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PSEG desktop tools attract Web site use

Electronic communication - Award of Excellence


In an effort to attract more union employees to the company's benefits Web site, Public Service Enterprise Group, a utility provider based in Newark, N.J., used innovations in online technology to take its benefits communication to the next level: personalization.

PSEG's "Versioned Your Benefits Desktop" provides customized information for its various employee populations. When employees log on, they have access only to information about the benefits programs for which they are eligible, in accordance with whether or not they are represented by a union, or are new hires or longtime employees.

The customized desktop, which won the Award of Excellence in the electronic communication category of the 2004 Business Insurance Employee Benefits Communication Awards competition, is the latest enhancement in an ongoing electronic communications effort that began in 1999, according to Jennifer Sofield, a communications consultant in the Bridgewater, N.J., office of Hewitt Associates Inc.

"We proposed the project, designed it, wrote it and we host it," said Ms. Sofield, who is a member of a six-person Hewitt team assigned to the PSEG account.

"Over the years, we've replaced so many pieces" of the paper communications that Hewitt had developed for PSEG, she said. A full electronic replacement has not yet been possible, Ms. Sofield explained, because many of PSEG's unionized employees-who comprise some 7,000 members of PSEG's total workforce of 12,000-are not yet "wired."

But if PSEG were to replace just one of these print pieces-a complex fold-out health plan comparison tool-with the electronic version available on "Versioned Your Benefits Desktop," it would save the company $30,000 annually, Ms. Sofield estimated. The electronic benefits desktop, which took four months to develop at a total cost of $110,000, also features a retirement savings calculator, among other things.

"One of the biggest things we wanted to do was measure use by union populations," she said. "Many don't have computers at work."

But by tracking the origin of the hits to the site, "we know that a lot of people log on from non-PSEG computers. We also have over 500 people voluntarily subscribe their home e-mail addresses to the newswriter tool," Ms. Sofield said. The tool, she explained, was the brainchild of PSEG Director of Compensation and Benefits Dick Quinn, and it enables him to send out news headlines and articles targeted to specific populations.