Business leaders in the UK have long felt that they should be deriving more value from their investments in employee benefits. This explains why organisations are increasingly looking to use benefits to drive employee engagement and retention and, in doing so, to overcome the skills shortages that are becoming such a barrier to growth in many industries.
However, with so much uncertainty surrounding the UK economy, few organisations are in a position to plough more money into benefits, so instead, they are attempting to maximise the impact of their existing investments, engaging their employees around benefits by providing a more seamless, flexible and personalised experience.
Technology and the digitisation of benefits provision is widely regarded as the best route to drive this optimal employee experience within benefits, and the emergence of new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is enabling HR departments to re-imagine the ways in which benefits are delivered to and consumed by employees.
DIFFICULTIES IN DIGITAL
We recently undertook research amongst business and benefits leaders, as well as employees, to explore this shift towards digitisation of the benefits within UK organisations and the potential role of technology in driving enhanced user experiences. The appetite for digital within benefits is clear - 92% of benefits professionals think technology can help to increase employee engagement with benefits, and 86% of business leaders agree.
However, despite their best efforts, many organisations are currently struggling to implement digital into their processes, let alone realise any tangible benefits as a result. Staggeringly, only 29% of benefits professionals are very satisfied with levels of employee engagement around technology-based benefits, and as few as 16% are very satisfied with their overall progress in digital.
As with so many digital transformation programmes across all disciplines and all sectors, benefits teams are coming up against a wide range of challenges which are hampering their efforts to deploy technology to drive a more seamless employee experience. These include the high initial costs for technology deployment, resistance and scepticism towards technology amongst both colleagues and the wider workforce, and a lack of digital skills within the HR department and beyond.
Interestingly, our new white paper reveals that many benefits professionals also report that technology itself is presenting significant problems, with a lack of operability between systems, painful integration issues, and difficulties in finding the right technology partners, hindering efforts to digitise.
DIGITAL STRATEGY ON THE ROAD TO A HYBRID WORKFORCE
Of course, major change programmes are never smooth journeys and benefits leaders are trying to deliver digital transformation against a backdrop of seismic shifts within the workforce, as organisations transition from a predominantly human-based workforce to a new world of work, where humans will work in a hybrid, technologically-optimised environment alongside AI and robots.
Faced with such complexity and such a rapidly changing landscape, it’s essential for HR and benefits leaders to build a comprehensive digital strategy which focuses on delivering a first-rate employee experience and aligns to the organisation’s overall vision for its future workforce. Successful digitisation depends on benefits professionals having a clear understanding of how their benefits provision must evolve over the coming years (as part of the overall shift to a hybrid workforce) and a robust strategy for how and where digital adoption can help to realise that vision.
Ensuring first-rate user journey and experience has to be the starting point for digitisation going forward. This means finding the right technology partners and platforms, based on the organisation’s needs, and bringing in the right skills (whether internal or external).
THE DIGITAL OPPORTUNITY
Despite the hurdles that need to be overcome, there is no doubt that digital has a massive role to play if benefits is to become a more strategic lever for organisations to drive improved talent acquisition and retention.
When deployed in a joined-up way, technology can deliver a faster, more seamless and personalised experience which gives employees a greater sense of control and the opportunity to take a more proactive approach with benefits.
Employees recognise this. 75% of UK workers believe that technology can ensure they have the most personalised benefits package, and the majority are eager to embrace technology within the benefits sphere, provided that digital services are fast, seamless, personalised and engaging.
And that’s where new technologies will come to the fore, with widespread adoption of AI, the Internet of Things and wearable technology combining to provide employees with the ‘consumer-friendly’, personalised, Amazon level of service that they will increasingly come to expect from employers.
Digital has the potential to transform the content, delivery and tracking of benefits provision over the coming years, making it relevant and valued in a hybrid workforce. However, in order for this to happen, benefits leaders must develop the right vision and strategy, and put employee experience at the heart of everything that they do.
It’s an exciting time for benefits professionals, as they move from the fringes of the organisation to take up a more critical, strategic role, charged with driving better employee engagement and delivering game-changing differentiation in an ever-more competitive war for talent.
The full research findings can be found in our new white paper, The Digital Opportunity: Re-Imagining the Employee Experience in Benefits, available for download here.