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The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

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Supposedly from Aristotle, this is a well-known phrase – but events in recent months have really helped to focus on what it means, as we look to put the challenges of 2020 behind us and move forward to what we hope will be a better and brighter 2021.

Over the years I’ve been fortunate to work both with, as well as for, a number of people who have bought into the philosophy that the power of the team is greater than the individuals comprising it. So how can we bring this to bear as we approach 2021, hopefully with a feeling of excitement about what we can achieve?

Wellbeing

Let’s start with the biggest topic on HR and reward professionals’ agendas right now. Depending on where you are on the wellbeing continuum, you could have anything from a small number of isolated initiatives through to a cohesive, well thought-through strategy – or somewhere in the middle.

If your wellbeing approach is having the maximum impact, it’s likely you’ve been able to construct something that offers solutions across the financial, social, physical and emotional pillars. If you’ve only been able to really crack one of those nuts, you may be reading this feeling frustrated that it’s having some impact but not as much as you’d like. Maybe that’s because, in isolation, the component parts can only have limited success. The magic happens when you bring them together harmoniously, to deliver genuine wellbeing that empowers your people to be at their relative best every day.

 

Communications / engagement

The perennial thorn in the side of every HR and reward specialist. ‘How do I get our employees to truly value the things we do for them?’ is a common question I hear. In recent times, the question has related specifically to the wellbeing topic we’ve just covered. Whilst not wanting to repeat myself, if you are having great success with your employee engagement, it’s likely you are delivering several component parts of a communications programme which covers email, video, other digital channels, face to face (virtual equivalent for the time being), augmented reality, posters, booklets etc etc. Each of these channels will only ever have limited impact in isolation and so if you’re only using one, or perhaps doing several but in a disparate manner, you are unlikely to be achieving the greatest outcome.

 

HR technology

It’s fair to say that HR technology usage has increased dramatically in recent years. HRIS, payroll, L&D, talent acquisition. The answer is a platform. What was the question? Those who have really benefited from this digitalisation are those who have been able to join the dots between the disparate solutions, not only for their organisations but for employees too. Each of these platforms in their own right are brilliant. They improve the employee experience of that particular function that has gone digital. ‘Great, I can now update my HR records through this self-service function. Now how do I get my online payslip?’ The answer might be ‘you have to log in to a different system for that’ or ‘what’s an online payslip?’ Those who have reaped the greatest rewards are where the whole of the technology ecosystem is delivered in a way that makes its value greater than the sum of its parts.

 

So what?

Let’s bring it back to where I feel I can add value to my clients: employee benefits and technology.

If you’ve implemented benefits technology in the last few years, you’ve probably established in your requirements that it must have an easy and intuitive user experience. In today’s market, providers of benefits technology shouldn’t even be getting out of bed in the morning if they can’t deliver that, as it’s now just a baseline expectation rather than a differentiator. Now, technology has to seamlessly integrate the various part of the reward proposition to deliver a joined up and consumer-grade experience of all components, so that the employee’s access to personalised content and information is perfect.

That’s one part of it. What about the administration? The shiny front end experienced by employees is the proverbial swan above the water if you’re paddling like mad dealing with the administration every week or month. The world has moved on from just having a great user experience; payroll and provider reporting through administration capabilities has to be accurate and timely with no acceptance of manual intervention on its way through.

And finally the analytics. When I first started a role as a flexible benefits consultant a decade ago, I recall extracting data and running endless vlookups and pivot tables to create some lovely bar or pie charts in Excel to drop into a report, as I provided my clients with analytics on how many employees had selected which cover levels through the annual election. Now in 2020 I look back on this as the equivalent of dial-up internet. At the time it was slow and painful but still better than not having it at all, so we rolled with it. Today the bare minimum is data visualisation tools with real-time feeds, meaning HR and reward professionals always have their fingers on the pulse of what employees are doing with their reward propositions, allowing decisions based on evidence and not gut feel.

Whilst each of these in isolation are fantastic, they only have limited impact on their own. The magic really happens when each of them work perfectly together, meaning that every stakeholder gains the maximum benefit. Your employees have the greatest experience of their reward. Payroll and benefits managers have time to deal with things other than manual data fixes and reporting errors. Senior reward and HR professionals have real-time data available to make the right decisions for their business.

That’s when the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts.

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