Digital eye HR and benefits teamsneed to be empowered in order to report on the success of theirprograms and to give employees a better benefitsexperience.

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While investing in your employees is the smartest businessdecision you can make, HR and benefit professionals are beginningto expand their focus to more than talent retention. In 2020, NorthAmerican headquartered organizations have zeroed in on their top three benefits strategyobjectives: (1) promoting employee health and well-being, (2)attracting and retaining talent and (3) driving overall businessperformance.

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Those three objectives all have one common goal: to inspire andengage employees, resulting in more productivity, creativity, andinnovation within the workplace. Here are four ways organizationscan achieve these objectives for a competitive edge.

1. Adopt and maximize HR technology

While the majority of HR leaders believe they are innovators,they also admit to several obstacles when it comes to technologyinvestment. Increasingly, HR and benefits teams are required toprove their contribution towards achieving organizational goals.However, one of the biggest barriers continues to be lack of buy-infrom senior leadership to invest in the technology necessary todeliver on these. HR and benefits teams need to make the benefitsof tech clear to the C-suite, as without the people data andinsights that come from this technology, teams cannot accuratelyreport on ROI on spend or engagement on benefits– which for 55% oforganizations accounts for 16% to 25% or more of payroll.

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Related: How data analytics can help you reposition benefitsofferings

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Without new technology, teams will struggle to answer keyquestions such as: Based on usage, how much can we expect to spendon health care next year, per country or per age range? Are ouremployee well-being initiatives actuallyworking through a reduction in insurance claims or absences forexample? Do we need to adjust our HR strategy to accommodate forregional differences? HR and benefits teams need to be empowered inorder to report on the success of their programs and to giveemployees a better benefits experience.

2. Support your staff (and in turn, protect your bottomline)

The happier the employee, the more engaged they are. Studieshave shown that engaged employees are less likely to leave foranother job. This could save billions of dollars in recruiting andhiring costs. But it's not only about turnover and retention.Employee health and well-being may also have a huge impact onproductivity. According to the Workforce Attitudes Towards BehaviorHealth report, 48% of respondents revealed they have cried at work.Work related stress causes nearly one million people to misswork or work less effectively every single day, costing businessesas much as $300 billion in annual losses.

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Employee wellness programs play a big part in ensuring employeesfeel valued and supported by their employers. This is crucial whentrying to gain a competitive edge in the talent market. Ourresearch shows that benefits teams in North America understand thisand are prioritizing employee well-being programs as a result.

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Providing employees with choice is key to make sure the supportyou offer is meeting their individual needs. As organizationsrecognize this, we're seeing more and more employers implementwellness pots. Wellness pots allow employees to choose how to spenda wellness allowance from their employer. This can be used in avariety of ways, from mindfulness programs, exercise classes oreven art classes.

3. Discover the potential of people analytics

Our research shows that 82% of North American organizations are alreadycollecting employee data on employee performance (69%),departmental cost control (75%) and productivity (61%). Peopleanalytics also continues to gain traction throughout organizations,with nearly three-quarters (70%) of businesses establishingdedicated teams to measure and analyze this data.

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However many organizations are still failing to measure theareas that have a direct impact on productivity and performance,such as engagement with the organization and well-being. Many arestill faced with barriers to effective data collection andanalysis, with a lack of technology (25%), poor quality data (38%)and data literacy (25%) cited as the main reasons.

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HR and benefit teams are overwhelmingly looking to upskill theirexisting staff to be able to interpret this data, rather thanreplacing them with technology. Digital transformation is not athreat for HR professionals, but an opportunity, enabling them playa more strategic role within their organization.

4. Recognize the value of the HR team

North American organizations stand out from the rest of theworld by prioritizing business performance in their top threebenefit objectives (this ranks fourth globally). This mirrors theintensely competitive corporate environment in the region.According to the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report, the UnitedStates is the most business performance competitive nation in theworld.

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However, it's not enough to just drive business performance. HRand benefits teams also have to be recognized as the agent ofincreased performance. Benefits teams in North America are usingemployee data to measure against peer organizations in order toguarantee this. This shows the board and the C-suite how theorganization stacks up against their competitors and proves thatHR's strategy is working to support business performance.

Looking towards the future

During the last few years, HR professionals have begun to takebetter advantage of technology. It is the time for HR and benefitsprofessionals to emerge from their functional silos and become thekey strategic players and drivers of business performance theyshould be–powered by technology. Inevitably more change is tocome–by 2022, the use of data and data analytics will skyrocketwith more upskilling on the table. Are you ready?

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Chris Bruce is co-founder andmanaging director at Thomsons Online Benefits.

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