In recent years, an increasingly international working landscape, where skills and expertise are shared across borders, has led HR teams to place growing importance on creating globally consistent employee experiences. This has led many to develop overarching reward and benefits strategies to sit across their enterprises, while trying to retain local nuance in the benefits actually offered at a market level.
The Covid-19 pandemic has added a layer of complexity to this picture. With large swathes of the workforce now working remotely, accepted workplace structures have been called into question. Business leaders are having to consider the role of the workplace – and the implications new ways of working will have on reward schemes.
A global network of home workers
Our research found that achieving a globally consistent employee experience is a ‘high priority’ for 81 percent of HR teams in 2020.
With many of us looking set to work from home for some time to come, it’s more important than ever for people to feel engaged and connected with their jobs while still having a consistent experience, no matter where they’re based. Enterprise technology helps to provide this consistency.
Technology for the individual
The pandemic has spotlighted differences within workforces. For example, some employees have had to juggle unforeseen childcare needs with work, while others have needed to shield for the sake of loved ones or their own health. Now, some are keen to get back to the office, whilst others want to combine remote and office-based work.
Previously it’s been easy to see different employees as homogenous groups depending on where they’re based, for example in the London or New York office. But new, blended ways of working, make this impossible and mean HR teams have no choice but to consider employee needs individually; essentially, everyone needs something different from their reward package.
Embracing intelligent reward platforms that allow employees to access benefits pots can help personalize the reward experience. This allows employees to choose how their funding is allocated, whether that’s opting for at-home workout equipment, virtual healthcare plans or support with child or elder care. If people can choose the support and benefits that make the most difference to their lives, they’re much more likely to feel valued by their employer, boosting engagement and company loyalty.
Technology for the boardroom
With the impacts of coronavirus hitting profits and productivity hard for some, companies may need to tighten their purse strings. Offering a technology-led benefits experience not only gives employees a better experience, but it also gives HR teams access to data on spend and uptake. This is important, considering that 42 percent of companies are investing the equivalent of 20 percent or more of an employees’ salary on benefits.
It also allows teams to respond to emerging requirements quickly. For example, during the pandemic telehealth and virtual healthcare may have been top of people’s benefits list, with access to GPs surgeries and routine medical appointments disrupted. At the same time, benefits that make the commute easier such as travel loans may have become redundant. Investing in such schemes when uptake is low could be an unnecessary strain on the company coffers.
Access to data insights and analytics allows companies to forecast when peaks in expenditure are likely and can help balance a company’s investment against employee requirement. Furthermore, with lack of board-level buy-in cited as one of the top barriers to increased HR technology investment, being armed with information that provides evidence of benefit to the whole company, could help strengthen the relationship between HR and the C-Suite. Ultimately, being able to demonstrate ROI can help HR teams unlock further investment and deliver even better results for people and the business.
Technology for HR teams
Bringing all regions onto the same page and the same technology systems allows for an accessible, holistic view of benefits and reward. It makes it easier for HR teams to reach all employees and help everyone engage in their benefits. Best of breed systems also make it easier to test out new benefits, with plug and play functions allowing teams to see what works and adjust accordingly.
Historically, the HR sector has lagged behind in its use of data analytics. But the pandemic quickly divided HR departments into ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. Those with robust data analytics capabilities in place were at a real advantage. These businesses were able to quickly map changes in benefits demand, uptake and expenditure, and pivot their offering, communications and benefits strategy in response.
However, many others are still playing catch up – and these are doubly disadvantaged. Without data, they’ll struggle to develop an effective benefits strategy, or provide the additional wellbeing support that all employees, whether working from home or on the front line, now need. Without automated systems and strong data analysis, many must rely on out-of-date, cumbersome or risky processes. These delay support for employees and add to the administrative burden for teams.
At present almost 78 percent of HR teams are using Excel to analyze data, with one in five spending over 15 hours a month transferring it between systems. Using time-consuming legacy systems means teams have less time for more valuable activities such as responding to the evolving needs of the workforce, or instituting changes that create a consistent global experience.
The road ahead
The impact of the pandemic isn’t set to diminish any time soon and we’re all continuously adapting to the new normal. Now more than ever businesses need to think individually if they’re to retain the best people when the dust has settled. What employees expect from their employer is shifting for good – flexibility and a personal experience are more important than ever before. Embracing technologies that give businesses the insights they need to respond quickly to change will ultimately empower HR teams to make better decisions for the company. In short, they’ll be able to help balance the books while prioritizing employee experience and getting more for and from their people.
Chris Bruce, Managing Director, Thomsons Online Benefits