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New CD helps employees understand benefits

New employees who attend the benefits orientation through Human Resources and Affirmative Action (HRAA) will come away carrying a lighter load and a new device that will help them choose benefit options.

A new CD designed to eliminate costly benefits enrollment materials made its debut at new employee orientation two weeks ago. Chris Miller, senior consultant in the Benefits Office, says the new high-tech benefits packet is proving popular because it helps reinforce the messages attendees receive during the benefits orientation. It contains the same information but allows users to review it at their convenience.

“For example, if you don’t understand what I said about the vision plan, you can go back and listen to it,” says Miller of the benefits orientation information on the CD that features a PowerPoint presentation, with her recorded voice, describing the benefit plans and explaining the enrollment process.

The convenient high-tech package contains all the materials new employees need to choose and enroll in their benefits, including the “Your Benefits 2002” and “It’s Your Retirement” books, retirement enrollment and flexible spending account forms, plus other related documents. The forms on the CD are interactive, meaning they can be filled out on screen, printed, signed and faxed to HRAA for processing.

The Benefits Office prefers that new employees wait for their personal enrollment worksheets to arrive in the mail before making benefits selections, but the CD provides information and other forms so they can make their decisions and be ready to complete their enrollment as soon as the worksheets arrive.

A pilot program for the new CD was conducted with nurses. Miller says it was well received with several departments asking when it would become available to them. “It was like wildfire,” she says.

Miller says the CD is a first step in developing a more convenient, cost saving and technologically advanced means for employees to learn about their benefit options.

She realizes, however, there will be some who still need or want a paper copy of the materials, either because they don’t have access to a computer or they simply prefer paper. HRAA hopes departments will make a “community” computer available to staff members who don’t have one. The Benefits Office has a kiosk set up in its lobby for employee use that has a copy of the CD loaded onto it. For those who can’t use the CD, a less expensive paper version of the benefits materials is available.

Miller sees the CD as a great help to a number of employees who don’t attend orientation, including faculty and graduate students. Packets containing the CD are mailed to those employees. She also believes it will be valuable in the faculty and staff recruitment process as benefits often are deciding factors in accepting a job.

Departments wishing to have copies of the CD can send an e-mail that includes the item they are requesting, the address they wish it sent to and a daytime phone number to benefits.books@umich.edu..

A word of caution from Miller: the CDs will have an expiration date, so departments are discouraged from stocking up on them with the intention of passing them out over time. “Benefits change every year,” she says, “so we need to make sure the latest information it out there.”

 



 



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