Rosemary Lemon: Technology must work hand-in-hand with human presence

There needs to be a balance of technology versus real human interaction. I am a firm believer in the use of technology as a means of ensuring information can reach all employees quickly, for streamlining administration and to give easy, quick access to important benefits while on the move or out of the office.

However, I also think that there is a place for technology and we mustn’t lose sight of the value of face-to-face human interaction, especially when it comes to communicating complex benefits issues.

Hays’ approach

During 2016, we tried to harness the best use of our technology, along with actual face-to-face meetings, in order to reposition our benefits and raise awareness of them with our employees.

Our flexible benefits plan, “You Choose”, aims to offer benefits that our wide demographic of employees value and which meet their individual needs and lifestyles throughout their career.

However, feedback from our engagement survey indicated that not everyone felt the benefits on offer met their needs.

We want engaged employees who are enthusiastic, focused on our business and able to do the best work possible, therefore it is very important to us that our benefits help employees and are valued.

Benefits platform design can help convey the right message

In order to raise awareness of the value and usefulness of our benefits and to encourage employees to think differently about them, we re-organised all our benefits into five new categories: My Health, My Money, My Life, My Environment and My Learning & Development.

These formed the overall concept of My Wellbeing. We redesigned our You Choose platform to reflect this concept.

Easy access, easy process, easy payments – great uses of technology

Our You Choose platform allows employees to both select benefits that the company provides and pick voluntary benefits that they pay for themselves, but which we aim to provide at a lower price than otherwise would be available outside Hays. Payments are spread over the year and automatically deducted from payroll to help budgeting.

During 2016, we introduced an employee loan scheme via SalaryFinance. This has a quick online application process and repayments are again automatically deducted from payroll. Pension contributions can be updated on the platform at regular intervals throughout the year.

Our Employee Assistance Programme has a mobile app giving access to a wide variety of topics on a database that can be viewed at any time.  Technology plays an important role here – easy, instant access to information and the associated benefits, an easy process to select or apply, and an easy payment facility that helps with managing money.

You can’t beat face-to-face interaction when communicating complex issues

Our communication to employees is dependent on the subject we want to highlight. We can make sure that everyone receives information via email and the intranet.

However, we also ensure that employees can talk to someone when we have important information to share or complex subjects to discuss. We brief the HR business partners and regional operations managers, we provide presentation packs to be cascaded to local managers for them to discuss with their teams and we organise face-to-face presentations; for example, on the changes to pension annual allowance regulations, where people want to be able to ask questions and really understand the situation.

This combination of repositioning our benefits, and making selective use of both technology and human contact for communication and administration has had positive feedback, succeeded in raising awareness and increased the take-up of our benefits.  

Choose and use wisely

There is no doubt that benefit technology will continue to evolve – in terms of the administrative platforms and access to information, as well as the development of actual benefits. I recently saw an amazing use of mobile technology to allow somebody to receive a medical diagnosis when they have no immediate access to a doctor.

However, I think we have to choose and use technology wisely. Just because someone has access to something doesn’t mean they automatically look at it or understand it. There is a place for technology but it needs to go hand-in-hand with personal communication and human presence.  

This article was written by Rosemary Lemon, group head of reward, Hays

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