Three strategic technology investments for a successful 2020

HR and benefits technologies are taking center stage in 2020, but what differentiates those that will be successful from those that will fail? How can businesses tell which to invest in versus those that are, at best, pie-in-the-sky concepts that aren’t ready for mass adoption?

 

The trial-and-error approach is no longer enough. If enterprises want to succeed, they’ll need technologies that not only propel organizations forward but can evolve with their growth and ever-changing needs. There will be many to evaluate in the years to come, but there are three that will prove to be especially important in 2020.

 

  1. Control expenses with benefits software

 

Employee benefits account for an enormous part of company expenditures. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, total compensation reached an hourly average of $34.77 for private industry workers. As expected, wages and salaries accounted for the majority of that spend (70.1%), amounting to $24.38 per hour. Benefits were also a significant cost, however, averaging $10.38 per hour (29.9%).

 

With so much money allocated toward benefits, employers can’t simply rely on disparate data streams and legacy systems. In doing so, enterprises will struggle to analyze the data that’s needed to unearth valuable, actionable insights. This is not an isolated problem – our own research shows that 48% of businesses find it difficult to report globally on their workforces. With nearly half of the companies struggling, it’s time to invest in benefits software that offers powerful data analytics capabilities. Only then will they be able to get a closer look at benefits expenditures and rein in these expenses.

 

This is more than a simple cost-cutting measure, however. Enterprises should not be looking to reduce their benefits, which are extremely important in fostering and maintaining employee loyalty. Rather, they should be focused on making smarter decisions, such as reducing waste. One company found that it was paying for 7,000 more health insurance policies than it actually needed. By discovering other unnecessary expenses, employers can save a tremendous amount of money without changing the benefits they offer.

 

  1. Reduce the administrative burden

 

Rewards programs are a great way for any business to show employees that they are valued and appreciated members of the team. But when multiple providers are involved, the administrative burden can multiply. Businesses might find themselves paying for more solutions than are actually necessary.

 

Enterprises should instead rely on one benefits management offering that can deliver an integrated solution. By providing everything that’s needed (corporate broking, benefits advising, employee helpdesk and technology) in a single place, businesses can offer outstanding rewards at a lower cost. This also makes it easier for employees to directly engage with their benefits, creating a more immersive experience between companies and their teams. In a world where engagement is having an increasingly strong impact on employee productivity and retention, this is absolutely essential. And by enlisting in a single solution that serves as the benefits broker, businesses can also negotiate the very best rates from benefits providers.

 

Enterprises can take this one step further by automating the employee benefits administration process. As a result, employees will be able to easily enroll for benefits online, eliminating waste (such as unnecessary paper forms) for the company. It also makes it easier for staff to quickly determine which benefits are available, allowing them to better select those that meet their coverage needs.

 

  1. Make the switch to predictive analytics

 

Prescriptive analytics have been the norm for several years, allowing employers to make smarter and more efficient decisions. Predictive analytics is the next frontier, giving firms the power to model and forecast future macro trends. As workforces age, for example, organizations will see an impact on both benefits expenses and requirements. An influx of newer, younger employees would also require some changes. The same is true as workforces become more global and diverse. In order to remain competitive, employers will need to adjust accordingly with every evolution.

 

These evolutions are not limited to a change in workforce alone, however. Preventative health screenings can also play a role, as well as a change in working practices. A company that implements new safety protocols, for example, could lower the number of accidents and thus reduce absenteeism. Predictive analytics can then be used to better match benefits to all of these changes.

 

Employers must also recognize that while data is invaluable, it should only be obtained after receiving employee consent. The California Consumer Privacy Act is one of the first legislative reminders that employee data is not only useful but very sensitive information. Organizations that wish to use it must earn and maintain the trust of its employees, both in how the data is utilized and how it is stored.

 

The time is now

 

The new year represents an opportunity for enterprises to take charge of their benefits offerings by investing in the right technologies. Whether looking to reduce costs or striving to lower the administrative burden, now is the time to take action. A single benefits management solution can prove to be invaluable in overcoming these and other issues. At the same time, predictive analytics can provide an unprecedented ability to model and forecast future macro trends.

