Article originally published in the February 2012 PDS UGA Newsletter.

Do you want to move to electronic W-2s instead of mailing paper versions? The law requires that you obtain and hold explicit consent by employees to switch from paper to electronic delivery. So, what’s the most effective way to go about getting and maintaining this? It’s actually pretty easy if you use Vista Workflow.

At the 2011 PDS user conference in San Diego, Jessica Parde of Nelnet and TeddiAnne Krehbiel of IMA lured Marco Padovani of PDS into a meeting by leaving a trail of brownie crumbs leading into a conference room. Once there, TeddiAnne and Jessica discussed ways to best use Vista HRMS to capture their associates’ W-2 delivery selections, including adhering to legal requirements. Unfortunately, Marco seemed disinterested and distant, but once they opened a tray of brownies, the work began!

Following are Nelnet’s and IMA’s experiences, as well as information on how you can implement a similar solution at your organization. As per TeddiAnne, “The decision to make the switch to electronic W-2 delivery is easy; it’s the planning and execution that takes a little time.” Hopefully, you can benefit from the planning and execution work already done by IMA and Nelnet to make your process easier.

Electronic W-2s at IMA
IMA implemented “Phase I” of electronic W-2s in January, 2011. IMA managed the PRINTW-2 empuser field to store the W-2 delivery method selection, but relied on an external system to capture it. It worked, but it was inefficient and it fell short in areas such as dealing with new hires.

After we worked out the specifications at the 2011 user conference, Marco developed a set of scripts for us. It still took some time for initial testing, but implementing the finished product took no time at all!  The final scripts were straight forward, customizable for IMA, and easy to follow (well…as easy as Marco can make anything).

How did the new workflow succeed? The statistics speak for themselves.

  • We started with 86 “No Reponses.”  We picked up 67 explicit “electronic”, and 7 explicit “paper”, leaving only 12 non-responders.
  • We had 6 recipients change from paper to electronic, and 3 remained unchanged.
  • 440 associates chose electronic delivery (96%)!

We do plan to send the workflow annually to anyone not responding, and to attempt to change the explicit “paper” selections to “electronic”.  Note:  You are not legally required to obtain an explicit response every year.  Additionally, you legally cannot force employees to opt for an electronic W-2, but you can make it inconvenient.  At IMA, by choosing “paper” or not responding, the employee will eventually have access to an electronic W-2 within Vista.  However it won’t be available until after all of the printed W-2s are processed, postmarked, and mailed to the home address (by no later than January 31, of course).

Also, as part of the solution, we automatically kick off the workflow when we have new hires. And because you are legally required to provide paper W-2s to terminated employees, I added a snippet of code to ACT_StatusChange_X.  If a “termination” status change occurs, the empuser PRINTW-2 field is updated to force a paper W-2.

Electronic W-2s at Nelnet
Nelnet implemented electronic W-2s in January, 2011, using a resource outside of the Vista application to gather associates’ elections.  It worked, but was not ideal having to extract the information from that tool and import into Vista.

The process did take some time for testing and configuring to how Nelnet would like the process to look – changing the workflow email and formatting the election form – but implementing the finished product was very quick and painless!  The scripts Marco provided were easy to follow (ditto TeddiAnne – as easy as Marco can make anything).

With only three days before we planned to have W-2s available in Vista, we still had over 1100 associates that had not responded, so we had Enterprise Server send a targeted workflow email to those people and received over 200 elections in the next 24 hours.  Our final results were:

  • 1475 associates chose electronic
  • 43 chose paper
  • 858 did not respond

We also plan to send the workflow annually to make associates choose their W-2 election format.  Like IMA, Nelnet is making it inconvenient for those associate choosing the paper method.  Electronic W-2s were available in Vista on Friday, January 13, 2012 for those associates who chose the electronic method.  For all others, the paper copies will be mailed to their home address on Tuesday, January 31st, and made available in Vista after that.

One more note from TeddiAnne:

When called upon by prospective clients, I never fail to mention the value of the PDS user conference.  The thirty to forty-five minutes we spent with Marco paid for the conference, and will continue providing a return on our investment in time and money saved by providing W-2s electronically (and efficiently)!

I urge your organization to take advantage of this very powerful workflow.  I know it’s the time of year when all HR professionals are tired of living “year-end.”  Take a breather and mark this article for follow up (but it does take some preparation so don’t wait too long).

Next year at this time, you could be having a “W-2s Are Done” Party.” On January 19, 2012, at 3:30 p.m., IMA’s HR department did just that!

