Connect the dots: three advantages of a benefits ecosystem

Authored by David Dodd, Consulting Director, Thomsons Online Benefits

Do you remember ‘Connect the dots’, the childhood game that kept you busy for hours? By connecting dot one all the way up to dot 100 or further, you revealed a hidden picture on the page. The picture was already there, it just needed you to join up the dots to create the end result. Without connecting them up, they were just numbers on a page. This idiom can be used to look at a concept that has recently entered the HR space; the benefits ecosystem.

Employers with a benefits ecosystem in place have connected all of their HR platforms and systems together. For example, their payroll system, talent & recognition programme, attendance software and even their learning and development platform may be linked. With all these systems connected to each other, employers can put their employees at the centre and provide the ultimate employee experience. In fact, our latest research found that employers with a benefits ecosystem are twice as effective at offering the benefits their employees actually want.

The good news is, you’re likely to already have some of your HR platforms and systems in place. You just need to take a step back, look at the bigger picture and connect up the dots. Let’s take a look at some of the advantages of having a benefits ecosystem.

Consumer grade-experience
Employees demand a consumer-grade experience when accessing and selecting their benefits, just like they do at home with their shopping, social media and banking. With a benefits ecosystem in place, you can provide employees with one platform to select their benefits, book their annual leave, check their payslip, purchase their childcare vouchers, and more. Employers who are further centralising their HR offering have also made all systems accessible to employees from this one platform using single sign-on. The result? Happy employees who are loyal to your organisation and twice as likely to make good benefit decisions (according to our research).

As well as providing a consumer-grade experience, having all your HR systems and platforms linked together can provide a more personalised experience for each employee. This is because the systems can share relevant employee data with each other to personalise the offering. For example, you may want to send personalised communications to your Gen Y employees who typically have university debt and want to save for short term. With a benefits ecosystem, the demographic data from your HR system can feed into your benefits portal to ensure relevant information is shown to them, such as shopping discounts and financial education on budgeting.

Reduced administration
Once the bigger picture is complete and your previously disparate HR systems and platforms are acting as one, many processes will become automated. This will effectively remove the manual intervention of your HR team between your employees and your providers. An example is with auto-enrolment. Firstly, your HRIS can feed employee financial information into your benefits portal to ensure an employee is eligible to auto-enrol. Then, the employee can log into their benefits portal to select their pension contribution. This information is then reported into payroll and sent to the pension provider, all without manual intervention.

As a result of these automated processes, this reduces the time HR teams spend on administration, freeing them up to work on other value-add activities. This could save money too – imagine if the digital processes in your benefits ecosystem could reduce the headcount of your HR team?

Employee data
Connecting your HR systems and platforms can bring together your disparate data points to provide rich, holistic data on your employees. With this understanding of your people, you can improve your strategy and your benefits offering which will improve employee engagement. For example, by looking at data on employee absence and PMI claims in the winter, you can run employee wellbeing campaigns with top tips to avoid becoming unwell.

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You can also use your benefits ecosystem to provide evidence of return on investment. Our research found that employers with a benefits ecosystem are twice as effective at demonstrating ROI to their key stakeholders. For example, knowing the most selected benefits or most popular HR training courses will help you decide what to invest in going forward.

Now that you know the advantages of having a benefits ecosystem, it’s time to map yours out! Ensure you understand all of your HR platforms and systems and how they are (or can be) connected together. Don’t forget to be strategic – think about what you are trying to achieve. Once you have your benefits ecosystem in place, you’ll reap the rewards with engaged employees and reduced administration time. It’s time to look at the bigger picture, put pen to paper and connect the dots!