Supporting Diversity & Inclusion Through Benefits

By Chris Bruce, MD and co-founder, Thomsons Online Benefits

 

Last year, 800+ executives in the U.S. pledged to make elevating diversity and inclusion a workplace priority. This work is crucial, especially in Silicon Valley where half of startups still do not have any women in their leadership teams. Attracting and retaining diverse talent can be challenging, but it’s imperative that HR teams use all resources available to them in this effort, and that processes are in place to ensure female talent is nurtured, developed and has equal opportunity to progress in the organization.

 

Employee benefits can play a critical role in ensuring everyone feels included and cared for. Here’s how, from data analytics to benefits personalization, companies can use technology and benefits programs to create an employee benefits proposition that appeals to all.

 

Personalizing through wellness pots

 

Instead of using a one-size-fits-all solution that may only serve the needs of a limited number of employees, wellness pots can serve differing interests and needs. Companies offering wellness pots to support employees’ mental and physical wellbeing are automatically ahead of the curve. These employees are able to spend their wellness pot contribution on the benefits offerings that best support their diverse interests and needs. For example, one employee might take personal training, another could join a mindfulness program and a third take up drumming lessons. Not only do people feel better supported, but they have even more reason to regularly engage with their benefits which can lead to them using and valuing them more.

 

Employing data and analytics

 

To help companies make better decisions to support D&I, those that use pulse surveys to gather feedback from employees should begin segmenting the data by gender, generation, ethnicity, geography, and any other relevant subsection within the company. Not only does this give HR the opportunity to be proactive, but by only looking at total numbers there is a risk of missing  opportunities to identify and fix issues for specific groups.

 

Additionally, there’s a wide range of data available to employers from benefits software that many are not taking advantage of. For example, our research showed that only 48% of organizations measure benefit take up levels and 46% measure employee wellbeing. Companies are however beginning to understand just how important data and analytics are. Over a quarter of respondents are intending to begin collecting this information on benefits take-up and program engagement this yea. Combining the qualitative data from surveys with the quantitative data that can be derived from benefits technology, can create a powerful tool for HR and benefits teams.

 

Increasing flexibility

 

Another way to support all employees is by offering ‘floating’ PTO days to accommodate all employees’ civic or cultural preferences. For example, employees could choose to switch out their Presidents Day holiday for Election Day. What’s more, employers can also give the option to work remotely when needed to accommodate employee needs if something of importance to an individual worker, like an Ash Wednesday service, won’t take the entire day.

 

What’s more, those who work from home have been shown to be more productive, working an additional 1.4 more days per month, although it will be seen in the coming months how productivity is impacted under the new circumstances of working from home due to COVID-19. This is a win-win for both employees and employers and should alleviate any fears around productivity and flexible working. Beyond that, there can be additional long-term payoffs for companies that are sure to be inclusive: our research found that 80% of HR decision makers believe that flexible working arrangements are important when considering talent retention.

 

The bottom line

 

Research has found that 85% of candidates ask about benefits at some point in the interview process so as a key talent attraction tool they must be strategically planned if they are to effectively support D&I right from the start of the employee journey. With this in mind, employers must make their benefits more relevant, easier to access and more engaging in order to meet the needs of an increasingly demanding and diverse workforce. Only then will every employee – of any age, from any location, of any background or culture – be able to get the most out of their benefits and really feel their value.

 

 

 

Three trends shaping the future of benefits and HR in 2020

A new year is like the dawn of a new era – the start of something fresh as the world transforms once more. This is especially true in 2020 as a shift in HR and benefits enters the spotlight. Now more than ever, enterprises recognize the challenges of the having many-to-many relationships, the importance of employee health and wellbeing, and the need for a new approach to benefits. These are the topics that will shape not only the next 12 months but also the next few years.

 

  1. The many-to-many vendor structure will be replaced

 

Employers have come to recognize the impact benefits can have on improving engagement and performance. In fact, benefits are considered to be more important than job role, colleagues or organizational culture in eliciting loyalty. But that doesn’t change the fact that employees are frequently disappointed by the poor experience of interacting with their benefits.

 

Instead of a smooth and seamless experience with access to everything in one place, employees are often frustrated by the lack of clarity and ubiquity. When filing a claim, for example, they might discover that the necessary information cannot be found within their employer’s benefits administration platform. It could be on a vendor site, creating another hurdle – or worse, it might be lost somewhere in a filing cabinet. This is not good for employees or employers, and it inevitably reduces the positive results that benefits were designed to deliver in the first place.

