As companies around the world allocate budgets for the year ahead, a staggering 30 percent are planning to increase their spend on benefits technology. As a result, HR departments are combing through solutions to find the platform that best meets the needs of their organizations. They may find, however, some pushback from their counterparts in IT. While HR weighs the value of flexible benefits packages and intuitive interfaces as vital, IT will be clamoring if the software doesn’t easily integrate into existing virtual foundations. So how do you reconcile the wants and needs of these different yet equally important departments?
The shopping list
Traditionally, HR departments focus on implementation of new benefits technologies based on what they’d like to put into a practice from a philosophical standpoint. In addition to considering the resources needed to implement and run the technology, they focus on gaining valuable insight into benefit costs, such as the types of benefits that are most popular, user demographics, and uptake trends for employees.
Meanwhile, IT will likely be focused on the possibility of security vulnerabilities. While this is a potential risk any time a new technology is integrated into a system, 2015 saw an increase in the number of global data breaches, highlighting the vast consequences if an organization’s sensitive employee data is compromised. Therefore, safeguarding data is front of mind for any IT professional. Another concern is longevity; specifically, is this the type of software that will scale effectively in the event of expansion?
Luckily, there is a compromise that satisfies both sides’ needs: automation. By handing the keys to a solution that directly transfers data from HR to other related departments without the need for human input, human-based security risks can be eliminated. This option can also simultaneously appease HR’s desire to securely collect valuable data.
The value of interface
According to a recent study, 55 percent of HR professionals indicated that a simple, streamlined employee portal is one of the top priorities for benefits technology integration. As IT departments become more involved in the HR technology selection process, there are a few things CIOs need to keep in mind.
First, ease of use and responsiveness should be the main focus point. In terms of improving communications, a platform essentially needs to be robust enough to accommodate sending vast amounts of information to employees in a simple fashion, but flexible enough to anticipate what users are going to need. Second, benefits and enrollment processes vary around the world. For example, enrolling into medical benefits is very different in China and the U.K. compared to the U.S., and benefits technology solutions in each market should be tailored as such.
At the end of the day, the people most affected by the choice of platform are the employees who have to access the portal. If the platform isn’t perceptive enough that anyone can easily use it, IT and HR will both have to deal with resolving constant issues and respond to complaints. To provide the most effective benefits solutions, HR and IT need to work together to ensure that the interface isn’t clunky or frustrating.
Customization beats one-size-fits-all
As organizations continue to evolve on a global scale, minute details tend to evolve into full-blown problems. This highlights the need for customizable HR solutions, especially when offices cross international borders.
One such example is effective communications; according to the aforementioned study, 50 percent of HR professionals reported that one of their most difficult challenges is communicating the value of their benefits package. The problem is only exacerbated by language barriers and cultural differences between regions, raising concerns for both departments. If benefits aren’t communicated to employees properly, they won’t understand or value them. This could lead to employees not feeling rewarded or recognized, rendering the strategic value that benefits can provide ineffective.
The integration of new technologies into a business is never a simple process, especially when scaled globally. It is imperative that IT and HR converge their individual wants and needs to best serve those they were hired to provide for: employees at large. The result of such a partnership is a more engaged workforce, a situation in which everyone wins.
Chris Bruce is co-founder and managing director of Thomsons Online Benefits (www.thomsons.com).
Edited by Kyle Piscioniere