Online benefits technology: what we can learn from shoe shopping


When it comes to making significant decisions about workplace benefits, it’s important for employees to know what’s on offer and what’s relevant to them at any one point in their life. To follow this successfully, we have to make it easy for them make a ‘purchase’ or change their information.

shoe shopping

I liken it to shoe shopping online. I don’t want to see all the hundreds of pairs that might be on sale (but I could if I wanted to). I want to make certain selections around type of shoe, size, colour and style and then be shown a range that I can choose from. One day, I might want a pair of boots and the next I might want a pair of black evening shoes.

It’s this same approach that we need to take regarding communication and engagement around workplace benefits: treat it as a shopping experience and a buying decision.

Sole benefits

Having the right information to help inform is imperative, but we shouldn’t overwhelm employees and try to tell them everything upfront and at once. We need to educate, as well as illustrate, at a high level but then help employees focus on the right thing, at the right time and in the right way (“Right here, right now!” as Fatboy Slim would say!)

It might seem like a simplistic analogy but in the same way as I might suddenly need a pair of shoes for a wedding, I might also need to add another family member to my life cover, or increase my pension contributions depending on my circumstances.

Employers need to be able to facilitate this simply and efficiently and I would suggest that the best way to do this is through online technology.

An online platform helps with engagement around workplace rewards because everything is focussed on the employee as an individual and it can communicate with them in an accessible way - for example around areas that they have identified as being important to them or nudge them towards particular outcomes (based on the data it holds or usage experience). 

For example, if protection is highlighted as an area of importance by the employee, then they should be able to see if they need any more life cover and if so, how much it is, how to buy it and how it might fit with the income protection scheme that is already in place.

Wide fit

Technology also allows employers to widen out workplace benefits and think about including broader financial issues (holistic financial planning) as well as areas around emotional and physical wellbeing both at home and at work. It can provide a retail shopping experience: information, education, engagement and purchase.

There also needs to be a meeting of ‘workplace’ and ‘homeplace’ in terms of access to information and solutions for employees - facilitating choices and transactions for an individual across both of these areas. What happens in their home life has an impact upon productivity and interactions at work so the two should no longer be taken in isolation.

Julia Turney is head of platform and engagement at Barnett Waddingham.

This article was provided by Barnett Waddingham.


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