Human Resources News & Insights

My best HR management idea: Glitch-free system for keeping up with benefits changes

HR manager Rita Woodward realized that employees expected her to handle their request for benefits changes without a hitch. So she developed a method for doing just that.

Her story:

One thing we’ve learned is that when people go through a life change that affects their benefits and status with the company, they expect us in HR to handle the details seamlessly.

No one wants to hear about glitches in paperwork or anything like that. And you can’t blame them for feeling that way. In practice, though, running a no-glitch system is another matter. It takes some planning and work and the right approach.

We think we found a way to make it happen:

1. Developing a list
The first step is one that’s basic but which often gets overlooked: Develop a checklist.

Whenever an employee reports a life change – marriage, expecting a child, divorce, etc. – we start a checklist for that person. (The system started out as sheets of paper, but now exists in electronic files in our computers.)

The checklist shows:

  • all the steps we and the employee need to take
  • the deadline date for each step, and
  • the date the step was actually completed.

For instance, one of the steps might be, “Notify Payroll and insurance carriers.” Or: “Give employee forms for making changes.” Using that system allows any of us in HR to look at someone’s “record” and know what’s been done and what still has to be done.

2. Communicating obligations
The checklist also serves as an outline we use to cover the communication part of the process. Once an employee tells us about the proposed change or event — like, for instance, taking FMLA leave — we schedule a meeting with the employee.

One of us sits with the employee and runs through the steps, explaining the “what” and “why” of each step. We also explain the employee’s rights and responsibilities under the law and answer any questions, either right there or later if it requires research.

That little upfront meeting saves a lot of aggravation (and possible lawsuits) later. No one can walk in later and say, “I didn’t know,” or accuse anyone of dropping the ball. It’s all been covered.

3. Getting better
Does that make our system glitch-free? Probably not. I don’t believe anything will. But it comes pretty darn close.

Most of the time, if an error occurs, it’s because an employee didn’t hand in the paperwork on time or missed some other obligation, not because of something we did.

But, believe me, we’re working on that part of the process, too.

(Rita Woodward, HR administrator, Olney, MD)


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  1. Would you be willing to share your lists for the various life changes you have faced? It would save us a lot of time and prevent us from re-inventing the wheel. Your idea is good and we want to research it further.

  2. Could you please share this checklist? What a great idea!

  3. Oh yes, I very much agree with Clark. I would like to have that list.

  4. Note to subscribers to HR Morning:

    We cannot respond to requests for follow-up or materials related to “My best HR management idea” stories. These stories are submitted by actual, practicing HR managers who are not employees of HR Morning.

    Thanks for your interest and understanding.
    Jim Giuliano
    Managing Editor
    HR Morning

  5. I started of making lists and documents because they kept me sane. 🙂 I now post alot of them on our open network for most of the company to be able to access as needed. They include all sorts of forms from Time Off Request to W4 Tax Forms.

    I have many different types of lists that I use from a New Hire, or beginning a new FMLA case to Terminating an employee. These lists keep me from missing important steps in the process. I also update these lists all of the time as I realise there are additional things that need to be done or that I need to do them in a different time order. I would be more than happy to share them with any of you if you think it would help.

  6. Beth Helman says:

    I also have certain checklists, but not for everything that Lisa King seems to. So, Lisa, I would really appreciate your help with this. What do you think would be the best way to share them with me?

    In the meantime, though, thank you for your generous offer.

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