Need to know:
- Technology has been a key asset in helping organisations and their workforces adapt to remote working patterns.
- Technology will be important in order to support employees working flexibly for the foreseeable future.
- Benefits portals are likely to become important tools that employers can use to both facilitate access to benefits and to communicate through.
The role of technology throughout the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has been invaluable in helping organisations to adapt to remote ways of working.
With the latest government guidelines recommending that people work from home where they can, utilising technology gives employers a pipeline with which to provide access to valuable benefits and information. Employee Benefits’ Benefits research 2020, published in June, found that 84% of employers offer some form of benefits technology, including intranets, provider websites, rewards portals and apps. But has the pandemic had a major bearing on the development of technology?
With a large number of workforces working remotely, employers are looking for ways of promoting benefits through technology; benefits platforms are an effective way of reaching all employees. James Knight, senior vice president of data and analytics at Thomsons Online Benefits, says: “Those [employers] which had flexible platforms with in-built analytics capabilities were able to take this one step further. These businesses were able to analyse changing benefits usage and adapt their offering accordingly, or introduce new benefits to meet the fast-evolving needs of their workforce.”
Having a platform in place gives an employer a means of communicating and engaging employees with benefits in place of the usual physical promotions.
“With the future uncertain, it is likely we will see more and more organisations adopt these technologies in a bid to create more agile benefits offerings, able to flex to their workforce’s changing needs,” adds Knight.
Many organisations may adopt remote-working practices well into the foreseeable future, and large organisations, such as Facebook, Google, and Fujitsu, have already extended their flexible-working policies to 2021 and beyond. However, this may mean employees do not always receive access to, and information about, their benefits if the right technology channels are not in place.
The vast amount of change the world has experienced in the past year has prompted employers to think carefully about how they interact with employees and how they promote benefits, says Ashley Doody, chief information officer at Personal Group. “Employers are needing to increase their technology spend to increase productivity and engagement, through equipment and new inventions in benefits technology,” he says. “Having a [wellbeing] technology dashboard or an engagement check-up through a new technology system [for example] can massively aid this.”
Doody adds that he has also seen growth in employers reinventing their benefits technology provision through online reward platforms and interactive feedback sessions.
The rise in the use of technology during the pandemic has created a lot of ideas for future innovations. “What we do know is that this period of uncertainty will catalyse the adoption of sophisticated solutions already on the market,” says Knight. “The pandemic has clearly highlighted a world of ‘haves and have nots’ when it comes to benefits technology. Those organisations with online benefits platforms already in place were able to continue supporting their employees as many transitioned to remote working.”
Additionally, there has been a rise in the usage of apps for accessing benefits, particularly for wellbeing and health support.
Sammy Rubin, chief executive at Yulife, says: “Innovative healthcare and wellbeing apps are incredibly important both now and in the future to engage employees with new benefits. Due to remote working becoming a common trend for businesses, we will continue to see more [employers] adopt these new apps that offer the most effective benefits during times of uncertainty.”
Additionally, online benefits platforms have been crucial for organisations that have looked to ensure that employees use the benefits that they offer even when working remotely. “Benefits platforms and apps have been a lifesaver introduction that predominately offer physical benefits to employees, through these innovations in technology, businesses have been able to transfer all of their benefits onto a portal where all employees can view and access, which has made the whole experience more accessible and effective to use for employees working remotely, adds Knight.
The pandemic has further created new developments in the way that employers have adjusted their benefits offering. Ian Bird, partner at Secondsight, says: “[Organisations] have started to create more robust strategies for the future through [the] flexibility that providers now [offer] through benefits platforms, where employees can choose from a wide range of perks.
“Online classes and video sessions are aspects that have been very common among [organisations] since the Coronavirus pandemic started to instil restrictions on the way we work.”
Additionally, one-to-one sessions, organisation-wide webinars, and virtual workshops have been key assets for employers that have looked for alternative ways to continue to offer access to benefits.
Finding an effective way to offer benefits remotely is a key priority for employers. Bird says: “The world of work has been pushed forward 10 years because of the pandemic, where the office is more of a flexible asset that employees can access when they prefer,” says Bird. “The only way to show their support for staff is through digital, which why technology plays a big part in benefits now and in the future.”
Many employers offer a benefits portal, and these are likely to become more important as a means of giving employees access to choice that best suits their personal situations. In times of uncertainty, the choice of benefits available through a flexible reward platform is highly valued by employees, says Ken Charman, chief executive at uFlexReward. “The traditional approach of offering benefits is to supply choice within a narrow framework of pre-brokered deals,” he says. “In this new age with employees working from home, it can be difficult to understand the best needs of a workforce, which is why a flexible benefits technology platform can be the most effective way to execute a benefits offering.”
Portals can also act as a hub to house all the relevant information about an employee’s reward package. “At Secondsight, we offer new virtual benefits to support the needs of our remote workforce through wellbeing and financial education advice, so this is the way businesses may go in offering an all-encompassing experience for employees through a portal system,” says Bird.
The effective use of benefits technology, therefore, can offer employers vital support during times of great change by facilitating access to, and helping to communicate, employees’ reward packages.