Digital HR: Three trends you can’t avoid

by Pete Craghill, CTO at Thomsons Online Benefits

At the start of the year Bersin by Deloitte Predictions for 2016, highlighted that digital life is “forcing us to rethink HR from top to bottom”. However, recent research has found that few HR professionals make the most of the technology available to them. With 67.7% of employees stating that they prefer to access their benefits via digital tools, it is surprising that only half of employers (51%) reported to offer this today. [1]

Employees are increasingly used to easy, effortless, and highly intuitive software experiences across all of their devices outside of their workplace. And they now expect the same real-time communications internally and across HR services. If these expectations are not met, it can create a negative impact on engagement.

Bersin predicts a major move towards “digital HR”, stating that although “IT will help HR build apps and adopt the right infrastructure, it is HR’s job to design apps that are as easy to use as Facebook and Instagram”. So the question is not ‘if’ but ‘when’ will HR functions increase their use of technology to engage with their employees?

And our research has highlighted this move. Introducing a user-friendly employee-facing benefits portal is the top benefits technology investment priority for over half (55%) of HR professionals [2], with 44% of organisations [3] looking to introduce online tools in the coming year.

As you look to evaluate or implement HR technology solutions, here are three trends in particular that we feel make technology so important to your HR strategy:

The device mesh
People’s habits have changed and technology now touches every part of their lives at work and on the move – there are now 6.4 billion connected devices in use worldwide. This trend is referred to as ‘the device mesh’, and Gartner believes it has the potential to “profoundly impact an organisation’s long-term plans, programmes and initiatives”.

Workers increasingly want to use one of their multiple devices to access HR services at the office, from home, and while travelling. This presents a great opportunity for the HR function to connect and engage with employees. Considering that the average person checks their phone 27 times a day, a huge number of organisations are missing the chance to differentiate themselves with an engaging and user-friendly mobile benefits platform. By embedding technology across all initiatives and programmes to mesh with devices, you can communicate with employees at many more locations, times and devices.

Wearables and wellness
The growth of wearables due to a rise in healthcare awareness [4] has opened up new ways for companies to personalise employee benefits and improve health and happiness. These can help affect productivity, as well as provide valuable insight. If employees were struggling to sleep, for example, after-work yoga sessions could help them unwind and enjoy a more peaceful evening. Or just imagine going to the gym or for a run, and having your employer top up your holiday time as a reward.

Rate of innovation
Many organisations are already taking great strides in the innovative use of technology. One of our clients, for example, ran a communications campaign using an augmented reality application. The app encourages employees to engage with their benefits scheme on a regular basis by interacting with posters and so on around the office. Employers that struggle to keep up with these mobile-friendly options could find their benefits scheme is left behind as employees become increasingly engaged by innovations on their devices. This is why it is so important to differentiate your offering through an accessible and engaging mobile benefits platform.

To keep employees happy and productive, there should be proactive investment in forward-thinking HR and benefits technology. The software should adapt to change (pensions legislation is a prime example), but also be user friendly with a mobile-responsive and simple user interface. It can open up employee accessibility to their benefits information and help to keep them informed, as well as guide and educate them into making good financial decisions.

Globally and across sectors, businesses are experiencing a growing demand for personalisation and customisation, from both customers and employees. The growing number of connected devices plays a significant role in achieving this. By increasing the number of touchpoints, technology is paving the way for new, more agile business processes that empower the workforce and allow organisations to engage their employees in fundamentally new ways.

[1] Thomsons, 2016/2017 Global Employee Benefits Watch report

[2] Thomsons, 2015, Global Employee Benefits Watch report

[3] Thomsons, 2015, Global Employee Benefits Watch report

[4] Global Industry analysts, Inc., 2015, The Global Wearable Medical Device Market – Trends, Drivers & projections