401K Plan Providers often faces difficult challenges during the calendar year due to thin profit margins and seasonal spikes in demand for resources.
With multiple stages of managing a plan like eligibility, testing, form 5500 preparation, transactional processing and general day to day operations, errors in plan administration can happen frequently, have serious drag on productivity, and detract from the overall customer experience.
Smart plan administrators understand that meticulous planning and optimal utilization of resources can play a significant role in enhancing efficiency of plan processing. Here are a few simple tricks and practices which can help reduce the probability of errors in plan administration as well as increase the overall efficiency of your administrators.
1. Automate, Automate, Automate!
Several processes can be partially or fully automated by using efficient tools like Microsoft Excel and Macro programming. Simple automations like these are quick and easy to implement. They can not only help in reducing errors but also reduce the time and effort required for repetitive processes.
For example: Utilizing Excel and macro based automation to scrub the plan data sent by sponsors for Year End processing can significantly reduce errors as well as time and effort involved.
2. Utilize Predictive Analytics
Large and small players in industries like insurance and banking have utilized historical data efficiently to analyze and predict future workload so that they can prepare their resources in advance to address the high volumes. Frameworks to maintain historical process volume data and to create robust reports can help you gain insights which would otherwise be lost in day-to-day operations.
3. Manage Risks to Improve Quality
Quality checklists are often used to effectively catch errors in processing. However a smarter way to utilize quality checklists is to assess specific risks involved in each process step and implement additional focus on those areas in the quality checklists while deemphasizing the lower risk areas.
4. Optimally Allocate Your Resources
No team has similar levels of skills and experience in all its members. Senior resources can often handle complicated tasks in a much shorter timeframe. Junior resources can handle high volumes of easier tasks efficiently while building expertise in the long term.
Create a simple resource allocation plan before the peak season to take stock of the expertise levels in your teams and plan the allocation in advance.
Alternatively you can utilize the services of professional back office administration partners who can perform repetitive lower value tasks with higher efficiency, while your experienced resources focus on critical tasks at hand.
5. Plan Training During Slack Period
Utilize the slack season to train and up-skill your resources to handle complex scenarios and tasks. Dedicated trainers and SMEs can give refresher courses for the entire team to quickly bring everyone up to speed thereby preventing initial errors at the start of the season.
Combining this with simple aptitude tests allows you to see who needs additional training so you can get them to a level of performance where they can work independently and confidently.
6. Establish Open Channels of Intra-Team Communication
Efficient communication across the length and breadth of your administration team is critical to prevent gaps in delivery to your customers. A clearly established reporting structure which emphasizes open communication can go a long way in ensuring seamless knowledge sharing and higher efficiency.
These are some of the often overlooked tricks and tactics which can help Plan Administrators improve the accuracy and efficiency of plan processing.
Let us know what you think of these tactics or if you adopt some productivity hacks to improve your day-to-day plan processing.