Workers tap Web-based HR service

An intergovernmental trust that provides health coverage plans and other benefits to more than 10,000 government employees in about 260 Oregon cities and counties has added Internet-based human resources services to its offerings.

This summer, the City County Insurance Services, or CIS, unveiled the eHR system — developed and hosted by Atlanta-based Employease Inc. — that enables employees to enroll or review benefits programs, update their plans and profiles, add or delete dependents, and use other services.

Prior to the Web-based offering, the process was largely paper-based, said Lynn McNamara, development services manager of CIS (www.cciservices.com), which awarded the contract to Employease after a competitive bidding process. The electronic process not only shortens the time it takes to get people enrolled in plans, it also reduces errors.

"The more people that touch [paper], the more potential for errors," she said.

Implementation was fairly swift and in time for CIS' once-a-year open enrollment period starting July 1, and there was an 82 percent participation rate in using the online component.

McNamara said the potential for better communication between government employees and CIS, a membership group formed in 1980 to reduce costs and improve services for municipal employees in the state. "You want employees to be more aware of what their coverage is, and this is giving them more information," said McNamara, adding that she wasn't aware of other state municipal groups offering such online functions.

Although there are more such efforts under way than ever before, automating human resources is not high on the list within the public sector, said Michael Seckler, Employease co-founder and vice president of marketing and business development.

That's largely because the return on investment isn't immediately evident, unlike other e-government services, such as an online licensing application, he said. "The biggest issue is people spending money at all," he said. "People need to see a tangible return on investment. With our solution, the ROI is very transparent, very clear."

Unlike a client/server software solution, implementing the Web-based model reduces IT investment and licensing fees and set-up time takes weeks, not months, he said. Such a system also could reduce overpayments to carriers, reduce exposure to liabilities, as well as save on printing costs, he added.

Employease has many private-sector clients and is just starting to tap government market, he said. He said other human resources services offered include compensation, payroll, and benefits information, tracking applicants for job recruitment as well as employee performance tracking. Communication between carriers and employees also improves, he added.

The company charges roughly $4 to $8 per employee per month depending on the services obtained. The system has business intelligence software that can offer employees the best plan options depending on their family status, Seckler said.

Seckler said his company is managing 1,250 benefit plans for the various cities, counties and other public entities that are members of CIS. Implementation took just six weeks and face-to-face and Web-based training was offered, he said.

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