your technology. And it's an opportunity for your tech vendor to reinforce their commitment to your company's success and your opportunity to show your commitment to your employees' success. In practical terms, a support center acts as an extension of your benefits team, offering assistance with benefit questions, enrollment and certain areas of administration.

If you’re a parent, you may be all too familiar with what can be a stressful search for the perfect daycare or at-home care provider. You want to make sure your child will be well taken care of, the provider’s style matches yours, and they will listen to your concerns. Now, consider that same type of criteria for the support center. If it's an extension of your team, you want it to take care of the needs of your company’s employees, understand how your company operates and adjust to that style, and make adjustments based on your feedback. Taking it a step further, here are some questions to ask your technology provider so you’ll be confident in the support center experience:

•    Do they have a structure that’s easy to understand? While this may sound trivial, it is really very important. You are looking to the outside for help. You don’t want to create more burden on yourself in the process. Having one point of contact or consultant that you know and trust to be your liaison between your business and the support center associates trained on your benefits program makes life simple. If they require more work on your part, then it could be more hassle than it's worth. 
•    Do they employ a discovery process? The service shouldn’t start the day of your open enrollment. For a successful extension of your expertise, a discovery phase - where your consultant gathers information and listens to your company’s needs – should be employed entirely before and leading up to open enrollment. Learning about your culture is an important step in the discovery process, so your support team can truly exemplify the values of your company. Also, perhaps there is a specific way you articulate benefits to employees. That all comes out of the consultant listening to your needs.
•    Do they provide metrics during the service period? Whether it’s daily, weekly, or monthly reports, your support center consultant should offer metrics to your benefits team. It could be information on how the service is functioning, such as the average hold time during an employee’s experience with the support center. Or it could be deeper insights into the reasons employees are calling. These insights can be used to tailor employee communication through online portals or other forms of employee outreach.
•    Do they offer an evaluation? What went well or what should be done differently? A support center experience that shows investment in your company and its benefits outcome should mean there is a formal time to gather feedback.

Ready to lighten your load? Learn how Benefitplace administrative services enable you and your team to spend more time on high-value strategic work.