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Staffcare get their Disney on for Charity - 12/10/2017
Last week employees at Staffcare ‘Let it go’ during a Disney themed charity week held by Transition and Acceptance Manager Adam Plowman in aid of Staffcare’s charity of the year Rainbow Trust. Raising an incredible £468.38 – a new Staffcare charity event record!

About Rainbow Trust

Rainbow Trust supports families who have a child aged 0-18 years with a life threatening or terminal illness and need the bespoke support they offer.

Today there are an estimated 49,000 children and young people in the UK living with a life limiting or life threatening condition who may require palliative care (University of Leeds, 2011). Many of these children and their families are able to cope or are not in a ‘crisis situation’. However, thousands of families have to face the very real possibility that their child may die and struggle to cope on a day to day basis. Rainbow Trust are there to help and support these families in any way possible.

So, what went on?

With a variety of events throughout the week from cake sales, raffles and silent auctions, everyone at Staffcare dug deep and donated. We enjoyed a wide variety of home-made delights from red-velvet and lemon drizzle cake to rocky road and bread and butter pudding all donated by members of the Staffcare team.

Excitement was in the air as we held a raffle with prizes from sweets and candles to fancy bubbles and a few unexpected prizes. Pulses raced during the silent auction where London brewers Fullers and boutique gin distillers Silent Pool both kindly donated guided tours to the highest bidders.

The week ended in style when many Staffcare employees donned on their finest Disney costumes and onesies and came in to work to impersonate their favourite characters, whilst Elsa regally ruled the office. From Minnie Mouse and Bambi to the more unusual Jack Sparrow and Mr Potato Head everyone gave their best and had a laugh.

We would like to give special thanks to everyone who donated and helped throughout the week and special thanks to Fullers Brewery and Silent Pool Gin for your generous donations.

And, a MASSIVE well done to Adam Plowman, who, without his no-holds barred dedication to his costume (and a little peer pressure), ended the week with a spectacular song for the masses, raising such an incredible amount! 

If you would like to help contribute towards Rainbow Trust’s amazing work please visit their website to donate (it’s much appreciated).
The one trend that matters in benefits technology - 03/10/2017
As technology has rapidly advanced around us, leaders in the benefits market have scrambled to explain how their products have embraced the latest concepts. Articles on trends in benefit technology tend to focus on artificial intelligence, automation, gamification, personalisation and enhanced analytics, which are all interesting subjects in their own right.

However, the application of these concepts is still in their infancy and there’s a long way to go before the industry is able to truly demonstrate their value. That’s not to say this functionality isn’t available, but the rudimentary solutions rarely reflect the polished presentation shown at a conference or sales pitch. The benefits industry has frequently overpromised in this manner.

We constantly talk to users of leading benefit platforms. They are often frustrated that their current technology falls short of their expectations. As a result, we’re seeing an increasing number of educated buyers who are focused on the core capabilities, simplicity and performance of their benefits platform. The message from the market is clear; “we don’t want more functionality, we want the existing functionality to be radically better”.

The truth is that the benefits industry has specialised in selling complexity for over a decade. High implementation fees have been justified by the amount of time it takes to configure complex benefit schemes. Expensive outsourced administration has been used to plaster over system limitations. Slow and complicated user interfaces have both hindered employee engagement and frustrated administrators.
That’s why in the short term there is only one trend that will matter; simplification.

Benefits technology will become quicker and simpler to implement, with significantly lower implementation costs. It will become simpler and more pleasing to use, ensuring employees are effectively engaged and administrators aren’t left pulling out their hair. It will also become fundamentally simpler to connect to other systems and extract meaningful information, recognising that benefits platforms often sit on the periphery of technology ecosystems. These improvements will deliver tangible value to employers and employees alike.

Benefit technology providers can continue to ignore this fundamental client requirement at their own peril. Those that deliver the radically improved and simplified experience that is demanded by the market, supported by a modern data structure, will also be best positioned to take full advantage of new innovative technologies. However, those that pay it lip service, tinkering with the user experience or offering new features on top of outdated platforms, will quickly fall behind.
10 ways to ensure your employee platform provides a great consumer experience. - 27/09/2017
Having worked for a number of reward and benefit providers and been on the user end of these systems on both sides of the pond, I would like to share my thoughts.
Most of you will have realised that benefit providers have been consumerising employees for a number of years now. This means that they have been offering their products and services via a shop window (portal) with a shopping style user journey. It has taken a while for the reward and benefits technology providers to catch on to this and make it a positive trend.
Recently, most providers and organisations have obsessed around trying to mirror an Amazon style shopping experience. You can’t blame them as Amazon spend a lot of money on the UX (User Experience) to make the site easy to use and repeatable. The successful providers now realise that you need to show value, simplify the options and have an easy obvious next step.
From a user perspective, I don’t have time to figure out how to access and use the benefits system. I want to be told where to look with an easy link into the system. If I need to remember passwords or I need to search for the link to get into the system, I will give it roughly ten minutes before I stop and wait for HR to chase me and hope there is a link. After ten more minutes I will have forgotten I even get benefits, my day job tasks have kicked in and I don’t have time to worry about anything else.
As a Dad and someone from generation X, I grew up in the era of vinyl, VHS and the invention of personal computers that had less processing power than a modern calculator. I have seen technology transform multiple times over within the past four decades, including vinyl to cassettes to CDs to MP3s to live streaming online. Ironically we’re now back to the start with vinyl making a resurgence. 