 

These problems are caused by the typical, many-to-many relationships between companies and vendors. Those relationships often lead to higher operating costs, a higher risk of errors and a disjointed experience for employees. This will change in 2020 as employers begin to not only request but demand a standardized operating model. They will come to recognize the need for a marketplace approach that eliminates the hassle of the many-to-many vendor structure. At the same time, this approach can improve the user journey and provide an unprecedented level of customization and personalization.

 

  1. Employees will take center stage

 

Organizations can’t survive without a strong, dedicated staff. That’s because employees are more than an integral cog in the company machine – they are the lifeblood of the entire enterprise. But if their needs are not being met, the enterprise is likely to suffer.

 

Things are starting to change, however. After years of putting customers first, businesses have begun to realize that it’s time to focus on their employees. Our research found that employee health and wellbeing were among the top benefits strategy objectives for North American organizations. Businesses are striving to meet this objective in a variety of ways. Some are relying on wellness pots that allow employees to decide how they use a wellness allowance. Others are considering a shortened workweek that can be beneficial to both employees and employers, reducing stress while maintaining or improving productivity.

 

By focusing on employees – the very people who create the products and services designed to meet customer needs – enterprises will be better equipped to thrive in 2020.

 

  1. Employers will embrace a next-generation approach to benefits

 

In a world where the largest companies are trying to do more at the local level, businesses still struggle to implement effective benefits programs across their global branches. To get it right, they must understand the benefits practices of each location as well as the competitive environment. Consider Japan and Canada – there are not any common characteristics between these two countries. This is the norm, not the outlier, so businesses must understand that no two regions are exactly alike.

 

Legislation also plays a role, so they must be mindful of that as well. And in this increasingly digital world, enterprises are expected to offer an intuitive digital experience for employees to access their benefits.

 

There are so many different things to consider beyond basic healthcare: short- and long-term disability, life insurance, emergency out-of-country care, and so on. Many companies try to figure this out on their own, but inconsistencies can be found across the processes and procedures. This adds to the complexities enterprises face in deploying benefits programs that meet the needs of each country in which they operate.

 

This will finally change in 2020 as enterprises embrace a next-generation approach to benefits management. By relying on a brilliant, consistent employee and administration experience, multinational corporations won’t have to compromise any longer. With access to steady and reliable data and insights, organizations will be prepared to make better decisions and achieve greater global oversight of compliance requirements. These are just some of the changes that will lead to a truly localized approach for multinational corporations.

 

Big changes are coming

 

Organizations are evolving. They’re recognizing the importance of employee health and wellbeing. They’re frustrated by the costly many-to-many structure of building relationships with multiple vendors. And they’re searching for a next-generation approach to providing benefits. All of these things will begin to culminate in 2020, paving the way for big changes in the months and years ahead.

Prepare for the future of HR with these 3 simple steps

By Chris Bruce, Co-founder and Managing Director of Thomsons Online Benefits

Technology plays a significant role in the way benefits are delivered, selected and utilized. From the way they are accessed by employees, to the way employers are able to use data to personalize benefits to meet the needs of each individual, the future has never been more exciting. There are more opportunities for organizations to support their employees than ever before.

This is not limited to the newest startups or most high-tech industries — every company can take advantage of the benefits evolution. Here are three tips illustrating how your business can do the same.

Step 1: Provide easy access for all

Benefits technology is about more than having access to insurance or gym membership reimbursements. Employees now expect their interactions with enterprise technology to match those of consumer tech, with all the associated ease of use. They want quick and easy access on any device, enabling them to view and engage with their benefits at any time, from any location.

Our Global Employee Benefits Watch report found that loyalty (81%) and pride (79%) were particularly high among employees who can easily access their benefits. Of those who found access to be difficult, just 37% said they were proud to work for their organization. If the benefits experience is not up to par, employees are less likely to engage. This shouldn’t be taken lightly – multiple Gallup polls have shown that engaged employees are much less likely to look for another job.

Step 2: Embrace personalization

When trying to determine which benefits are best, it’s imperative that businesses remember that every employee is unique. Gender, age, culture and geography are among the aspects that shape benefits preferences for each individual. Thus, a single approach may not be the best way to serve every employee within an organization.

