Guest blog By James Whelan, Managing Director at Avantus Systems
Workplace benefits have become increasingly flexible and personalised in recent years as organisations have embraced the data-driven digital age.
The widespread availability of powerful analytics tools means that it has become far easier for organisations to capture and understand employee data. This enables firms to identify trends and provide benefits offers geared towards the specific needs of their workforce.
Alongside this, it has also become far easier for employees to amend and update their benefits packages to suit their changing personal circumstances. Rather than being held to the old standard of annual renewals,workers can adapt their benefits as and when they need to. New parents might want to take on family-centric benefits for example, or an employee might decide to take a cycle to work scheme after moving to a new house.
This approach can have a powerful impact on employee satisfaction, and also provides an excellent opportunity for companies to engage with their workforces on a more human level. It also helps employees to feel more involved and provides a stronger sense of ownership.
Going beyond the workplace
Access to such a personalised experience with their workplace benefit means that a growing number of consumers are now coming to expect the same provision from other benefits, such as those provided with insurance and pensions. This means there is growing pressure on these industries to enhance their own benefits provisions or risk frustrating customers who have grown to expect more.
However, these industries have been traditionally very slow to adapt to change, particularly when it comes to the oldest and largest organisations. The majority still hold to the old standard of rigid benefits policies that can only be amended on an annual basis.
This approach became the norm because of the large amount of paperwork created by amending a policy, which would create an unmanageable burden if large numbers of customers were able to switch around at will.However, in today’s digital world, changes can be made through online portals with a few clicks of the mouse.
Adopting benefits provisions that align with the voluntary“anytime” benefits commonly seen in the workplace will deliver a number of benefits for industries such as insurance. Rather than an annual package that cannot be altered – aside from manually-managed lifestyle windows – benefits become an ongoing subscription that can be amended as circumstances change,without the need for annual re-enrolment or renewal.
Even core benefits such as life assurance could be offered through this subscription approach with the option of self-managed or even automated variability. Whereas traditional benefits packages require annual enrolment and are fixed until the next renewal point, this new model would allow customers to change their level of cover and extra benefits as they see fit, without the need for additional admin fees.
Just as flexible workplace benefits can help improve employee engagement, providing flexible benefits for things like insurance and pension policies can deliver greater customer loyalty and retention for existing customers, as well as providing a competitive advantage over other providers.
We have already seen several industry leaders start to take this new approach on board. The most prominent example is Aviva, which is currently piloting its Aviva Plus scheme, modelled as a monthly subscription style service. The new scheme has already received positive early responses for its flexibility, and for doing away with the additional charges that used to belevied against customers who chose to pay monthly rather than annually.
I anticipate 2019 being a formative year for flexible benefits as other market leaders follow Aviva’s example with their own schemes.Over the next few years, flexible benefits will replace the old annual renewal as the standard practice for any kind of benefit, inside and outside of the workplace.