Five ways in which technology will reshape benefits
Over the past decade, technology has transformed benefits provision. But with everything from artificial intelligence and apps to virtual reality, we’re in for a dynamic future.
These are five key ways emerging technology will shape employee benefits.
1. Increase engagement across a disparate workforce
From homeworking to the gig economy, the UK has truly embraced flexible working, with estimates suggesting that half will work remotely by 2020. This shift is great, but a disparate workforce can bring challenges for benefits engagement.
Understanding how employees communicate and access information is key. With 61 per cent of all digital minutes spent on smartphones, mobile-first is the norm for benefits websites, and as 80 per cent of these minutes are spent on apps – The US Mobile App report, Commscore (2017) – could it be time to switch to app-first?
It makes sense. As well as meeting consumer expectation, apps offer additional functionality and remove obvious blockers such as remembering logins and passwords. Employees can use their faces to check pensions or fingerprints to see if they’re entitled to an eye check.
Apps are set to get more engaging too. Network changes such as 5G, plus innovations like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), will make it easy and exciting for employees to interact with their benefits. Anyone for a virtual benefits fair? All the interaction without the hassle of setting up stands in the cafeteria.
2. Better benefits insight through big data
Big data, and its ability to turn numbers into knowledge, is another game-changer. Already used for risk modelling, employers use data to support strategic change through better understanding their workforce.
For example, drilling into data may provide insight into the ageing workforce: What benefits do they want? How much and what type of absence is there? How long do employees remain employed? What impacts their decisions? This deeper understanding should make it easier for employers to make informed choices around say recruitment, or on what medical benefits to offer.
Big data can also support engagement and communications. With a more rounded view, it’s easier to see what motivates employees when it comes to benefit selection so communications can deliver the right message, at the right time and place.
3. Make benefits personal for today’s diverse workforce
Today’s increasingly diverse workforce is a challenge, largely binning the one-size-fits-all approach in favour of personalisation.
It’s definitely what employees expect. Thanks to the likes of online retail giants and their personal recommendations, we’re used to being treated as individuals. And, if a huge global entity can do it, why on earth can’t an employer?
It’s possible already to segment benefit messaging by demographics such as age, location and grade, so the next stage is attitudinal segmentation. By asking a user a few simple questions, you can help identify if they are a doer or a thinker, for example, which then helps shape communication style.
4. Deliver more effective content and services
Technological advances are fantastic, but the ever-expanding eco-system can result in a muddle of platforms and content. A great example of this is employee wellbeing, where, as health and financial providers add more portals and extranets, there’s a risk that it’ll simply lead to confusion and even disengagement.
Step forward technology. While tech people are already doing some behind-the-scenes magic to harmonise content, mesh technology will enable a seamless integration of platforms and systems for a richer and dynamic delivery of processes, services and content.
This single experience will be enhanced as the internet of things enables more data to be shared. Who knows, one day your keyboard might recognise you’re a bit stressed and book a massage through your wellbeing benefits portal.
5. Taking benefits interactions to the next level
Alongside these changes, more emerging technologies will give your benefits the edge. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will bring further and deeper personalisation, with understanding of the employee enabling prompts to instigate real behavioural change around, say, health and savings.
A voice assistant will bring this even more to life. Many of us are used to asking our voice-assisted technology to turn on the lights or play music, but as natural language processing is incorporated, it will be easier to have an intelligent conversation about diverting spare cash into your pension, for example.
Geo-spatial technology, which pulls in local information, can add further zing, perhaps to flag up a discount in a shop or the nearest physiotherapist available under the medical insurance scheme.
Blockchain is likely to make an appearance in future benefits roles. The beauty of this distributed ledger is the unchangeable, unarguable, verifiable dataset that moves with the user. Definitely a major benefit for holding details such as health and benefit selection information or recruitment files.
As more technology becomes available, selecting what’s right for your organisation is essential. But with technology helping to address some of the challenges of the modern workforce, it’s an exciting future.
The author is Dominic Manley, UK technology product manager, Aon.
This article was provided by Aon Employee Benefits.
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