Technology is rapidly changing the way we live and work…and the benefits industry needs to keep pace. That was a key message delivered by Max Valiquette, managing director of intellectual property with Bensimon Byrne and closing keynote speaker at our Toronto Benefits & Pension Summit in April. He identified several trends that he believes are going to change the world as we know it.

“Asset light” – Valiquette pointed out that we’re moving from an “asset-heavy” world to an “asset-light” one, where we use and share assets rather than owning them (think bike-sharing, for example), and assets live in the cloud rather than on our desktops. “Asset-light technologies are underused in traditional workplaces,” he noted, “and are therefore a huge opportunity.”

3D printing – Imagine being able to print a piece of chocolate, a car—even a house. Or perhaps a prosthetic limb. It’s not science fiction; it’s available today. And you can buy a 3D printer for $2,000. “This will have a huge impact on your retail clients in the very near future and is already starting to change healthcare,” Valiquette added.

Email alternatives – “Kill your email, because it’s killing your workforce,” Valiquette advised, adding that the average number of emails we receive each day has been rising steadily since 2011. He noted a trend toward using tools such as Evernote or Dropbox to document and share information, or simply texting employees rather than emailing them.

One of the major challenges in the employee benefits space is that it can move quite slowly. With lingering concerns about privacy and confidentiality, many companies are tempted to wait for early adopters of technology to lead the way before they go down a new road. But here’s the problem: if you’re a follower rather than a leader in the tech space, then you’re already falling behind.

And the next generation of employees is going to push your workplace forward, whether you’re ready or not. Millennials are having a huge impact on the workplace today, and those changes will continue with future generations.

Take my kids, for instance. They don’t know a world without touch screens. Both my toddler and my preschooler know how to use an iPad. Remember the awkward “shoe phones” that were the mobile devices of the 1990s? Well, my kids will likely have smartphones in elementary school. And they’ll be joining the workforce someday—but they’ll have vastly different expectations for how technology will inform and enhance their work and personal lives.

In other words, change is not an option; it’s a reality. So let’s get started.

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