But the solution isn’t as difficult as it may appear. Wellness pots, for example, offer a simple alternative to a blanket, take-it-or-leave-it approach. They allow employees to choose how to spend funds allocated to wellness benefits, which can include more than a monthly gym membership.

Employers should also be looking to people analytics to help inform their benefits strategy. By having access to reliable data on which benefits are most popular among which demographic, they can divert spend or create bespoke packages to best meet the needs of these employees.

Step 3: Take full advantage of people analytics

We live in a data-driven world, where the amount and range of data being collected is growing on a daily basis, offering instantaneous results on everything from how and when we work to when and where we use our benefits. By extracting deep organizational insight from data, enterprises can become much more targeted in the types of benefits they offer employees. Our research indicates that 59% of global organizations based in the U.S. have improved their benefits programs by observing workers’ interactions with their benefits platforms.

In just three years, the number of organizations building people analytics teams rose 68% (versus 15% a few years ago). Organizations wholeheartedly recognize that people are their biggest asset, which is why they are so eager to build these teams. And with a wealth of data now available, businesses can ensure they are getting the very best from their people.

Embrace the future

It is now possible for employees to access their benefits from virtually anywhere. At the same time, personalization allows workers to receive the benefits they want most. Additionally, people analytics are improving engagement and productivity while enhancing benefits programs. These are the innovations that will propel HR forward in the years to come. But you don’t have to wait for the next phase – the future is already here. Are you ready?

Brighten employee spirits this holiday season with more flexibility and choice

While the holidays are a source of happiness and joy for many, more than 70% of Americans struggle to relax this time of year, and nearly half worry about finding the perfect gift. It’s become such a problem that 30% of Americans wish they could ditch gift-giving altogether. Others are bogged down by the rush to keep up with activities and expectations. Organizations need to recognize these pressures and make sure they are connecting with employees during this stressful period. They can start – and pave the way for a wonderful 2020 – right now.

Holiday cheer through the new year and beyond

Employers can celebrate the season with any number of team-focused events, including potlucks, dinners or even a quick brunch. There’s no wrong way to do it – all that matters is that the team feels supported and appreciated.

And it doesn’t have to end with the arrival of the new year. Businesses can continue to boost employee morale by hosting group yoga sessions, company-wide charity fundraisers, or a trip to a local event or museum.

This is especially important when considering the research on employee wellness. Our study of 2,000 employees found that almost a third (31%) are kept awake at night by workplace stressors, including their interactions with management and colleagues. This further highlights the tremendous impact the workplace can have on someone’s mental health. In providing a little holiday and new year cheer, businesses can make a big difference and improve employee wellbeing.

The gift that keeps on giving

The vast majority (80%) of HR decision makers agree that flexible working arrangements are important when considering talent retention. In other words, businesses are in a unique position to give the ultimate gift this holiday season: time.

Most employees would value the opportunity to start their day a couple hours early. This would allow them to avoid rush hour and still make it home in time to cook a holiday feast. Others might benefit from a later schedule that allows them to catch up on sleep before the next family visit. For jobs that can be performed from any location, employees would also appreciate the option to work remotely. In turn, employers could reap the benefits of increased productivity.

A present just for them

Gift cards have become one of the most popular gifts during the holiday shopping season. Compared to a homemade scarf or knitted sweater, it might not feel like the most personal option. But it’s very personal to the recipient, who can choose which items to purchase.

Wellness pots – the “gift card” of employee benefits – offer a similar level of freedom. With the flexibility to spend money on things that meet their needs, they are a great way to support employees’ mental and physical wellbeing during the year’s most stressful periods. Whether drum lessons, mindfulness programs or art classes, wellness pots make it easy for employees to choose exactly what they want.

Brighten their spirits

Don’t let the stress of the holidays bring the most wonderful time of the year to a screeching halt. It can be a time of loneliness and anxiety, but organizations can play a huge role in changing that. They can bring employees together for festive gatherings and outings that support their mental and social well being. Businesses can also offer flexible working arrangements that allow each employee to decide when and/or where to start their day. And by empowering their teams with wellness pots, they can provide an unprecedented level of employee choice. Best of all, these benefits can be used to support employees long after the holidays are over – a win-win for any time of the year.