Workflow Overview

So, how does the implemented solution work? HR kicks off an Enterprise Server job that generates a workflow for every targeted person (e.g., everyone who has not made a choice or everyone who previously explicitly selected paper). As part of the workflow, every employee receives an email asking him to make his W-2 delivery selection by clicking on the included link. When clicked, the below flow pops up. The user dutifully ignores the big block of legal disclosure information, trusting that no one would ever consider putting anything unreasonable in there. He then checks one of his two delivery options and clicks on Submit. That’s it – no other work is required on anyone’s part. The system will maintain each person’s selection and the year-end W-2 printing process will skip printing W-2s for those people who selected electronic.

Let’s now look at the workflow screen that goes to each employee.

Vista HRMS Workflow

Note the following about the above.

  • It’s simple, requiring minimal effort by each individual – one simple checkbox on one simple screen. In fact, the overall screen layout is simplified from default flow layouts.
  • The template is easily configurable so you can tailor the legal disclosure, the checkbox text, the layout, and virtually anything else on the page.
  • The system not only records the person’s delivery selection but also the date/time of the selection. You can easily find who explicitly chose each option (and when) as well as who has not made an explicit selection.
  • From an audit trail perspective, because this is done through workflow, the database saves who made the explicit selections, so there is never a question as to whether the employee himself or an administrator checked one of the delivery options.
  • This flow can be blasted out to everyone in an initial campaign, but then later re-blasted out only to targeted individuals – e.g., only those who never responded the last time or only to those who previously chose paper, etc.
  • Moreover, the flow can automatically be sent to all new hires so that you don’t have to explicitly remember to follow up with them manually.

If you are not interested in the technical details of the flow design and implementation but are still interested in doing something similar in your organization, stop here and then direct one of your technical HRIS people to read the rest of this article and download the included scripts to create this solution for you.

Process Architecture

The following diagram shows the overall process architecture.

Vista HRMS Process diagram

Note the following about the above.

  • We want to be able to launch this flow to groups of people (e.g., the whole company, only those who have not explicitly selected, only those who last year selected paper, etc.) or to just one individual (e.g., when someone is newly hired). So the first piece of this solution is either an Enterprise Server job that can loop through however many people are in a result set and launch the flow for each or it is a snippet of code in a user exit (such as ACT_NewHire_X) to launch the flow for one person. (Both the ES job and the user exit code snippet are provided in the attached scripts.)
  • Regardless of which way we start, we next call a stored procedure, CUSTOM_W2Delivery_LaunchWF(). This procedure gathers information about the passed user, such as the person’s current W-2 delivery selection on file, and calls a predefined Enterprise Server job (W2DELIVERY) for that person. (The code for this procedure is provided in the attached scripts.)
  • The W2DELIVERY ES job simply launches a workflow instance of our new W2 Delivery workflow template, for the indicated person.  (The code to create this Enterprise Server job template is provided in the attached scripts.)
  • The W2 Delivery workflow template that now processes will be explained in the next section. But for now, note that its last step is to call the CUSTOM_W2Delivery_Update() stored procedure to save the user’s W2 delivery selection to the database. (The code to create this workflow template is included in the attached scripts.)
  • As mentioned above, the last step in the workflow is to execute the CUSTOM_W2Delivery_Update() stored procedure. This writes the user’s W2 delivery selection to the database, to the empuser table’s PRINTW2 record. (The code to create this stored procedure is included in the attached scripts.)

Flow Design

The following diagram shows the flow design.

Print Design

Note the following about the above.

  • The flow goes directly to the person whose W-2 delivery method needs to be selected. The user has two checkboxes – paper and electronic – and a Submit button.
  • If the user clicks on Submit without checking a delivery option (or after checking both) the flow stays in the person’s queue, indicating the incorrect response.
  • Once one delivery option is selected and Submit clicked, the system calls its processing procedure, CUSTOM_W2Delivery_Launch(), to update the database (empuser).

Next Steps

When you’re ready to implement a flow like this, do the following.

  • Download the included scripts. Click here for the SQL Server version. Click here for the Oracle version.
  • Run the scripts into your test database and view a sample flow.
  • Between your HR and legal departments, modify the legal disclosure and other text in the scripts. Rerun them and retest.
  • Launch the flow to a few test individuals using the sample job in the included scripts.
  • Roll out the flow to everyone.
  • Optionally add the snippet in the included scripts to your new-hire user exit (ACT_NewHire_X) to make sure all newly hired employees also explicitly select their delivery methods.
Marco Padovani
Senior Software Specialist
Jessica Parde
Shared Systems Support Manager
Nelnet, Inc.
TeddiAnne Krehbiel
Automation & Workflow Analyst
The IMA Financial Group, Inc.