As the economy tightens its grip on the bottom lines of many businesses, a trend has emerged to outsource human resources functions to third-party companies in an attempt to cut costs and make better use of staff.
As a result, companies like AON Hewitt — which specialize in managing human resources functions — are beefing up their infrastructures and expanding their list of services to help companies of every size take control of costs and reassign resources that could be used more efficiently elsewhere in the operation.
Over the past year, the Puerto Rico operation has invested $1.6 million to hire more customer service representatives to be able to meet the needs of more than 50 client companies with populations on the island, the United States, and Latin America, said Eunice Aponte, managing director of AON Hewitt’s local outsourcing unit.
“[The investment] was approved for infrastructure and technology so that we could compete on a level field with other Aon Hewitt Benefits Centers in the U.S., Canada, and India. In April 2012 we moved to our new home, with 140 seats in the service center,” she said.
“We’re currently completing a process of recruiting 70 additional employees that, starting October, will be supporting the added volume of calls we will be receiving during the highest call volume season of the year,” Aponte added. “This means that by the end of 2012 total headcount will be 165.”
Companies like AON Hewitt handle specialized human resources functions, namely: benefits management; verification of employment; customer service center or hotline services; web-based customer service; “absence management,” or a combination of leave administration and disability management; carrier eligibility database audits; and dependent eligibility audits.
“Our talent bank is composed of resources from different specialty fields. When we recruit personnel, we look for people with a particular profile,” Aponte said. “Our people are, first and foremost, service oriented. They are problem-solvers who possess excellent communication and analytical skills. All our resources are bilingual, which facilitates the integration of teams on a global scale.”
With that skill set on hand, Aponte said the San Juan office is now setting its sights on grabbing the U.S. Hispanic market by targeting companies located in areas with a high level of Spanish speakers.
“We already have a waiting list of accounts that we will be handling out of this office,” she said, noting that for an average company, outsourcing human resources processes can represent a savings of between 30 percent and 50 percent a year. “The bigger the company, the bigger the savings.”Last year alone, the AON Hewitt call center handled 167,750 calls from active and retired employees residing in Puerto Rico as well as the U.S. mainland.
Serving companies of every size
At present, AON Hewitt manages the human resources functions for companies with between 100 and 3,000 employees. However, the majority of the client companies have about 1,500 employees and are mostly in the pharmaceutical sector, she said.
“This represents a great savings for them because pharmaceuticals have very complex internal processes and they prefer to use their resources in those areas,” said Aponte, noting the local AON office also handles the human resources affairs for 14 large accounts with employees on the island.
Last year alone, the AON Hewitt call center handled 167,750 calls from active and retired employees residing in Puerto Rico as well as the U.S. mainland. Just on the island, the company provides services to some 80,000 workers, a number that is expected to more than triple to 225,000 by 2014, the executive said.
To keep up the pace with the expected increase in volume, AON Hewitt has already budgeted an additional $2 million to add 200 new employees in 2013 and 2014, as well as a expand its service center facilities in Hato Rey.