Three Facts Highlight the Disparity Between Single and Married Employees

More than 110 million Americans over the age of 18 are currently unmarried, but many companies have been slow to adjust to support modern relationships, creating an unnecessary value gap between married and single employees.

Looking to dig a little deeper, we asked 300 U.S. HR decision makers about the differences in their benefits programs based on employees’ marital status. We found that an overwhelming 90% of companies offer additional benefits to employees who are married. Disparities between single and married co-workers can be seen across the entire benefits ecosystem with everything from PTO to healthcare and flexible working. Here are four ways singles are losing out to their married counterparts.

1) Unmarried employees have less time to spend with family and friends – and it’s costing them

Unfortunately for most, if you are unmarried you are likely to receive less PTO than if you are legally married. There are significant monetary differences here: married employees receive an average of 3.6 additional days off compared to those who are not. Those days could come in the form of additional paid time off for a wedding and/or honeymoon in the case of 22% of companies. With the U.S. median household income at $56,516 (or $217 per working day), single employees are missing out on approximately $775 in PTO value.

Married employees also receive healthcare contributions totaling $461.80 per month on average. That’s more than $100 extra than the average amount paid to employees who are single ($344.35). Multiplied over a 10-year period, single employees can expect to miss out on $14,094 in healthcare benefits compared to their married counterparts.

As if that weren’t enough, married employees also receive additional pension contributions from 34% of companies.

2) They get fewer days to care for relatives in need

The Family Caregiver Alliance reported that in 2019 there were approximately 39.8 million caregivers providing care to adults with a disability or illness in the U.S. This amounts to a sizeable number of Americans (17%) who need additional family support outside of caring for children.

While almost three quarters of companies offer weeks of paid family leave to employees with children, only 44% offer that option to those who have other family caregiver responsibilities – that’s a 26% gap between the two.

3) They are presented with fewer working options

There is a strong belief that married employees, and especially parents, should be prioritized when it comes to flexible working. More than half of HR decision makers say their firms offer 4-day work weeks to employees with children versus 36% who offer it to everyone. HR decision makers justify this preferential treatment, with 69% saying that “flexible working is more important for colleagues with children.”

More than 60% agree that the benefits system currently works best for the nuclear family model and that “it’s unfair that colleagues without partners don’t receive the same flexible benefits as those that have partners or children.” Despite their acknowledgement that change is needed, they have yet to make flexible arrangements equally available across their workforce.

Personalization is the answer

The importance of benefits flexibility, choice and personalization cannot be overemphasized. More than 80% of HR decision makers agreed that all employees should have access to personalized benefits that suit them best. Unfortunately, only 59% are actually offering these to all employees. And of those respondents who do not yet offer personalized options, just 15% are planning to do so in the future.

Now is the time for greater recognition of diverse lifestyle choices and new family structures in the workplace. The current strategy – in which organizations reward some employees but not others – will only breed resentment. Instead of getting more out of those who are single, companies could wind up with employees who are unhappy with their working arrangements. Unhappy employees are less productive and less likely to remain loyal to their employer, creating another unnecessary issue: turnover.

If organizations want to attract and retain top talent, they need to understand that fair treatment must be extended to everyone. Failing to do so could lead to unintentional discrimination against the average single person. By carefully evaluating the needs of every employee, companies of all shapes and sizes can create a benefits offering that’s truly appreciated – and is valuable and inclusive for all.

Wave Goodbye to the Pitfalls of Presenteeism

The US Department of Labor says that the average American takes eight days off every year, meaning workers gift thousands of dollars of unused vacation time to their employers annually. But why?

Part of the issue is presenteeism – which plagues corporate America and, at the last calculation, costs the country $150 billion a year. This estimate attributed lost productivity due to poor health conditions of employees who still came to work – but did not take into account other effects – such as how presenteeism can also affect company culture, worker retention, and talent attraction.

The basic definition of presenteeism is when an employee spends more time at work than is required – including if they are unwell. A report from NPR, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found over half of Americans go to work when they are sick.

Deadlines are feared, having too many actions to return to, and expectations that employees must put work before their own health. For many workers, presenteeism is engrained in company culture. And it’s a problem many industries are grappling with as they increase flexible working policies that improve work life balances.

