Mobile-based benefits communications on the rise

Flexible-working patterns are vital to the UK economy, according to 97% of respondents to the Confederation of British Industry/Accenture Employment trends survey, published in December.

But the growing predominance of these types of working patterns means employers must be more creative how they communicate benefits to increasingly mobile workforces, for example using mobile-enabled technology and SMS text messaging.

Alex Thurley-Ratcliff, innovation and business development at Shilling, said: “All the work we’re being asked to do is around mobile platforms and mobile-responsive sites, and most of our employer clients are expecting that to be standard. We are now including text messaging for pensions websites, which is also becoming a standard requirement rather than an optional extra.”

Communicating with staff in more flexible ways is also necessary for employers with diverse workforces, such as those that are spread out geographically or that have assorted employee age and gender profiles.

Karen Edwards, business development director at Personal Group, said: “A workforce, for example in a logistics organisation, is out and about, so [employees] are not in front of screens all day and don’t have access to the internet.

“They might have a mobile-enabled [application] that they can access during the day or via their home computers as well.”

Smartphone technology

East Coast Mainline, which has more than 3,000 employees spread between Inverness and London, recently introduced smartphone technology for its guards and drivers, who need up-to-date operational information. The smartphones can also be used to send SMS texts about various benefits and reward developments.

Employees at Primark are also ideal targets for mobile-based communications. Thurley-Ratcliff, who works with Primark, added: “Its employees don’t have computer terminals that they sit at each day, but they’ve all got smartphones because they’re all aged under 25.

“That’s a really good way to get to that workforce. If you’ve got an older, stable, more desk-based population, then email will still do. It’s relatively easy to bolt on both so why not do both?”

But Edenred’s Benefits insight: trends for benefits in 2014 research, published in January, found just 14% of respondents ranked mobile channels as one of their three priorities in the year ahead, while only 23% thought mobile channels represented an opportunity to drive increased take up of benefits in their organisation.

Online benefits portal

However, many employers are continuing to make strides in catering to employees’ diverse needs. For example, in December 2013, Care UK launched an online benefits portal to ensure its 22,000 staff all have access to its reward scheme.

The health and social care provider employs thousands of staff, such as nurses and care workers, who do not have regular access to a computer or the organisation’s intranet during the working day.

Meanhwile, charity Trident Reach launched a touch-screen kiosk at the end of 2013, with the aim to help its employees access financial and wellbeing benefits more flexibly.

The kiosk, which enables staff to access discounts and healthcare policies provided by BHSF and existing savings accounts with Citysave Credit Union, is available 24/7 to help people who do not have access to a computer or have time to visit a branch to manage day-to-day financial matters.

Online pension reports

Also at the end of 2013, IBM launched online pensions reports to make it easier for staff to stay informed about developments in its trust-based defined contribution (DC) pension scheme and two defined benefit pension plans.

“Most employers are looking at incorporating as much as possible, rather than just one focus of communication, because they have got quite diverse workforces, such as age and gender profiles,” said Edwards.

“This has a bearing on how [employers] communicate. It is about making sure they embed in the importance of whatever they’re communicating so [staff] identify with it and it is something they want to open.”

What employers are doing: