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Post Covid reflections on data in employee benefits, with Cloud 8, Untangl and Data3

Data in employee benefits is by no means a new topic of discussion. In fact it’s widely recognised as a challenge that the industry has been facing for several decades.

And it’s a problem that’s not going away. We’re producing increasing amounts of data – forecasts suggest that by 2025 the amount of data will be tenfold compared to 2019.

So as we begin to consider how a post-Covid world of work might look, the ways we look after, use and benefit from workplace data are very much in the spotlight. 75% of participants at our recent data webinar agreed, saying that data is either ‘very high’ or ‘high’ on their company’s agenda.

Helen Tanner, founder of data lab Data3 and author of ‘The Data Escalator’ set the context for how workplace data can lead to better client service for advisors, improved employee engagement and business growth for everyone in the employee benefits value chain from adviser and provider to employer. “Imagine if you could bring together all of your employee data sources into one place: recruitment data, performance management, absence management, learning and development, employee benefits, pensions. When you bring them together and have a single view of employees you see the patterns and trends, you identify new insight, you can prove and disprove longstanding assumptions, you can challenge the status quo. Importantly you can make data-driven decisions, and that’s where the magic happens.”

Richard Stewart, co-founder and CEO at Untangl agrees that addressing employee data can drive efficiencies and help businesses meet their aims. “Employers are certainly not the only stakeholders who can benefit from improvements in employee data”, he says, again highlighting the EB value chain “data typically sourced from employer systems – such as HR, payroll or even post its – has to flow through to somewhere, where details can be modified by employees, before getting those choices and membership lists to the end provider so that that they can set up and administer products. There’s currently not a lot of natural connectivity, which impacts on all parts of the chain. If everyone’s efforts are on the basics, then everyone is missing out on doing the more valuable work, such as looking at usage and insights around benefits, better engagement and more effective communications. The opportunity is clear, now we have to try and move forwards so that we can focus on the value added.”

This ‘natural connectivity’, which could free up the manual inputting and maintenance of data across multiple technologies, is now firmly within the reach of advisers and employers with the likes of Cloud8’s Beam at Work platform.  14% of respondents to the poll question “Which technology does your current system rely upon” said that they are already using a cloud-based EB system but there is still work to do, with two-thirds relying on databases and spreadsheets and a surprising 7% of participants using paper filing.

“To reap the potential rewards we have to evolve as an industry” says Ian Rummels, CEO of Cloud8. It’s a long way off, but we need to get rid of spreadsheets and integrate the different sources of data. Taking benefits online is a good start which paves the way for futher, future integration. At a stroke, by allowing employees to manage and update their data, you can reduce manual changes, eliminate spreadsheets and the time that goes into looking after them, cleanse data and work towards a ‘single source of truth’ – which means you can then tap into greater insights through better-quality, more-regularly maintained data. An example of this that we’re already seeing is the preferred terms that our Cloud8 clients get from insurers; better data equals better risk management, which in turn equals better premiums.” 

 “More and more employees are digital natives, and, in the current environment we find ourselves in, there’s an ever-increasing expectation that things will – and should – be accessed digitally.”

That expectation is firmly backed up by respondents asked, ‘How soon do you anticipate implementing a digital EB solution?’ – with 20% saying implementation will happen within 12 months and a further 20% expecting an even faster implementation within the space of 6 months.

“There’s been a lack of urgency for change within the industry in the past” says Rummels “but we’re excited to see a change as businesses start to put pressure on consultants, providers and brokers to take a digital-first approach. The solutions are there, they’re affordable and when we look at what’s possible rather than accepting what’s been done in the past, we can move the focus from flex to digital and create meaningful change across the industry and across UK businesses of all sizes.”

To read more about the poll results, including tips and advice on how to navigate cultural buy-in for digital transformation and overcoming the most common obstacles to implementing a digital EB approach, download our white paper at https://teamcloud8.co.uk/cloud8-webinar-report/.