Creating a thriving workplace with data, personalized employee benefits

Some organizations are unique. Their employees are genuinely excited to be at work and an undercurrent of energy and vitality permeates the air. They’ve transformed the workplace into a compelling experience and built a thriving workforce.

This kind of environment doesn’t come easily; it must be deliberately designed, intentionally built and carefully managed. In an age of digital disruption, employers must ensure their human resources strategy is anticipating and planning for change, whether around technology, employee demands or methods of communication and interaction.

Read: Technology to have biggest impact on the future of work: survey

This is true in every part of the workplace, including benefits and compensation. Employees are more than their work. They have physical, financial and emotional needs, so a thriving organization invests in the whole person.

Thriving employees are physically well

Employers are increasingly shifting the responsibility for health benefits — and health benefits planning — to the individual.

This isn’t a cynical move. It’s driven, in large part, by employee demand. Mercer will explore this in greater depth in an event series that will run throughout the summer of 2018. In short, however, employees, who are able to access individualized services as consumers, expect the same from their benefits plans.

But employers must go beyond simply giving employees choice; they must empower and help employees to make the right choices. This means going beyond the traditional group benefits model to leveraging organizational data and new technologies to help employees become more aware of their nutrition and exercise, energy levels and unique health risks. In short, delivering personalized health-care recommendations.

Read: Is it time for employee consumerism?

This will help employees make the most of their benefits and allow employers to carve out a unique employee value proposition.

Thriving employees are financially well

In terms of financial health, the increasing prevalence of defined contribution pension plans has put power into the hands of employees to be the masters of their own financial future. But employers that want their workers to thrive must go beyond offering the benefits, empowering and helping employees to make the right choices and optimize those benefits.

This means offering financial education and literacy, as well as understanding the ways in which financial literacy translates into financial action and wellness. In Mercer’s inaugural financial wellness index, which was published earlier in May, we found that although financial literacy is high across all demographics and income levels, this hasn’t translated into financial wellness.

Read: Four steps to building a successful financial wellness program

More must be done. Employers that take the time to invest in their workforce’s financial wellness, leveraging data and the latest technologies, will be able to carve for themselves a substantial employee retention and recruitment advantage.

Thriving employees are emotionally well

While the modern workplace can be challenging, thriving employees are invested in and engaged with their work, which means a thriving workplace must also prioritize employees’ emotional and mental health.

High-stress workplaces, in particular, may want to consider investing in stress management and mindfulness courses to help employees maintain their mental health. But all employers also must consider their employees’ need to feel like they’re actively growing, evolving and learning in their roles so they never feel stuck. This means providing learning and networking opportunities for employees, and allowing them the opportunity to direct their personal growth.

Use your data to thrive

Many of the above suggestions aren’t new, but the power of machine learning and artificial intelligence means that benefits can be hyper-personalized, optimizing the resulting benefits to employees.

A data-driven organization can leverage its workforce analytics to map labour movements, identify personas that represent typical employee populations and then analyze proprietary data to identify each person’s interests, wants and needs to help customize interventions and support.

Read: Hybrid of core coverage, personalized benefits touted as future of health plans

The best solutions go beyond tracking the effectiveness of health or financial benefits. They put the employee in the driver’s seat. For example, helping to identify when a particular benefit would be best to leverage during an employee’s career or how to best optimize existing benefits around life events like a new baby.

But data-driven organizations must first collect and organize this data. This means investing in effective human capital management solutions, which give managers the information and tools they need to make strategic decisions.

Change is inevitable — and that’s more true now than it’s ever been. But an organization that plans for change, leverages new technologies and analyzes data to truly understand its workforce will be able to help its employees, its workforce and its organization thrive.