Just two months after joining the job, Benefits, Leave and Timekeeping Manager Donna Yeagle is prepping her staff for a process critical to thousands of TU employees: open enrollment for health benefits. Lucky for her, she has 15 years of experience—and a secret stress-reducing hobby—to carry her through. Read on for Donna’s experience at another USM institution, plus her go-to trick for making enrollment smooth:
On how she switched careers to work in HR:
Earlier in my career I was the manager of operations at a mortgage company, and I dealt with human resources issues as part of the job. It sparked my interest and I decided to leave that position to focus on a career in HR. Eventually I started working in benefits and became benefits specialist for the University of Maryland, Baltimore. I worked my way up in the field before joining Towson as Benefits, Leave and Timekeeping manager in July.
On her current projects:
My most notable project is open enrollment (OE) for 2015 benefits, which will be from October 15 to November 14. This year’s OE will be different from past years because employees won’t be able to use interactive voice response (IVR) technology to enroll in health benefits. So employees in one of the five plans being discontinued, those who want to have a flexible spending account (FSA) for 2015, or those who want to change their health benefits or dependents will have to fill out a paper form. It makes for a LOT of processing!
One trick that makes open enrollment ten times easier for employees is to go to one of the OE events. This year, we’re offering a big Benefits Festival, meetings with representatives from the state Employee Benefits Division and outreach sessions where you can meet one-on-one with a benefits staff member. Even if you just go to one event, the insights you’ll gain can make enrollment so much smoother.
On the toughest—and most rewarding—part of her job:
There are a lot of regulatory and compliance rules to remember; I’m constantly studying to stay current. And it’s always hard to deliver unfavorable responses to employee issues, like during open enrollment when an employee doesn’t turn in the required paperwork by the deadline. I empathize and want to help, but I’m limited by laws governing employee benefit plans.
On the other hand, it’s wonderful to help employees take advantage of the benefits available. When I help employees transition from the workforce to retirement it’s very rewarding. Retiring is a major life event, and having employees trust my guidance during the process is refreshing and satisfying.
On what she would do with an unexpected day off (and no chores to do!):
I would take a long walk in the morning to relax and clear my head, then read a good book—I love fiction books, biographies and books about human behavior. I recently read Gone Girl (which they made into a movie out next Friday) and couldn’t put it down! Then I’d end the day relaxing with my son, my husband and friends.
On how she unwinds after work:
I’m a closet rocker! I enjoy going to classic rock concerts and have attended several over the years. This summer I saw Don Henley, Styx, and Foreigner at Jiffy Lube Live. It was fantastic.
On why higher education is a good fit for her:
I enjoy working in higher education. Being a meaningful contributor to an institution that prepares students to enter the workforce, teaches them critical thinking skills and helps them meet challenges is gratifying. Towson University is an ideal position to enrich the lives of students, and its mission and values—integrity, collaboration and service—are like my own.
By Tyler New