Are aliens invading the planet? Are robots taking over? Is AI coming for our jobs?
These days, everything’s feeling…well, a little less human. And while the expansion of technology offers many benefits, there’s also reasonable cause for concern, especially when it comes to our world of HR.
After all, our employees are still looking for human connections at work. No robot can substitute a hug from a coworker, a word of encouragement from a boss, or a fun happy hour after a long day. And especially when it comes to navigating those complicated benefits questions, employees still want guidance from a trusted expert.
So how can we take the best of what technology offers and combine it with a human touch? During Camp Engage this year, we explored that question and heard from real-life experts about how they’re strengthening the employer-employee relationship. Here’s what they had to say.
Meet the Speakers
SVP, Strategy, Corporate Development & Partnerships, Accolade
SVP, Data Science, Jellyvision
How can we take a people-first approach to our employee relationships?
Our panelists highlighted that employees want to be seen as people first and foremost. While they’re here to perform a job, they want their employers to recognize that they’re not just a cog in a machine:
So if it feels like your HR team has focused more on paperwork than people, it’s time to change. Fostering human-first interactions is crucial for any successful employer today. But what does that look like in the world of employee benefits?
Weeks echoed Hamerschlag, agreeing that benefits needs change drastically from one employee to the next. She added that employers today view their benefits packages as more than basic healthcare—it’s a way to attract and retain talent.
But with so many employees and so many different healthcare needs, is it really worth it to keep adding new resources that may only be used by a handful of individuals? Weeks says yes: in her experience, even if a given employee only uses a subset of their total benefits offerings, they appreciate that their employer offers a broad range of resources that help all of their coworkers. They want to work for an organization that values the needs of all employees, no matter their background.
How do benefits fit into the employer value proposition?
As Weeks alluded to, employee benefits are about a lot more than ensuring employees stay healthy to perform their job. It’s about communicating your organization’s mission and values and tying your benefits package to your overall employer value proposition.
In today’s world, it’s also important to recognize that benefits need to go beyond a few simple medical plans.
Accolade offers an expert medical opinion service, and many employers offer it not only to employees and their dependents but to elderly parents, in-laws, and other family members. Weeks says it’s a better way to support employees’ entire lives so that they can bring their best selves to work every day.
What role can technology play in personalizing the benefits experience?
A people-first approach to benefits doesn’t mean we should rule out technology altogether. Our panelists shared how technology can help support stronger employee-employer relationships and that it’s an important tool in personalizing the benefits journey.
But catering to both audiences can be difficult when you’re trying to build a singular benefits communication strategy. Helping one or five people choose their benefits via their preferred learning method is fairly straightforward. But providing white-glove service to hundreds or thousands of people can feel like an insurmountable task. So Hamerschlag points out that this is where technology can be most helpful: to achieve scalability and reach the right people, at the right time, with the right message.
Weeks also shared that technology can be helpful when it comes to anticipating upcoming healthcare needs.
She also acknowledged that technological recommendations are only one piece of the puzzle. For example, technology might recognize that an individual is likely to be diagnosed with diabetes in the future. But for a variety of human reasons, they may choose not to change their behavior. Perhaps for cultural reasons, they’re not open to changing their diet, or they’ve experienced bias when seeking care. Or perhaps financial barriers or lack of access to transit are preventing them from visiting the doctor.
That’s when human connections matter. We need those real-life relationships with employees so that they’ll open up to us about why they may not be seeking care.
How can we measure the impact of a personalized benefits experience?
There comes a time in every HR leader’s life when the CEO or a board member asks them for the cold, hard numbers. “What’s the return on our (very expensive!) benefits investment? How do we know our communication strategies are working?”
According to Hamerschlag, strong metrics can be hard to pin down.
For Accolade, many different indicators can prove the value of a benefits engagement tool—like cost savings, clinical outcomes, quality of life metrics like pain reduction, lower absenteeism, and employee NPS. But for Weeks, it’s all about choosing the metrics that best tell your organization’s story.
What are the most important things to consider before implementing benefits technology?
When it comes to marrying a people-first approach with the right technology, any old platform won’t do. After all, adding another line item to your already maxed-out benefits budget is a big deal. So it’s important to make sure the technology you choose is worth the spend.
There’s no need to jump to an enterprise solution right away, either. Sometimes slow and steady wins the race, and doing a few beta tests can help you learn before you scale.
Human relationships 🤝 technology
No matter what shiny new technology emerges in the years to come, our first priority should always be to keep the employee experience front and center. If the latest platforms don’t support building stronger relationships with our workforce, then it’s not worth the effort (or the expensive bill). The right tools will mimic a one-on-one conversation with an HR rep, serving as a trusted resource that personalizes the benefits experience when we can’t be there in person to guide our people.