Employers demanding predictive analytics of benefits – research

More than half of reward and employee benefit professionals see predictive analytics as a game-changer, but 90 per cent are still using spreadsheets to manage data, research from the Reward & Employee Benefits Association shows.

The research, conducted amongst 212 reward and employee benefit specialists, shows that use of advanced predictive analytics is set to grow as employers recognise the value of analysing employee data to predict future trends and needs of their workforce.

Personalisation of employee communications came out as the top strategic priority for benefits professionals, with more than a third – 38 per cent – saying this is their focus.  Relevance and timeliness of the benefits on offer was also highlighted in the survey as 65 per cent think technology can help increase employee understanding of the value of the reward.

Benefits professionals report significant challenges as a result of the proliferation of platforms acting in isolation of one another, with 60 per cent of respondents having three or more separate reward and employee benefits technology platforms. Of these, 58 per cent require separate log-ins.

Although only a minority of reward and benefits professionals currently use predictive analytics, 58 per cent see the using data mining, statistics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to make data-based predictions about the future as an industry game changer.

But despite this aim, nine in 10 are using generic spreadsheet software such as Microsoft Excel to manipulate their data, limiting organisations to producing basic analyses with little actionable insight on what their employees want from their benefits package.

When choosing a supplier to augment or replace their existing network of platforms, user experience came out as a top priority with 68 per cent of respondents citing it as being of greater importance than price.

Investment into wellbeing and financial wellness platforms is set to increase dramatically, the research shows, with 48 per cent of respondents either currently developing their employee wellbeing platform or planning to implement a software solution by 2020. In addition to this, 61 per cent have a financial wellness platform under development or plan to have one in the next three years.

REBA director Debi O’Donovan says: “Employers recognise the value inherent in the data they have, particularly if they can use it to predict which benefits will have the greatest positive impact on their workforces, or how reward strategies correlate with indicators such as performance, leadership effectiveness or profitability. If employers are going to embrace this field more fully and achieve their ambitions, they clearly need to upskill themselves, their HR and reward teams, while also taking a longer-term view on the benefits of investing in technology for recruiting and retaining top talent.

“One-size-fits-all and even segmentation is being replaced as employers try to appeal to, and engage with, increasingly diverse workforces. This is exacerbated by very different needs of the student debt-ridden younger workforce trying to get onto the housing ladder, versus the older employees grappling with pension freedoms and retirement.”

JLT Employee Benefits consulting and proposition director Andrew Drake, whose organisation sponsored the research, says: “The seamless integration of reward and benefits platforms is key to helping organisations move away from a disjointed and cumbersome approach to accessing real time, accurate information across all pay and benefits. With the implementation of GDPR coming into force in May 2018, companies will also have to be mindful of consent, ensuring all platforms are offering employees opportunities to opt out of sharing data at each point in the process.

“Employers are aware that staff do not look at their personal affairs in silos, so the ability to see, and potentially model, decisions across a broad spectrum of areas covered by their benefits is highly appealing to those wanting to engage staff in their reward. More broadly, the offer of flexible holiday time, working hours and other wellbeing benefits all feed into a competitive environment where employees are now looking for a company that is modern, forward thinking and planning for the future.”