The digital transformation we’ve seen in the past ten years has been nothing short of phenomenal. We’re now in a world where you have access to global communities, digitalised finances and a plethora of ecommerce platforms all at your – literal – fingertips. We have grown used to constant connection and near-instant gratification; we can order goods online and have them in our homes within 24 hours. We live in a fast-paced, user-driven society.
But we often see that employee benefits haven’t quite caught up. Users expect intuitive platforms, easily-to-access technology and live financial insights; a similar experience to the B2C platforms they know and love. For many employees, this isn’t the experience they get from their employee benefits platforms. It’s not surprising – getting it right is incredibly difficult; employers have to balance creating an appropriate strategy, delivering an excellent experience, communicating it effectively, whilst also balancing costs, mitigating risks and return-on-investment to the business.
So what can we learn and apply from digital disruptors?
Amazon are a fantastic example of a clear strategy which they deliver on consistently.
Jeff Bezos succinctly defined the pillars behind their customer-first approach; “we’ve had three big ideas at Amazon that we’ve stuck with for 18 years, and they’re the reason we’re successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient.” Amazon’s customer-centric focus is evident across their website; their entire digital experience is based around consumer expectations (even if some of those have been aggressively redefined by Amazon themselves). The overarching focus is clear; the customer is king.
However, when it comes to strategic direction, in employee benefits we often see the opposite. In many organisations, benefits have developed so organically they often don’t have a strategic roadmap. Moreover, many companies still don’t undertake any employee research to understand the support required or most importantly what people think and feel. Implementing a clear, employee-led strategy will underpin your direction of travel, and help define the goals and KPIs which shape and measure success.
When it comes to engaging employees with their benefits, there’s a paradoxical disconnect in how employers perceive employee engagement and how this is actioned. The Aon Benefits and Trends Survey 2021 shows that benefits engagement is important for 98% of businesses, but only a third of businesses have an engagement strategy for their employee benefits.
Netflix is a perfect example of the importance of relevant content – they have a short window to engage their users with their platform, before they potentially disappear elsewhere. Their sole purpose is to provide entertainment to users, and engaging users with the content on offer will reduce churn and increase satisfaction. By investing heavily in algorithms underpinned by machine learning, they are increasing the likelihood of consumer engagement (and, crucially, retention).
Employers don’t need invest millions in algorithms, but the core principles are the same – understand what’s important to employees, know their interests, and serve a personalised curated view in a user-friendly format.
There are plenty of examples of good digital experiences – those which enhance the customer journey, slick and frustration-free. One of the stand-out examples is Uber, who have completely transformed the ride-hailing process in the past few years. For consumers, they have provided transparency around availability, location and cost of booking a taxi service. In comparison to the traditional alternative, Uber are providing a revolutionary experience; you don’t need to pre-arrange your transportation or wait in the rain for a vacant cab to drive down the street you’re on.
Companies can take a similar approach by removing barriers to employee benefits. Broadly, these are accessibility and communication. In order to provide the best possible experience for users, employee benefits should be easily available (ideally through multiple channels including an App), and they should be communicated clearly – covering what they are, why they’re important and how employees can opt-in (or out).
With over 70 million songs and podcasts for people to choose from, Spotify have perhaps one of the biggest yet simplest product catalogues. Everything can be neatly categorised – by artist, by album, by genre, by year – combined with user-generated playlists and Spotify’s own bespoke categorisations.
Despite the vast scale of their inventory, Spotify manages to not overwhelm the user – and a similar presentation can be taken with employee benefits. As you start to add more to your offering, it can be easy to overwhelm employees with too much choice or complex processes to access the full range of benefits provided. Streamlining your benefits and enabling employee’s flexibility whilst utilising machine learning to improve relevance can go a long way in creating a more effective offering.
Spotify also has an impressive way of engaging users through aggregated data analysis; once a year, their ‘Spotify Wrapped’ initiative presents a personalised celebratory review of each users’ listening habits over the previous twelve months. It’s clearly engaging, and very effective – every year, social media platforms are awash with users sharing screenshots of neatly packaged data. It’s a trick that can be emulated by employee benefits platforms; total reward statements are able to present an employee’s total package across compensation, benefits and pension – which can drive enhanced value perception and increase company appeal.
Until recently, personal banking hasn’t been particularly user-friendly; think booking appointments with a bank manager to open an account, paying in cheques in-person, or receiving long, itemised account statements in the post. Disruptor banks such as Monzo have recently transformed banking as we known it; taking a digital-first approach and putting their mobile app front and centre of their digital strategy has helped them redefine the banking experience.
Their technology allows users to create a bespoke experience that works for them – whether that’s setting financial goals or segmenting their finances into customised virtual pots – and bundles it together with a slick presentation of forecast expenditure, real-time push notifications and categorised expenses. Not only is the technology accessible, but traditionally dry information has been transformed into colourful, interesting dashboards. Instead of trawling through receipts or statements, a user can now see the percentage breakdown of their spending – making the information itself more accessible, insightful and actionable. The same logic can be applied to employee benefits; a revamped data presentation could do a far more effective job at engaging younger generations with their pensions forecasts or illustrating the potential benefits of income protection or life insurance.
As the digital landscape evolves even further, we will undoubtedly start to see a shift towards adopting these B2C ‘trends’ in B2B applications. But regardless of industry, application or outcome, there is one very clear uniting theme across all these disruptor companies: technology might be the channel, but it is always underpinned by a strong strategy, clear employee understanding, and effective communication.
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