Each month, Mercer brings together in-house experts, employee advocates and external thought leaders for an online discussion of the most pressing issues. The program is called #MercerChats and takes place entirely on Twitter, where individuals around the world engage with Mercer’s intellectual capital and other leading thought leadership to share insights and discuss some of what we believe are the best solutions to help organizations thrive. Below is a summary of our March 2022 tweet chat, highlighting some of the key themes discussed and insights shared.

What happens when big data meets a big problem? If done right, you have the right ingredients for a transformational moment.

 

That’s what many HR and benefits professionals are hoping for when they bring digital solutions and data and analytics to bear on their employee benefits strategies. The case for doing so speaks for itself – greater efficiency, lower costs, better outcomes – but the practice of putting it into place can be exceedingly complicated. Everything from integrating HR systems to securing leadership support poses a challenge, and that all comes before you even consider the human impact on your employees. How do you communicate a shift in benefits strategy, and how do you know there’ll be anything to show for it?

 

To get down to the bottom of these and other pressing questions on the cutting edge of employee benefits and wellbeing programs, we gathered some of the world’s leading minds on people strategy, benefits programs and organizational leadership. Below are three core considerations that arose from our discussion which every business leader should ask themselves before embarking on this journey, as well as some highlights from our participants.

Are you ready to uncork Big Data?

 

Want to see “digital transformation” in action? Look at the last two years of employee benefits, because it’s a prime example of how data and digital solutions are forcing human resources to adapt and evolve. As employers continue to adopt digital benefit offerings and implement new HR systems, the amount of data sitting at people leaders’ fingertips is staggering, and while this may represent a fantastic opportunity, employers can only maximize it if they know how.

 

This wasn’t lost on the participants of our discussion, many of whom flagged HR’s ability to manage and act on this data as a potential problem area. To start, Rohan Muralee noted that working with multiple data sources can present issues around data consistency and quality – to say nothing of data security. Benefits professionals looking to wrangle this data will likely need support & guidance from other stakeholders and partners, as Nick McClelland shared, but even so, are they able to take meaningful action on the back end?

 

Employers may quickly realize that by the time they aggregate and process benefits data, it may well be outdated – particularly with the pace of change in today’s landscape. In the end, before committing to a data-driven benefits strategy, employers may need to follow Tamara McCleary’s advice and ask themselves if they understand the technology they’re working with and if they’ll be ready to make the most of opportunities as they arise.

Are you building benefits for tomorrow?

 

It’s a familiar story: you identify a problem, source input, develop a solution, create an implementation strategy, and by the time you set it into motion, the problem has transformed. This feeling of aiming at a moving target is a universal experience, but it’s become almost routine for HR professionals as they try to adapt and keep pace with change throughout the pandemic.

 

It was also a hot topic of discussion amongst our panelists, who are keenly aware that employee needs and employee benefits are changing by the day, and employers are only now beginning to reckon with the fact that their traditional solutions may never have been all that helpful in the first place. Ian Gertler pointed this out, noting that many employers can spend a fortune on benefits that go unused. To solve for this, communication and evaluation is key, and Nicole Passmore Cohen recommends an active employee listening campaign to truly identify what moves the needle.

 

Ultimately, it’s to every employer’s benefit to anticipate and cater to the needs of tomorrow’s workforce. As Meghan Biro shared, benefits play an integral role in maintaining top talent, and talent is only becoming more willing to move on from their employer if they think they’re under delivering. It’s so important they HR and business leaders embrace digital benefits that deliver support equitably across the workforce, because as Donna K Lencki shared, employees remember whether their organization was there in the moments that matters.

 

Where is your strategy grounded?

 

For all of the challenges that we’ve already catalogued, we’re only now reaching the really difficult part. That’s because you can almost always find a technical solution to a technical problem. But when it comes to questions like “why”, sometimes you have to dig deep.

 

But if there ever a reason to dig deep, it’s your people’s wellbeing. This goes beyond altruism and shows up on P&L sheets, with more and more business leaders realizing that their people’s health is their business’s resilience. Amy Laverock pointed this out, and Dr. Marcia F Robinson seconded her comments in sharing that healthier workforces are also more engaged, sustainable and reliable.

 

So how do you implement new digital benefits programs that are informed by what your people really need without losing your way? The secret lies in purpose, intent and a top-down vision of the culture your benefits should reflect. Dr. Salim Saiyed touched on this when he noted that c-suite support is instrumental to creating a supportive culture, and Soumyasanto Sen did as well by sharing that healthy, happy workforces create a positive feedback loop and beget broader business benefits for an organization.

 

Danielle Guzman
Danielle Guzman

Global Head of Social Media