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The following is a Benefit News.com Sponsored Report on Case Studies in Benefit Management.

Brokers manage changing expectations
by tapping into Employease expertise

By Bruce Shutan

Melinda Sutika in the Orange County, Calif., office of Minneapolis-based broker Hays Companies is used to wearing two hats when dealing with customers.

She helps clients determine the best resource for addressing their benefits and administrative needs, but her input often is much more meaningful. She actually uses the suggested tools, practicing what she preaches.

Sutika recommends Employease, the leading provider of on-demand HR and benefits administration solutions, and she advises how to best use the system as more employers move to the operational efficiencies of a paperless environment. "Employease is a flexible and easily accessible resource that Hays uses to address specific clients' needs," she says, "and because it works so well, we use it ourselves."

Her double duty is aimed at meeting changing expectations as brokers move from a procurement role to one of strategic partner and advisor in an increasingly competitive business climate. Mindful of this trend, Hays hires more professionals with well-rounded HR skills and experience to offer a higher level of administrative assistance and consultation on resources and best practices.

New world order

Mike Seckler, vice president of business development at Employease and the firm's co-founder, is well aware that "the world has changed a lot for HR and benefits professionals over the past five years." Serving as a backdrop: corporate directives to accomplish more tasks with fewer staff, greater scrutiny from senior management to deliver results, an increasingly complex regulatory environment and skyrocketing health care costs.

As a result, he notes that insurance brokers are being asked to do more than ever before across the entire employee benefits spectrum. Popular requests now involve assistance with managing benefits administration and finding the right technology systems so that HR departments can accomplish more with less.

"Brokers who can provide the right answers and great service are able to protect and grow their business," Seckler believes.

Solving the impossible

When Lawrence LeBlanc joined AES Corporation in Arlington, Va., as practice leader for compensation and benefits last July, he faced a monumental task: find a service provider capable of implementing the leading independent power company's first company-wide online open enrollment for 2,800 employees in just 45 days. And he'd have to do it on the heels of a corporate directive of consolidating 61 group health plans into five options for 2004.

After being referred to Employease by a major third-party administrator, LeBlanc and his staff were able to fulfill a major company initiative and direct resources to improving business processes and the quality of benefits offered to their workforce. HR now plays a critical advisory role to 120 businesses for which AES serves as a holding company, charting a clearer path on a host of complex issues as the company expands.

With 40 power generation plants in the U.S., AES employs a number of workers who do not have access to computers at work. No doubt, there was serious concern about how many people would enroll online. But enrollment participants enthusiastically embraced the process and found it easy to use. LeBlanc was pleasantly surprised to see 100% participation by the deadline date. "That was great because we had no buffer this time," he says.

It's a phenomenon Employease has seen repeated across a number of industries and employee populations, often to the amazement of the HR departments and their brokers.

Focusing on the strategic

Also consider the experience of Atrium Companies, Inc. in Dallas, the largest manufacturer of aluminum and vinyl window and patio doors in the United States.

The firm grew from 900 to 5,600 employees across 40 locations following a series of acquisitions in six years. After Atrium's broker recommended Employease, benefits administration chores were gladly handed over. In the first month of providing services, Employease handled 599 e-mails, 501 enrollments and 239 termination transactions.

"We would need four or five additional full-time benefits professionals to handle the workload Employease manages," explains D. "Gus" Agostinelli, Sr., Atrium's senior vice president of human resources. His staff is now free to focus on strategic projects such as lowering benefit costs, consolidating insurance carriers and improving employee communication.

Seckler notes that his company's innovative mix of Web-based solutions and outsourcing options "gives employers the power to choose the right mix of internal automation and external outsourcing to meet their unique needs."

Employease' Web-based solutions also enable brokers to have client approved, real time access to employee demographic and benefits information. This helps brokers establish closer ties to clients as a strategic partner, which Seckler says is key to retaining business.

Bruce Shutan, former managing editor of Employee Benefit News, is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.

Employease, Inc.
3295 River Exchange Drive
Suite 500
Norcross, GA 30092

Phone: 877-272-5777
Fax: 770-325-7702


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