Learn the three key differentiators of well-used and well-liked benefits platforms.
By Chris Bruce
With recent innovations in HR technology, executive teams across all industries are rethinking the way they approach their benefits solutions. Traditional methods are being abandoned in favor of platforms that reflect the needs of a constantly evolving workplace. In fact, according to Thomsons Online Benefits’ 2015 Global Employee Benefits Watch (GEBW) report, introducing employee-facing benefits portals will be the top investment for 55 percent of HR professionals over the next 12 months.
But as these professionals look toward modern solutions, what factors will influence selecting the platform to best serve their company’s needs? Today’s employees have vastly different expectations than those of just several years ago, so it’s imperative that HR consider three major business-critical aspects for employee and organizational satisfaction.
- Highly intuitive user experience. Today’s consumers enjoy instant gratification with little to no effort—just take a look at popular services like Uber and GrubHub. With such convenience, it’s not surprising that this has become an expectation among most employees with their work systems. The bar has been raised and user interfaces can no longer afford to be clunky or complex. This is exacerbated by a general disinterest in benefits packages. According to the GEBW report, more than half of all employers (57 percent) find that a lack of understanding in the value of total rewards among employees is their biggest challenge. So if an employee is already indifferent to their benefits solution, a difficult- to-navigate portal will turn them off entirely. A great user experience should instantly capture employees’ attention with appealing and interactive graphics, but it also needs to load quickly. If it takes longer than 30 seconds to get to where they need, you’ve lost them. The portal needs to be personalized, incorporating the employers’ brand and messaging as well as automated, intuitive communication, such as congratulating an employee on a new job title or change in marital status from single to married. The interface should also be optimized for easy access on mobile phones or tablets.
- Scalability and adaptability. We live in culture that thrives on overnight success. A year ago, nobody had heard of the likes of AirBnB or Slack, and now they are primed to join the ranks of global enterprises. Stories like these are becoming more and more common, so it’s important that companies are prepared for growth— however fast it may come. This includes having a global benefits strategy in place.
The majority (51 percent) of employers have a written global benefits strategy in place, finds the GEBW report. However, a significant number (45 percent) do not, which also signals many organizations need to centralize their benefits programs and administration.
Consider the following: You operate a 15 person start- up in San Francisco. Your workforce is comprised of intellectual American twenty-somethings. The benefits solution is slightly customizable and basically gets the job done. But what happens six months later when you skyrocket into the spotlight and venture capitalists are pushing international expansion? Now you’ve got developers in Tel Aviv and an office in Shanghai with 50 total employees with vast cultural and age differences. Your HR software has to be able to adapt to your global benefits needs, localizing to each new location or region. Benefits and rewards programs should be universally consistent throughout your company, but there are different laws and regulations for every country that will need to be followed and your software should be able to automatically scale. There are also language and culture barriers to overcome, as well as expected benefits that vary per region (e.g. Guardaria vouchers [childcare vouchers] in Spain).
- Analytics capabilities. Decreasing costs and increasing engagement have been the bread and butter for HR technologies since they debuted. But today, it’s about going beyond cost and engagement. Just by tracking day- to-day operations, HR is effectively sitting on a gold mine of predictive data that can help shape future purchasing and policy decisions. Platforms should be tapping into this resource, because they are being wasted otherwise.
This data can tell many different stories about employees. For example, what is the state of mind and/ or motivations for a senior manager who hasn’t set up his benefits online? Is he having trouble navigating the software, or is he planning to leave the company soon, rendering his benefits set-up irrelevant? Analytics should help HR play a more strategic role in the overall business. This can be anything from benefits reform (expanding or cutting programs that are or aren’t performing well based on the level of interest and interaction) to evaluation of the total ROI on your overall benefits spend.
Introducing the right technology will also enable HR to deliver global reporting whether on global benefits uptake or medical costs. Historically, HR has had difficulty reporting on benefits spend, and even now almost half of the respondents (49 percent) are struggling with reporting globally, which has grown by 10 percent from 2014, according to the GEBW.
Choosing an HR platform is a much more strategic decision than it ever has been in the past. That’s because HR is set to play a much larger role in the overall company strategy than ever before. Businesses and C-level executives rely on HR leaders to provide the information that will enable organizations to attract, retain, and engage key talent that will help to drive global business growth.
A report from Henley Business School cites that 80 percent of CEOs believe it is critical for HR to play the role of a “high-impact business partner.” This year’s GEBW survey echoes this, finding that the most important element enterprises expect to achieve from their global benefits strategy is being able to align benefits practices with business goals and strategy.
Chris Bruce is co-founder and managing director of Thomsons Online Benefits.