How can employers use data to personalise a benefits proposition

Need to know:

  • Data is helping organisations understand the needs of employees.
  • Information can come from HR systems, surveys or employee-listening exercises.
  • Employers can use insight to deliver personalised benefit offerings for individuals or generations.

The use of data to help shape benefits strategy and decisions is becoming increasingly important as employers strive to understand what employees really want. Data can come from employee-listening exercises such as surveys, usage rates from HR or benefits packages, or wider information about the demographics of a workforce.

Matt Frost, director, organisational wellbeing, at Gallagher, says: “Combining human resources information system (HRIS) data with behaviour-based data is where the magic happens. Firms should investigate the key words its people are searching for on the intranet or benefits site, and who’s recently changed their pension contribution, got married, moved house, had a new addition to the family or any other type of life-changing event. These data points can then be combined to create a more rounded picture of the individual and enable employers to truly personalise content.”

Personalised nudges

This can then be used to create personalised nudges and notifications, such as when an employee registers a new life event like the birth or adoption of a child on their HR system. The system will then highlight relevant benefits available to them.

Such exercises can also be done on the basis of individuals’ ages, or stages of life. For example, the number of people owning their own home rises to 52% among those aged 25-34, from only 10% of 18-24-year-olds, according to the Financial Conduct Authority’s Financial lives survey, published in February 2021. Mark Pemberthy, benefits consulting leader at Buck, says: “If an organisation has a large number of employees in the 25 to 34-year-old group, the chances are that buying a first house and all the associated implications will be quite a dominant factor in the financial and personal lives of their employees.” Solutions and HR policies that recognise these prevailing life events are much more likely to resonate with employees.”

Employee opinion

Speaking to people directly, though, can also be hugely effective. Jeff Fox, principal, health, at Aon, gives the example of a client that wanted to review its existing employee value proposition, and conducted a neuroscience-led employee listening exercise. “Unlike a traditional survey, using a neuroscience-led approach revealed a real stigma around mental health among the predominantly male employee base,” he says. “There was also a perception that the [employer] was not supporting stress, or enabling social and physical health. As a result, our strategy focused on both the prevention and treatment of ill-health.”

Getting to know what makes a team tick can also be done informally. Toby Hough, director of people and culture at HiBob, says: “Maybe the whole team loves travel, so you offer a company trip as a big perk. Maybe millennial employees love working from home on Wednesdays. Businesses need to look at the trends across the workforce, and specifically within their [organisation], then create the personalised benefits package.”

For those working in HR and benefits, having regular insight into what employees need and want, at a time when new pressures are emerging rapidly, can only be good news. As Gethin Nadin, chief innovation officer at HR and payroll firm Zellis, says: “Using content preferencing and engagement data can tell us what employees want and need now, not when the last data set was available, and that’s a game-changer for benefit design. The reward for HR is a far better understanding of [their] people than we have ever seen in employee benefits.”