Paul Nelson: Can technology ‘trump’ face-to-face benefit communications?

We all know the important role technology plays in delivering our benefits strategies.

Few companies would think too long or hard about dabbling in flex or voluntary colleague benefits without some robust technology underpinning benefits selection, driving backroom administration and moving data around the process.

Here technology is a facilitator, and whilst a fresh, intuitive, informative interface with great functionality will always be an asset, it’s the positioning, marketing and communication of our benefits that drives engagement. This is where technology could really turn the dial. 

Best of both worlds

Peddling of face-to-face communications as the optimum solution for benefits delivery may remain prevalent with some more traditional, archetypal and, dare I say, old fashioned benefits. 

And it may be the preferred medium for some demographics and ultimately perhaps an important part of the overall communications mix.

But it is slow, clunky, unresponsive and resource intensive. Campaigns take weeks, may be months to plan and execute rather than days, hours or minutes.

Where we can marry the intensity of face-to-face communications with the responsiveness and immediacy that technology brings, then the best of both worlds is at hand.

Google communities

Travis Perkins is a Google company, so we regularly use Google communities, a social media forum that allows colleagues with similar interests to post and discuss new ideas.

We established a Google community for our benefits brand, MyPerks, around two years ago. It started as a minor part of our comms strategy. We posted news about events, benefit changes and benefit launches.

Over a very short period of time the community grew significantly and colleagues began to use it to post issues, problems, complaints and ideas.

This was ideal because it meant we could deal with issues very quickly and the quick responses were positively received and widely shared.

A sounding board

Then we started to see colleagues sharing their experiences, tips and guidance on how to maximise the value of the benefits. We found that queries and questions were being answered by the community quicker than we could address them.

Benefit upsides and downsides were being discussed in a very balanced way and over a few months we effectively had a passionate MyPerks advocacy of around 1,500 community champions.

We now trial proposals with the community, they are an impassioned sounding board. We listen to their voice because they have no axe to grind, no motivation in a sale and they are passionate about MyPerks.

We now let selected suppliers respond directly to the group but only after the group takes a poll to allow access.

Face-to-face communication

We still get the intensity of face-to-face communication because our community members are in our businesses championing benefits they are passionate about, talking and discussing with their colleagues.

They bridge the gap quickly to less tech-savvy colleagues (although I’m not sure there as many of these as we might think – around 20,000 of our colleagues are registered on our online benefits portal), and give us a truly agile and flexible weapon in our benefits communication toolkit.

This article was written by Paul Nelson, group head of reward, Travis Perkins

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