Companies must take the necessary actions to combat this issue, with three steps to consider below:

Step one: Addressing the root causes

Organizations should first take steps to address the root causes of poor physical and mental health within their workforce by offering comprehensive benefits packages. To have the greatest impact, these should include wellbeing support through a holistic benefits package such as wellness initiatives/allowances, access to mental health resources, massage or acupuncture sessions, and nutritionist sessions that support employees’ physical and mental health.

Additionally, technology is essential for HR and benefits teams to counter presenteeism. As well as offering sophisticated analysis that enables HR to track the popularity (and, therefore, success) of any company initiatives over a period of time, benefits tech and wellness pots can make a more immediate and tangible impact by allowing employees to self-administer benefits to impact their day-to-day health and happiness. This opens up an endless list of options, for example this could include access to yoga classes, therapy sessions, or financial wellness training. This digital approach to benefits management not only also means employees can access their benefits whenever and wherever they want, but provides data back to employers on what benefits are being used (and therefore valued.)

Step two: Analyze company culture

Presenteeism is often a cultural issue entrenched in an organization by the behavior of the leadership team or company values that haven’t yet evolved. While most within a company will recognize change as necessary, direction and leadership must first come from management.

If workers see management and leadership teams taking time off when they’re sick or are in need of a rest, they’ll be far more likely to do the same. It sends a clear message that when somebody is ill, they too should take the time to recover and when work is done, it’s time to go home.

HR can also facilitate open discussions about the importance of wellbeing to help shift company culture by using listening exercises that demonstrate to the workforce the company cares. Furthermore, organizations can take polls and surveys to help address any gaps in company benefits packages that could enhance their employees’ wellbeing – there is no shortage of ways employers can try to make improvements in this area.

Step three: Tech is key

Technology has effectively allowed more employees to work from home or other remote locations. Remote work brings many benefits such as reduced stress by saving money and time on commuting. But with this comes a need for balance.

Employers must be clear to workers that when they are sick, they should not be sending emails or seen online. When they are ready and well enough to return to work, they will be recovered, rejuvenated, and more productive.

We have a lot of work to do to address and eliminate presenteeism. Companies need to start by looking at their culture and management structures to better understand how to lead by example. People should be made to feel comfortable to take time off when they’re physically or mentally unwell without fearing piles of work or judgement from their manager – or their colleagues. This means actually taking time off when rest is needed so they can recuperate, and not working remotely which should be actively discouraged by managers during sick leave.

Cultivating Workplace Culture Through Technology

Although individual employees’ wants and needs differ, one point remains true for so many. That beyond salary, they want to feel valued and work in an environment where company culture is a priority. Employers therefore need to take the lead in prioritizing company culture in a number of meaningful ways, from benefits to flexible working.

Technology has given us the opportunity to stay connected wherever we are but is often blamed for creating our “always-on” culture. Employers and employees grapple with the question of whether this way of working is actually contributing to or hindering workplace culture from evolving. But technology in the workplace has huge potential when it comes to promoting overall company culture by bringing personalized benefits to life, while transforming the way we work.

Technology in the workplace 

In recent years, the use of technology has been under fire for having negative repercussions on both mental and physical wellbeing, from creating eyesight problems to producing a sense of social isolation. Thanks to technology, we can work anywhere, at any time which is very convenient, but it can also lead to an always-on culture in the workplace.

On the other hand, technology has enabled people to access all the information they need about their benefits in one place, from a range of devices, making them feel valued and appreciated by their organization. In fact, Our Global Employee Benefits Watch report found that 81% of employees who can easily access their benefits said they feel loyal to their employer, while 79% of employees who can easily access their benefits said they were proud to work for their organization. This flexibility also means that previously admin-intensive tasks, such as submitting expenses or choosing benefits for example, have become quicker and easier, not only for the employee but the HR department as well. HR teams no longer have to waste resources on manual tasks. Instead, they are able to use technology to automate these activities to free up time to focus on larger, more strategic initiatives. It’s important that organizations recognize the power of technology as a vehicle to communicate and support their culture, enabling the changing needs of the modern workforce.

