Need to know:
- Benefits technology should be fully accessible to every employee, no matter their personal situation, in order to promote an inclusive working environment.
- Technology allows for greater inclusion by reaching a wide range of ages, demographics and remote staff, including those with disabilities who may find standard communication tools difficult to access.
- Employers can use data from benefits technology to personalise communications, providing choices, information and tools that are relevant to staff.
The Future of work report, published by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) in 2015, predicted that multi-generational working would become increasingly common as people delay retiring until their 70s or even 80s.
The UK workforce has indeed diversified in this way, while flexible, remote and mobile working patterns are becoming more common, due largely to the technological capabilities now available to organisations.
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Technology has a significant role to play, not only in helping find more diverse ways of working, but also in facilitating diversity among the workforce itself.
Employee benefits technology must consider five core aspects: access, relevance, impact, simplicity and emotion, according to Jon Bryant, director, online and communications at Aon Employee Benefits.
“This means, from a technical perspective, each and every page is fully accessible, alongside the provision of web chat and telephone-based support services for those who can’t access some or all of the information,” he explains.
This can help employers meet their obligations under the Equality Act 2010, which includes the newest iteration of the Disability Discrimination Act, applicable across the UK, excluding Northern Ireland.
Choice and communication
With the right technology, employers can offer a comprehensive range of benefits, appealing to each employee and truly reflecting the diversity of the workforce. Meanwhile, an electronic communication portal can reach remote staff, bringing information to their fingertips.
Joy Waugh, senior project manager at Zest Benefits, says: “Those working in a different location or who are away from work for personal reasons, parental leave or prolonged illness, as well as those who simply have different needs, can be included in communications with ease [by using an electronic portal].”
By ensuring that employees can choose benefits that suit their lifestyle, and that they have the ability to change them when and where they want to, employers are able to demonstrate their responsiveness to the changing needs of a diverse workforce.
“Being able to dynamically reassess needs at any time, rather than imposing rigid timescales, means the employee’s benefits can mirror their circumstances as needed,” adds Waugh.
Using technology anywhere
A growing number of employers are rolling out mobile apps to provide staff with the easiest possible access to benefit selections. According to the Global Employee Benefits Watch report, published by Thomsons Online Benefits in September 2018, 38% of benefits professionals currently provide platform access from a mobile.
Joe Gaunt, chief executive officer at technology platform provider Hero, explains: “Employee A might be a fit ultra-marathon runner, but can’t sleep, so they [need] support around sleep. Employee B might be stressed at the moment, so they [need] support around mental resilience.
“[This technology] has been purposely designed to meet the needs of an evolving workforce, some of whom work remotely and who indeed may have additional accessibility needs. Organisations recognise that they can no longer ignore the need to offer a holistic and comprehensive wellbeing solution.”
Engaging everyone everywhere
Technology reaches a wider range of employees by offering various platforms for engagement, whether this caters for differences in ability, or simply preference.
Samantha Seaton, chief executive officer at money management app provider Moneyhub, says: “Access via a device like Alexa ensures that those whose vision isn’t that great, or who struggle to use a smartphone keypad, or who simply prefer to hear the information than read it, can all benefit from financial help and support.”
Making the data work
Engagement is one of the most significant challenges when it comes to diversity and inclusion, not only in terms of ensuring that all employees are aware of the rewards and benefits available to them, but also in making all staff feel equally valued and included.
Technology aids in these endeavours by allowing for a tailored, flexible package unique to each employee, while facilitating access and communications across the full spectrum of demographics and capabilities.
In addition, the technology underlying inclusive benefits platforms and systems can deliver the data to enable employers to personalise information and better understand the needs of their own workforce.
“Employers need to make use of all data points they are able to use, so everything is completely personalised,” says Bryant. “Why would [employees] want to see choices, information, tools that aren’t relevant to [their] life, as [they] live it, now?”