What’s next?

Many people see the end of devices with everything being held in the cloud using artificial intelligence like Alexa or Siri to voice-control access.
With these ever-changing systems and easy access to information, you can no longer look at generation X, Y or millennials and generalise about who can use technology and who cannot. You need to consider more than just age and profession.
We are all consumers on one level or another and we all need an easy to use system to purchase things. This can be using the internet or entering a shop. How many department stores have you been in where you get frustrated trying to pay. Where are the tills? Why can’t I find the toy section etc? Also, who chose that awful music? Everyone needs to consider this consumer experience and that includes employee benefits technology systems.

So how do you provide a good consumer experience? 

Here are some easy steps to ensure you provide an engaging platform –
1. Blockers
Remove any blockers to getting onto the system, offer SSO (Single Sign On) if you can or an easy to remember URL.
2. Audience

Think about your audience, are they mainly offline or online, are they tech savvy or not, are they mainly young, varied or older, etc…
3. Communications
Drive them to the system with offline and online communications. Try a postcard or business card with the general log in details i.e. Username= email Password = NI number.
4. User experience (UX)

User Experience needs to be simple and intuitive, can I easily see what I came to see? Are the next steps obvious? Is the confirmation or check out easy to see? Can I back up without causing system issues?
5. Categories
You need to display the benefits clearly – core and optional -so they can choose at a high level with the ability to drill in if they are interested.
You could even categorise the options but I would be wary of adding too many layers as this can add time and frustration if you don’t categorise properly. Perhaps have a selection of key benefits and categories on the landing page
6. Value
Value is a key component to any consumer. It does not matter if you are offering to pay 100% or it’s a voluntary benefit, the employee needs to see value in what they are getting. Without value, the investment is wasted money. So if you offer a discount on a product and I find it cheaper on Amazon, don’t expect my engagement to increase.
7. It works!
It sounds basic but with Amazon things rarely go wrong. It is efficient execution and I don’t get charged the wrong amount. Why should benefits be any different?
8. One place
It’s good to see everything together, consistently communicated in the same style. This is why total reward communications through a portal adds such value.
9. Useful 
If the benefits are useful to me then tell me. I shouldn’t have to work it out all by myself.
10. Broad Offering 
It’s more than financial benefits. Remember I’m a dad and sometimes I work at home, so paternity and flexible working are very valuable to me.  
In conclusion, you need to understand your audience, remove any blockers to accessing the system and make sure there is an easy to follow journey with obvious next steps.

Once you have these core elements in place, you are well on the way to providing an engaging, relevant well communicated benefits scheme.
Alan Meyers - Business Development Director
How to choose a benefits technology - 18/09/2017
In my previous article I looked at the initial steps involved in changing and selecting providers and how to avoid the pitfalls. Now you’ve created your shortlist of two or three potential partners, we move on to the next steps of final selection, implementation and communication.  

Spot the difference:

Your shortlist will have met most, if not all, of your key requirements and passed your due diligence. So how do you differentiate between them? There is no simple answer here.
Also terminology between providers is notoriously inconsistent. Check that service levels proposed use the same terminology. For each key step, ask the provider what they do and what you have to do. Quite often it is what the provider has not said needs to be done that is left to you.  The more transparent a provider, the more likely you are to have a valuable relationship.
A site visit is also a useful step. You can meet the team that will be handling your implementation and BAU (business as usual) stages. You can assess the office environment and the wider team. Do they seem easy to work with? Are they experienced? Could you see yourself working with that team? What happens if there is a personality clash (would they make a change of personnel)?
Measure them on the following sections and see who comes out on top. This could be the winner.