Company culture remains top priority

A great company culture is now essential for attracting and retaining employees. Taking it a step further, giving employees a purpose and reason to work for you over a competitor, aside from just pay and compensation, can be a differentiator. Culture manifests itself everywhere from the office environment, the values the company operates by, to company policies and benefits offerings.

A quick win is to look at the benefits you offer your employees and ask – do they align to your values? Do they help to promote the culture you want to create? A key part of that exercise will be examining how employees access and interact with their benefits. Benefits technology not only allows employees working anywhere to access their benefits and engage with their organization, but allows the HR team to examine which benefits are resonating most with their employees and deliver an offering that is reflective of their culture.

Business leaders paving the way

Change must happen from the top. Business leaders need to take charge in promoting a culture of technology as a force for good. In order to do this, there are foundational changes that need to happen.  Executives need to ensure that all their operations are set up to provide employees with the same workplace experience, wherever and whenever they’re working.

From a cultural perspective, being able to access benefits from anywhere is as important as having access to email. Employers need to be able to provide remote access to all platforms – benefits included – so that employees aren’t forced to go into the office to access the information they need.

Benefits offerings require flexibility 

Benefits offerings speak volumes about an organization and exemplify what values they truly believe in. For example, if a high proportion of an organization’s employees work from home, offering a cycle to work program or gym membership tied to office locations is not only useless, but exemplifies a lack of consideration for the needs of their employees.

Instead, employers need to offer personalized benefits that match individual needs based on preference, location and schedule. This will help build alignment between culture and benefits. If businesses wish to develop a flexible culture, offering benefits that employees can enjoy from anywhere is important. But businesses can’t stop there. It’s also vital that these benefits are communicated to all employees in an effective manner, and that they’re accessible whenever needed. Benefits technology bridges this gap.

When developing company culture, technology should be a major cornerstone. We live in a technology-enabled world, and employees expect this same connected experience at work. Employees want to feel both appreciated and supported by their employers and technology can be the first step in cultivating an authentic workplace culture.

 

 

 

 

Earn Employee Loyalty through Benefits Technology

As organizations continue to compete for talent, they are realizing the integral role that benefits play in attracting and retaining the right employees. This is evidenced in our Global Employee Benefits Watch research, which surveyed 2,200 employees from companies around the world and found that only 15% of candidates don’t ask about benefits at all during the interview process. In fact, benefits have a huge role to play not only in attracting talent, but in influencing employees feelings about their current employer. Eighty percent of employees who said they have a good variety of benefits to choose from also said they identified strongly with their organization’s vision and values, as opposed to 40% of those who don’t. Market-leading organizations recognize this and to attract the best candidates and keep current employees happy, more and more employers are working to improve their benefits programs. While offering tailored benefits is important, much of the impact on employee loyalty is lost if these benefits aren’t easily accessible.

Giving employees easy access to their benefits information seems simple enough, yet over 50% of employees say they can’t access their benefits in the way they prefer and just 21% of employees say they can easily access their benefits. Clearly, employers are still delivering benefits in ways that don’t resonate with their people. So, what action does this mean employers should take? How can organizations make sure their people take full advantage of what’s available to them? Our research shows that employees are looking for the same experience they have getting information in their personal lives to be mirrored at work – one of the main aspects being the ability to consume information in a variety of ways. Using a number of communication options, including those driven by tech, is the key to keeping employees engaged and happy.

Integrating technology-enabled communication methods really pays off. For example, 62% of employees prefer to use a laptop for research and information gathering and 40% prefer mobile. Technology’s prevalence in everyday life is pushing employers to make sure their benefits strategy is delivered through  intuitive HR tech with a seamless user experience.

While making sure employees can access benefit information online is critical, it’s also important to deliver this information through other methods too. The only method that beats email and computer access is discussing benefits face-to-face with an employer, with 46% of employees receiving information this way reporting being satisfied. Email and computer access were close behind with satisfaction levels at 44% and 42% respectively. When information is more complicated and personal, people often prefer an in-person conversation.

The numbers say it all. 81% of employees who can easily access their benefits said they feel loyal to their employer and 79% say they were proud to work for their organization. Easy access to benefits information keeps employees happy and has the potential to secure longevity. 77% of employees who understand their benefits offering said they saw themselves staying at their organization for the foreseeable future.

