What are the most effective ways for employers to collect employee data?

  • Employee data should be collected in a compliant and responsible manner.
  • Employers must be careful how they handle employee’s data, especially given some of the sensitive personal, health and family data that may be available.
  • Analytical technologies can allow organisations to gather instant and comprehensive insights on the value benefit schemes offer.

According to Deloitte’s research UK workers: a year in the pandemic published in June 2022, 46% of employees do not think their organisation should be able to monitor their personal health data, even if this enabled them to offer improved wellbeing support. In addition, 21% said they did not trust that their personal health data would be used responsibly and 49% believed the topic to be none of their employer’s business.

Despite these statistics, there are ways in which employers can effectively collect and use employee data, without staff feeling like it is a privacy breach or a waste of time.

Gathering employee data for benefits schemes

Arguably the most effective way to collect employee data to understand what benefits they want is simply to ask them. Engagement and pulse surveys are effective ways of finding out which benefits are and are not working, which ones employees are using and what might be missing to create a well-rounded package.

Identifying clear gaps in provision or benefits employees are not utilising will give valuable insight, says Lucy Gilmore, UK HR lead at Lattice. “Outside of surveys, [employers should] track employee usage and attendance around benefits offerings wherever [they] can, from sign-ups for wellness applications to engagement with learning and development workshops.”

When employee benefits are missing the mark, these can eat up valuable HR time in administration and can result in a costly outlay for employers. To understand the impact of a benefits programme, bringing together both operational and experience data can be crucial.

Operational data provide details on take up, enrolment, usage and cost, while experience data offers an understanding on the perceived value of benefits from the perspective of employees, explains Phil Pringle, employee experience strategist at Qualtrics. “Combining the two provides a full picture of value and impact; essential ingredients for assessing whether benefits should continue, change or stop.”

Employee data needs to be collected in a compliant and responsible manner, which can be achieved in numerous ways. These include sourcing data directly from benefits providers, aggregated through benefits portals, mobile apps and other devices such as wearable technology, says Andrew Krawczyk, commercial leader of health solutions for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region at Aon. “It is important that this data is aggregated and anonymised. In other words, used to form insights across demographics on areas such as employee health risks, benefits preferences and health issues through claims data.”

As long as there is no abuse of power or there is some control, it can be beneficial for employees to consent to sharing their data for an improved personalised experience. This can help employers to think of their staff as consumers of benefits, wellbeing offerings and reward.

This personalisation can be demonstrated as part of a benefits programme launch: employers could consider personalised emails or placing an individual’s first name in the welcome message on their benefits homepage. Alternatively, employers could opt to use data integration that allows employees to see personal data, such as the value of their pension fund, on their benefits portal, says Nick McClelland, chief growth officer at Mercer Marsh Benefits.

“More sophisticated examples include personalised nudges and notifications, typically through email, following specific actions of the individual,” he says. “A good example might be an employee registering a new life event like the birth or adoption of a child on their HR system or benefits platform. In good practice, this should lead to a personalised message or notification to the individual informing them of their new family-friendly benefit options or by highlighting wellbeing services that support their growing family.”

Personal data

With different rules and legislation operating in different jurisdictions, employers must be mindful of how they handle employees’ data, especially given some of the sensitive personal, health and family data that may be available.

Employee health data not only helps leaders measure the effectiveness of a benefits or wellbeing approach, it also provides invaluable insight into where to focus energy and get the most return on spend and investments, says Krawczyk. “It also helps many employers to inform prevention strategies,” he adds. “By capturing smarter insights through employee benefit portals and digital applications, organisations can arm themselves with a centralised way of viewing and engaging with employee benefits take up and preferences.”

Collecting data through surveys

These days, survey technology has evolved and techniques have improved to gain more of an insight, which can help employers to develop a better understanding of preferences, behaviours and attitudes.

“Modern employee surveys are a good tool to extract real preferences and really understand behaviours and attitudes, says Krawczyk. “This is a potentially valuable tool in shaping total reward strategies and getting the right mix to suit a particular workforce needs.”

Improving workplace technology and investing in communication channels can also create a better experience. This can include harnessing existing data and engaging staff in dialogue through pulse surveys or app social feeds in order to gain a better quality of data.

Platforms, tools and apps

Online benefits platforms can also provide a rich source of data, including personal information employee benefits choices, changes and behaviours.

The best platforms are those have the ability to import operational data, which enables organisations to analyse employee experience and operational benefits data in unison, says Pringle.

“Implementation of a benefits programme that includes intelligent listening and state-of-the-art data analytics means [employers] can continuously monitor impact and ensure [their] benefits are aligned to what employees want,” he explains. “Through this insight, [they] can continue building and strengthening [their] employee value proposition, as well as adapting to changing employees needs and wants.”

One focus area that can tie into a benefits strategy is understanding employee’s goals, both for their careers and personal lives. Some platforms allow staff to build out their objective and key results in the short term, as well as longer-term individual development plans.

“Having this data readily accessible to managers can surface unique opportunities to incorporate more personalised benefits into an employee’s work journey depending on where they want to go, such as enabling them to seek a professional or educational accreditation alongside their day-to-day work,” says Gilmore.

Identifying the most appropriate sources of data for their workforce, therefore, can enable employers to offer each employee a personalised, productive and rewarding experience.

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Wilson James collects and uses staff data to invest in its benefits strategy

How employee data can build a resilient workforce