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How to create a consumer-grade Total Rewards experience for your employees

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By Carole Hathaway and Benjamin Viney | December 18, 2018

At home, we expect digital experiences to be simple, easy and convenient – accessible at virtually any time across a range of devices. We also expect them to be personalized, with engaging content, and goods and services tailored to fit our individual needs.

It’s hardly a surprise that we’ve come to expect the same kind of experience with the technology we use at work.

In fact, 70% of the employees who responded to our Global Workforce Study said they want to be treated like customers in the workplace, and believe their employer should understand their needs just as well as they do their external customers.

It’s also not surprising that leading organizations are emulating some of the techniques used by consumer giants like Amazon and Facebook, adopting a more customer-centric approach to deliver Total Rewards programs, improve the return on their Total Rewards investment and ultimately do a better job attracting, retaining and engaging talent.

So, how are they doing it and what are some of the key strategies you can use to reimagine the Total Rewards experience within your organization? It starts by having a grasp of what’s meant by a “consumer-grade” experience and a deeper understanding of the role technology plays in enabling it.

Unpacking the ‘consumer-grade’ experience

While the concept of a consumer-grade experience in HR is nothing new, it’s often discussed at a high level with few practical implications. By studying the experiences offered by key digital innovators, we’ve identified the following characteristics:

  • It’s personalized. This means using data and analytics to get the right information to the right people at the right time. Consider how Amazon uses data about user behavior to recommend products. Then apply that thinking to the design of your Total Rewards program. By using a similar approach, you can segment your workforce and present information that’s relevant to each individual employee.

  • It’s simple. Total Rewards information should give employees a reason to care and motivate them to learn more. Strong, simple messages with layered content are most likely to engage employees who are short on time and overloaded with information.

  • It’s aggregated. This involves the ability to have all of your information delivered in a way that’s effortless. Think iPhone and its capacity to aggregate information from millions of different sources and yet display it simply as part of a seamless user experience. Similarly, a robust HR or Total Rewards portal can present all of an employee’s information in one aggregated view.

  • It’s accessible from any device. Digital innovators from Facebook to Netflix ensure that their customers can access their content on any device, whether it’s a tablet, smartphone or personal computer. Likewise, it’s essential to provide anytime, anywhere access to Total Rewards content.

  • It’s flexible. The Total Rewards experience should include the infrastructure and tools to support flexibility and choice. For example, you may want to embed decision support tools in your Total Rewards portal to help employees evaluate different program options.

  • It’s dynamic. A large part of the reason why Facebook’s users keep logging in is because the content keeps changing. To engage employees in a continuing dialog around Total Rewards, you need to provide updates that are personal and meaningful. Much of this information can be readily obtained from existing platforms and linked to a Total Rewards portal.

Using technology to improve the experience

While findings from our 2018 Modernizing Total Rewards Survey show that more than 90% of companies have technology for Total Rewards design and delivery, only 11% use it to understand employee preferences and communicate personalized messages to their employees. As a result, many employers could improve their Total Rewards experience by making better use of the technology they already possess.

To create a more effective Total Rewards experience, focus on using technology to accomplish the following:

  • Establish an ongoing dialog to understand what employees value. Just as online retailers solicit feedback on their products to maintain an ongoing relationship with their customers, employers have the opportunity to use a range of tools to develop an ongoing dialog with their employees to better understand their needs and Total Rewards preferences.Instead of relying on an annual employee engagement survey that may only include a few questions on Total Rewards, many organizations are also employing shorter but more frequent pulse surveys focused on Total Rewards to quickly assess employee opinion. In addition, AI-powered online focus groups can help employers dig deeper into employee preferences.

    Organizations are also increasingly using more sophisticated approaches such as that of our Total Rewards Optimization tool. This tool uses conjoint or trade-off analysis to identify which rewards employees value most and least, and to understand the impact of those preferences on their behavior, as well as on the cost to the company.

  • Communicate Total Rewards effectively to different audiences.
    It’s important for Total Rewards messaging to reach the right talent groups to drive engagement and desired behaviors. Yet less than half (42%) of employers use digital technology to communicate different messages to different audiences as part of delivering a personalized, consumer-grade experience. Moving beyond one-size-fits-all Total Rewards communications is essential to reaching today’s diverse, multigenerational workforce.

    The technology platforms most commonly used to communicate Total Rewards are intranets (72%) and HR portals (54%) followed by social media (36%) and mobile apps (22%) at the more advanced end of the spectrum. Understanding the communication preferences of different employee groups will help employers reach employees at the most relevant touchpoints.

The importance of providing a consumer-grade experience in Total Rewards can’t be underestimated, as it can help organizations drive higher levels of engagement, build deeper employee relationships and secure a better return on their rewards investment.

About the Authors

Carole Hathaway
Global Practice Leader, Rewards

Benjamin Viney
Senior Director in Talent and Rewards at Willis Towers Watson

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