Employees of global firms are not satisfied with the technology they use when enrolling in and accessing employer-sponsored benefits. This is one of the findings from a recent survey of nearly 500 HR and reward professionals and more than 1,000 employees around the world.
Thomsons Online Benefits found that nearly 90% of employers view attracting talent and improving engagement as their top benefits objectives. However, 70% struggle to deliver effective plans for local markets and, as a result, improve employees’ understanding and value of benefits.
Thomson’s Global Employee Benefits Watch 16/17 reveals that 18% of employees were unhappy with how they have to interact with benefits and 17% are unhappy with the way benefits are communicated to them.
This could be due to the outmoded HR and benefit technology that is used around the world, even for companies that are owned by U.S. firms, says Chris Bruce, co-founder and managing director, Thomsons Online Benefits. “The U.S. benefit technology market is mature and competitive with many options in place. There are some countries that have this newer technology but the majority of the other countries are still on paper and spreadsheets,” he says.
Even in 2016, an employee working for a U.S. firm in another country has to fill out roughly eight paper-based forms and must wait three months to complete enrollment on the employer’s benefits platform.
“Enrolling in a benefits plan is still like it was in the 1980s,” says Bruce.
Thomson found that the technology used to deliver benefits plays a large role on improving employees’ perception of their overall benefits package. “When employees are very satisfied with the technology delivering their benefits, they are almost twice as likely to view their benefits as innovative or unique — 93.8% versus 46.6%,” according to the survey findings.
The impact of globalization
Bruce believes that the current disparity in HR and benefit technology grew in the globalization race. “In the last five years, firms have been globalizing and they are adding more people outside the U.S.,” says Bruce, who estimates that for every one employee employed by a U.S. multinational firm recruited in the U.S., there are 2.5 workers recruited outside the U.S.
“For the experience of an employee interacting with a business, they want that to be a positive experience. And companies are looking to be more agile as they recognize this. They need HR technology to be more agile and overall we are seeing the HR transformation happening pretty aggressively,” he says.
“Benefits are a huge benefit to global organization and they are trying to engage their employees. They are actually disengaging employees by the poor experience their employees have with the obsolete way of learning what the benefits are,” says Bruce.
Bruce says that firms are adopting cloud-based solutions even though the worries about security remain an issue. He claims that cloud offers tighter security especially when compared to older, so-called tried and true methods. “At the moment they have junior administrators sending spreadsheets over email to different providers around the world and they don’t have robust provisions or security measures for the information in place,” he says.
According to the Thomsons survey, firms that use data analytics for their employee benefits have a 14% higher employee engagement scores than firms that do not. In fact, 46% of survey respondents revealed that they don’t yet use analytics at all.