User experience (UX) and employee benefits schemes

User experience and employee benefits

by Sophie Gane

No matter how wonderful a product can be, its usability can make or break how much you value it. I had been meaning to read Les Misérables, but honestly the thought of lugging around a book which can double-up as an igloo brick had completely negated any interest I had in reading it.  That, and the fact that it turns out there’s no singing in the novel. Hugely disappointing. Then the Kindle came along, and even a confirmed technophobe such as myself had to admit that this made the entire process of reading on-the-go very much easier. Amazon took an important, irreplaceable (yes, I said it) product, and crafted it into a medium that better suits the pace and progress of the 21st century.

The same could be said of your employee benefits schemes. Where once you had a cafeteria plan and a million pieces of paper, which – if anything – just over-complicated the already arduous nature of a pension scheme, you now have an app in your pocket which does all of your calculations for you and shows you exactly what you’ve saved. We don’t need to tell you how important it is to have employee benefits software in place, but one of the things which you will need to consider is, how user-friendly is it? Because, in a nutshell, there’s little point in offering fantastic benefits if your software delivers a terrible user experience. If your medium is too complex, unintuitive, and inaccessible, your employees will frankly lose interest, and all the advantages of offering great benefits could just go out the window.

Where to begin…
In general, there are always two sides to a rewarding user experience: It meets user expectations, and it achieves business objectives. Finding a perfect synergy of the two is difficult, but key to a successful user experience. The user journey must align to the user’s motivations and behaviour, and facilitate the main task or goals they want to achieve, while at the same time reconciling these with business imperatives and success parameters. Ensuring that both sides of this coin are supported will be to the advantage of all. Take Pinterest, for example.  They offer you an array of images and ideas to share, available and just as easy to use in both desktop and mobile formats, as long as you give them your details first. You get yours, they get theirs.

Using UX to keep your employees engaged
If the user is engaged, you are probably achieving both your objectives of meeting their expectations as well as accomplishing your business imperatives. In terms of user experience, think of a time when you’ve tried to do some online shopping. When internet shopping first arrived, it was slow, difficult to navigate, and most of the time, you’d just give up and go to Sainsbury’s yourself because it was easier. That’s a bad user experience. The last thing you need your benefits software to do is drive people to this kind of action. Luckily it’s now 2016 and we have Amazon’s 1-Click. Emulating a similar UX system within your benefits software will help keep your employees engaged. These kinds of apps are familiar, intuitive, enjoyable to use, and empathetic to the user’s needs.

But manage your user’s expectations…
A possible hurdle you have to overcome is, where employee benefits are becoming such a selling point for recruitment, they are being ‘sold’ commercially to your employees. Coupled with your snazzy Amazon-esque EB software, you are mirroring consumer purchasing. However, the product which is being ‘bought’ by the employee is not tangible and has a longer lifecycle than their consumer products, so maintaining the engagement across the whole journey will be easier said than done. This is where your communication – including follow-up communication within the software – is key in upholding this engagement. Naturally, it’s also a more complex field than normal consumables; there is a mountain of jargon to conquer and you need to be careful about not overloading the user with information.

Simple and transparent
With all this in mind, you need to simplify the journey of the user. This is where your software needs to be intuitive so that the user instinctively knows how to navigate it; there isn’t any room for making the user figure out how to get to where they need to go. Plain, streamlined text and familiar symbols or diagrams are a must. The ergonomics of the design are also essential to ensuring an organic experience. The software should align physically with the user’s natural actions, e.g. the most critical text should be in the section of the screen to which the user’s eyes naturally gravitate.

Data is very helpful to use as a guide, but if you’re going down this route, you must ensure your data hits its mark. Data is seriously useful to identify and refine the user’s selection process, but anyone who’s ever had an e-mail address will know that so often a ‘targeted’ e-mail will land in your inbox which is a complete swing-and-a-miss. If you’ve ever made a one-off online purchase for an elderly relative, the subsequent advertising you’re exposed to only serves to make you believe that the host does not really understand you or your needs at all. Holding data on your employees, however, will help you to maintain relevant communication, and – just as importantly – communicate at the right time.

See – you knew more than you thought you knew about UX.  You just need to ensure you’ve seen absolutely everything from the user’s point of view, and done all the work for them.  Nothing to it.