Maggie Williams delves into the Rewarding Tomorrow’s Workforce survey findings and highlights some key trends
This section of our survey focused on respondents’ views on how technology and reward can work together to drive communications, improve data collection and integration, as well as supporting the range of benefits on offer. We also asked about key barriers to technology adoption.
We asked participants how they communicate with their workforce about reward and benefits. Email was far and away the most popular method, with 93% of respondents using this approach. Just over half of our audience (55%) use face to face, either on an individual basis or in groups, and 37% use messages from a single system such as a flexible benefits platform.
Those figures show that traditional ways of communicating with the workforce still form the backbone of sending reward messages. However, newer approaches, such as using social media are beginning to attract HR directors’ attention, with 20% saying that they use this as a way of communicating.
Techniques that are aimed at mobile users – such as texts and apps – proved much less popular, with only around 5% using each approach. Sixteen respondents used ‘other’ methods outside our standard list of options. Of those, 75% used intranet or internal websites, with this being the most popular method for 28% of those.
Frequency of communications also varied across our survey results. Almost half (49%) favoured an ‘on demand’ approach, with 20% of respondents saying that they are in contact with staff about benefits on a monthly basis. Fourteen percent communicate quarterly – and a further 15% only get in touch with staff about reward on an annual basis.
We also asked respondents what forms of communications or campaigns have proved particularly successful. Three key areas stood out from among the answers we received. Internal communications platforms, including staff emails and internal or intranet news services were the top group of answers that we received.
Respondents also said that face-to-face approaches, where staff can ask questions and answers can be tailored to individuals’ needs, were very effective. This included workshops, roadshows and public meetings. Internal poster campaigns, and also internal social media approaches were also judged to have worked well.
BARRIERS TO INVESTMENT
We also asked respondents about the barriers to investment in reward technology. The top two reasons – cost (60%) and justifying return on investment (43%) are both financial concerns. Other HR projects taking higher priority (35%) was also seen as a limitation.
However, poor understanding of what technology can achieve isn’t considered a problem for many firms. Only 16% felt that a lack of understanding at board level was limiting investment in reward technology, and a mere 3% felt that a lack of knowledge at reward team level was a barrier. One in ten felt that their reward offering did not justify any further investment. Other responses to this question cited system security, lack of manpower and company size among the barriers facing further investment. Two respondents also said that the type of technology or system that they want for their business just isn’t available.
Our respondents’ methods for recording reward data are still relatively simple. Thirty-eight per cent only collect data manually or in spreadsheets, and a further 22% said that any data that they do collect is specific to a particular benefit and is held in an individual product related to that benefit.
While 15% felt that they have a good overview of their benefits data, they said that this was not related to data held elsewhere in the company. Only 10% felt that their reward data was well integrated with other systems and able to give the company a good overview of their provision. Of those that were confident that their data was well integrated, 50% had between 1,001 and 2,000 employees and were part of a company with more than 10,000 staff worldwide, suggesting that benefits systems in these organisations may be part of a global approach to reward.
Respondents’ priorities for the next year are focused on using data to identify future reward needs (35%) and to improve integration between different systems, with the aim of reducing administration (30%). Thirty percent of respondents also said that improving the quality and accuracy of data would be a priority during 2018. However, 16% had no plans to further develop their data collection and analysis.
At present, very few respondents segment their workforce when communicating about reward – only 28% do so. However, 13% said that they do segment by seniority and 6% by age. The general trend of one-size-fits-all communications is also borne out by the fact that only 3% respond to life events such as the birth of a child in their communications and a mere 7% personalise communications based on individuals’ preferences. Those that do use segmentation of any type were also more likely to use face-to-face communications (70% compared to 55% for the respondents as a whole) and also less likely to use email (86% compared to 93% overall).
The ways in which communications are segmented are fairly rudimentary. The most common approach was varying the channels used (such as paper or email), which applied to 69% of those who answered this question.
One in four (41%) offer different benefits to different groups of workers, and only 19% give varied messages to different groups about the same benefits.
BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY
We asked respondents to rank seven benefits of reward technology to their organisation, in order of importance. ‘Provide a great employee experience’ was by far the most significant factor, with 61% of our audience ranking this either first (32%) or second (29%) in order of relevance to them. Effectively communicating the benefit scheme to employees was the second most relevant factor with 52% ranking this as either the first (27%) or second (25%) most important consideration. Of less relevance were attributes such as accurately monitoring tax and national insurance savings (27% said that this was the least important factor) and ensuring compliance with legislation such as autoenrollment (21% ranked this last).
Reducing administration was ranked as a mid-range factor by most participants (63% put this between third and fifth place), as was gaining a better understanding of how the value of each benefit improved the overall reward offering (61% ranked this between third and fifth).
Surprisingly, improving data accuracy and reliability was also low on respondents’ list of priorities, with 56% placing this fifth or lower out of the seven criteria.
NO HOLDS BARRED…
It may be an improbable dream, but we asked respondents what their highest technology priority would be, if money were no object. Our highest-rated answer was increasing the range of benefits on offer (35%), followed by improving communication about benefits to employees (30%). Providing more targeted benefits to different parts of the workforce (27%) was also a popular choice. However, even with unlimited funds, very few respondents felt that they would spend on improving management information (3%) or better justifying return on investment (3%). A mere 2% said that they would spend freely to better understand the uptake of existing benefits.
Overall, our survey results show a mixed picture, with cost remaining the biggest barrier to the future development of benefits technology. HR respondents are still struggling with the challenge of justifying return on investment or are finding that other corporate projects are being given a higher spending priority.
For the most part, data collection and analysis still relies heavily on spreadsheets and manual processes, with siloed data held in disparate benefits systems also holding back progress. But even if money wasn’t an issue, respondents still felt that their attention would be focused on improving the range of benefits that they offer, rather than creating a more personalised or data-rich benefits environment.
However, among those companies that have run innovative communication campaigns, the feedback has been positive.
This article is featured in Reward’s Rewarding Tomorrow’s Workforce research report. CLICK HERE to read the full report.