1) Communications

Before you make a final decision, you should consider communications as these are critical to effective employee engagement. A good provider should be able to offer you a range of options depending on your situation and budget. 
Generally the more changes there are, the greater the need for clear messaging and media. This can range from a few emails, posters and desk drops to a comprehensive programme including videos, roadshows etc. You can expect communication costs to stabilise after the initial launch or transition.
Questions to ask could include:
  • How has the provider proposed you get the messages out to your workforce?
  • Have they taken the time to learn about your organisation’s employee segmentation, including geo-locations, age ranges, education, career levels, use of technology in house, etc?
  • Have they utilised internal communications already in place - newsletters, payslip inserts, staff meetings etc?
  • Have they asked you how you currently communicate with your employees across departments and geo-locations?
  • Can they show you examples of other successful communication campaigns?
Have they taken your budget into consideration? If you are not being charged for this element, ask for more details as it may be a basic service which can jeopardise the entire scheme’s success. If their charges are high, find out what is included and consider removing some less important items for a reduction in cost. 

2) Flow

You’ve probably reviewed the technology already but is there a differentiator? Is the employee journey intuitive and logical? Can the employee move around the platform with ease?
Based on Maslow's hierarchy of needs, does the user experience (UX) follow the principle below or does it get stuck in “the convenient chasm”? The red sections of the chart below represent your hygiene factors (what people expect as standard). Not every scheme needs to hit Pleasurable or Meaningful but you need to decide where you want to be and figure out if the provider will get you there.

3) Current market trends

The market is changing very rapidly and providers need to offer real value, not just expensive software that makes your benefits look good. Current benefit trends involve content around financial education along with health and wellbeing. Can they include these benefits to provide added value?
Consider an extra step by offering financial or retirement guidance through technology like moneygym. According to a recent survey of 10,000 participants by Neyber, 70% say financial worries affect their work and productivity. You can help by offering low cost debt consolidation. Neyber statistics quote a 20% reduction in monthly payments using this kind of service. 
What do they do to help engage your employees with problems they care about? Who do they work with to stay ahead?  Are they challenging the way you think about your employees for the better?
Contracting with a provider:
Once you have selected the provider that best matches your requirements and have given them the good news, what’s next? You will need to decide a starting point for contracting (yours or theirs).
Before you embark on this journey, check your current contract for the termination clauses. Most contracts will revert to a rolling 12 months with a window near the end of the contract year to terminate.
If your contract does not have clear and defined support for termination it might be worth asking for some now. I recommend starting with their contract for detailed aspects of the work, as this is what they do, but consider using your standard for any main aspects of liability, definitions and responsibilities of each party, with the provider’s detailed work being addendums to this. In this way, you could potentially shave six weeks off the legal process.
Once you have dry ink, the fun begins with a kick-off meeting. This is where you will need to make sure you partner with someone that can listen and challenge with new thinking. Once the requirements are scoped out, the scheme design is signed off and the project plan is put in place, you will need roughly 4-7 months to migrate from a systems and communications standpoint.
A good implementation plan and thoroughly scoped out scheme design is worth the time and effort. You will need the help of an experienced consultant who knows the pitfalls as well as the great additions to make to your scheme. I would advise choosing a provider that can provide a complete end-to-end solution from scheme design through to implementation, not just the technology.
The consultant will capture anything missed in the passionate sales pitches that happen before the contracts are signed. You may not actually have the scheme design or implementation plan scoped out properly at this point. However you want to know the provider has the processes in place to get it right. This will save you a lot of time later.
Also learn from the provider’s experience on how to engage employees on their views and how the plan would fit with their needs and the business.
Yard stick
I highly recommend measuring employee engagement pre and post launch. It is the only real indicator year on year if your strategy is working, needs scrapped or just needs a tweak. You can do this in many ways.
The easiest is a short staff survey, one before you launch and one after the effective date. I don’t mean over 20 questions with free text answers as this would take forever to complete and result in low completion rates.  
You need to keep it simple by:
  • Using a maximum of 10 questions, preferably closer to 5
  • Making sure the questions are clear and concise
  • Having multiple choice answers
  • Using an online tool i.e. Survey Monkey which will capture the data.
  • Keeping free text to one question max (don’t expect a lot of free text answers).You can also use the MI from the provider to help measure the effectiveness and engagement levels. 
In conclusion
Changing providers is not an easy process but can bring long term benefits for your business and make your benefits programme more engaging for your employees. Make provision to measure engagement before and after any change to the scheme. Most providers will also be able to help you produce a convincing business case which demonstrates the ROI to the key stakeholders.
I hope you find these tips helpful on your benefits journey.
Best of luck!

Alan Meyers, Business Development Director

Alan Meyers - Business Development Director

Alan has gained a great understanding of the corporate reward and benefits market on both sides of the Atlantic since 2005. He has experience managing and implementing flexible benefits schemes (cafeteria plans / 401k administration services) in large and small organisations including private and public sectors. These projects have required the cooperation of multiple providers including payroll, pensions, risk broking and voluntary benefits to name a few. Alan is always happy to share his experience on how to create a scheme that your workforce will truly value, including some best practice and pitfalls to avoid.

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