County automates benefits program
Jefferson County, Ala., with 4,200 employees, spends a lot of time on paperwork but has improved its operations this year with electronic processing. With the help of CCS TrexCom, based in Norcross, Ga., the county’s Risk Management Office has set up a web-enabled interactive voice response (IVR) system for benefits enrollment. The system eases the difficulty encountered with the previous paper-based system.
Prior to automating enrollment, the county tried many different approaches to get employees signed up for benefits. First, human resources workers visited the different county offices, spread over 1,100 square miles, to explain the benefits and fill out paperwork. Then the county decided to make Tuesdays the processing days, whereby all new employees went downtown to the main office to sign up.
The first method was “a nightmare,” says County Risk Manager Roy Burnett. The second was hampered by parking difficulties and time constraints. “[Employees] had to make decisions instantly, and they didn’t get to talk to their families,” Burnett says. Employees can now access benefits information via the Internet, the county’s Intranet or telephone 24 hours a day. New employees can sign up for health, dental, life and flexible benefits programs, while current employees enter social security and personal identification numbers to access benefits information or make changes to their setup during open enrollment periods.
“We’re just trying to make it easier for our employees to take advantage of benefits,” Burnett says. “This system gives them more time to study the benefits, and it’s easier to enroll or disenroll.”
The employees are communicating with live data, notes Margaret Howard, senior systems programmer for the county. “Normally, people backload information on a database and then merge information. We access the mainframe directly from the IVR or the Web. If something changes in the records, it’s instant so employees can turn right around and review it,” she says.
The system can handle up to 12 calls at one time, and the county can add more lines if that becomes necessary. The county cut no jobs when it added the system, and employees can still speak to a human resources employee if they have questions or problems with their benefits.