It’s encouraging that employers realize the need to offer better benefits options to their people. But too many are stopping there. Making sure employees have the information they need about their benefits is the next step in solidifying employee loyalty, influencing whether they recommend working there to a friend, and, arguably most importantly, decide to leave or stay. If employers are committed to attracting top talent and keeping their employees, they need to ensure their benefits not only meet their needs, but that they can access them in the most consumer-friendly way possible.

 

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How to Build and Support Employee Wellness in the Workplace

1 in 5 adults in the US today is dealing with a mental health condition. This has a direct impact in the workplace for both employees and employers. The Depression Center at the University of Michigan found that depression is a leading cause of U.S. productivity loss with an annual cost of $44 billion to employers. The important role employers have in helping to support the mental health of their employees is more critical than ever, especially as our latest Global Employee Benefits Watch 2017/2018 research found that a concerning 64% of US employees feel that their workplace has a negative or very negative impact on their wellbeing. So how can employers better support their employees’ needs?

The need for a tailored, comprehensive benefits program

Many employers struggle to recognize the importance of their benefits offerings in fostering mental health. Companies need to evolve their benefits programs to meet the shifting needs of today’s employees. Our research found a disconnect between the support offered by employers, and the support employees actually want. This disconnect is especially pronounced in areas affecting employee wellness.

We can no longer view physical, mental or financial health in isolation. These different aspects of health all interconnect and influence employees’ sense of wellbeing. Workers who are anxious or ill are unlikely to operate at peak performance, and this can hugely impact a business’ bottom line.

Take mental health, for example: 56.5% of American adults suffering from mental health illnesses do not receive treatment. For those who sought out treatment, 20.1% reported they still had unmet treatment needs. Providing a health care plan that offers free or low-cost mental health treatment is imperative for helping to address these unmet needs.

When it comes to improving general wellness, 63% of the workforce has the goal of getting fit and healthy, yet only 30% think that their employer supports them in reaching this goal through their benefits program. That’s one of the reasons why many companies are turning to ‘wellness pots’, including us at Thomons, to give employees the flexibility to spend a set amount of money on anything that helps improve their wellness. We also offer Yoga classes on a Monday, boot camp on a Wednesday and Zumba classes on a Thursday to help promote and cultivate wellness. Getting moving and healthy together as an office has short-term endorphin payoffs and helps build and promote a culture of wellness within the workplace.

When considering which benefits best suit your employees, it’s important to consider generational differences. Younger employees in particular aren’t receiving the support they’re looking for from their employers. Traditional financial benefits such as a 401K are deisgned to meet the needs of an older workforce, which differ greatly from those of millennials. Buying a home is a goal for 74% of 18-35s – yet only 4% feel that their benefits scheme supports this. Employees who feel unsupported by their employer are less likely to engage with the business and their work. In order to avoid a lack of engagement from their staff, employers need to reassess the type of support they offer younger employees.

How to take action

To start, employers need to take steps to thoroughly understand what employees’ want in regard to wellbeing, and commit to supporting these wants through their benefits program. After the new benefits are in place, companies must effectively communicate them to their people. Employees can only engage with wellbeing benefits if they’re aware of them. Therefore, employers need to take into account whether their employees are more likely to read a text, pick-up a flyer or take part in a one-on-one chat. Finally, employers need to consider how best to encourage benefits take-up. The best way to do this is by providing a positive user experience. Mobile-first, easy-to-understand software is critical for engaging employees in their benefits plans and improving their overall perception of their employer.

With more Americans than ever before suffering from serious psychological distress, it’s clear that today’s employees are dealing with an unprecedented number of mental health issues. Employers need to play their part in addressing it. Helping improve employee mental health does not have to be a complicated task. Simply adjusting benefits in a strategic way can positively impact employees’ experiences, therefore improving how they feel and perform in the workplace.

When wellbeing is addressed correctly, the picture is much more positive. Employees who say that their benefits needs are met receive 76% more wellbeing initiatives and have 58% more life goals supported from their employer. This loyalty pays off, as these employees are twice as likely to recommend their employer to a friend, say they have a positive experience at work, and be proud to work for their company. The message for employers is clear: prioritize offering the best wellbeing benefits for your workforce, and you’ll reap rewards in employee engagement, attraction, and retention.