How Organizations Can Meet Critical Business Goals.
Workforce Communications are a critical component of attracting,
retaining and engaging the Workforce and an effective employee communications can increase
shareholder value by as much as 47 percent.
Information-focused workers benefit most from communications that are available on demand via the internet, collaborative, personalized, searchable and in context to their daily work/life tasks and events. Effective, technology-driven communications can help organizations brand themselves as innovative employers of choice; engage employees from “day zero” with a personalized onboarding experience; create a dynamic employee portal; allow information and work culture to be shared across locations and functional areas and help employees become more informed consumers of benefits and other hr services.
This article examines a variety of on-demand workforce communication technologies, including portals, on-demand knowledgebase and decision support applications, on-demand total rewards statements and onboarding technologies.
The Workforce is Ready for Technology as a Means of Communicating and Managing Events
Most technology-based communications are delivered to the workforce via an employee portal. but the first thing hr executives might ask when considering this topic is, “if we build it, will they come?” and the answer is yes! today’s workers leverage internet technologies every day – they go online to shop for cars, pay their bills, model mortgage loan rates, make travel arrangements and much more. it makes sense that they want the same capabilities to access work information and manage their day-to-day work and life events.
The Problem with Employee Portals
Portals have a wide range of definitions – from an enterprise-level portal with an hr component to an employee/hr intranet (available only at work) or extranet (available from work or home). for the purpose of this article, we’ll describe portals as "a single site where members of the workforce can access – on demand – the information, decision support tools and transactions they need to manage their work and life events."
An employee portal is not a new concept. in fact, in companies with more than 500 employees, portals have become mainstream – 75 percent now have a portal or plan to implement one in the next 18 months. but in too many cases, portals have not met employers' expectations – they built them, but the members of the workforce didn’t come. the reasons most frequently cited are:
1. The portal contains mostly self-service transactions, such as an employee self-service solution or a benefits enrollment application, but does not have the related information or decision support tools the employee needs to complete the transaction.
2. If there are communications on the site – handbooks or benefits information, for example – they are generic, often-out-of-date, static and not easily searchable for relevant information.
3) To create a more usable, effective and dynamic employee portal, many employers are turning to on-demand knowledgebase and decision support applications.
An on-demand knowledgebase is an application that holds all of an employer’s policies, benefits information and much more in a delivery mode that provides to an employee only the personalized information that is relevant to him or her – based on position and/or location. these applications are usually hosted, so even if a portal is available only at work, an employee can still access the knowledgebase at home via the web.
Most important, they are searchable – making it easy for employees to find what they need – when they need it. for example, combining the features of on-demand, personalized and searchable, let’s take an example of an employee who is expecting a baby and searches the knowledgebase on "maternity coverage.".
This search would link to a page that showed the employee maternity coverage for his or her specific health plan – allowing the employee to get the info needed – “just in time” – without having to call third parties such as hr or a provider. additionally, some knowledgebases have life event checklists that can help walk employees through the things they need to do – such as apply for maternity leave – and link to all relevant forms and personalized company policies.
If the knowledgebase is offered in a software-as-a-service (saas)model, then the vendor will even maintain the information for the employer. While many smaller companies deploy knowledgebases as their portal, most mid- and larger-market companies integrate knowledgebases into their existing portal and self-service applications – so that the information is presented to employees within the context of their self-service transactions.
For example, if a company has integrated a benefits knowledgebase with its benefits enrollment self-service solution, employees who want to understand plan options during open enrollment can do side-by-side comparisons of all the plans for which they are eligible – simply by clicking a link within the self-service application. most important again is the personalization – employees will be able to compare only those plans for which they are eligible.
Decision Support Technologies
Technology can not only help employers better communicate with employees, it can provide tools to help employees make more informed decisions. best-in-class organizations are, for example, providing employees with innovative decision support tools to help the workforce become more informed benefits consumers. health care cost containment is a major concern for today’s employers, and most have had to increase employee premiums to help offset costs – creating a burden for the employer and the employee. to contain costs further, many employers have turned to high deductible health plans (HDHPS), but employees have not widely embraced these plans – largely because they do not fully understand the advantages and potential impact. that’s why it is important to leverage technology to help employees make the right choices when it comes to hr services such as benefits. there are a variety of innovative decision support tools on the market today – such as medical cost estimators, dynamic plan comparisons, HSA/FSA modeling tools, needs analyses – that can effectively drive the right employees to the right plans.
Deploying these tools in a web-based environment – via a portal, as a "stand-alone" or in context to a benefits self-service solution – is also important because it allows employees to make decisions with the "CEO at home" outside of work hours.
On-Demand Total Rewards Statements
Another communications technology being widely embraced is the on-demand total rewards statement. today’s employers are making substantial investments in compensation packages, but study after study is showing that the majority of employees do not fully understand – or leverage – their total rewards packages. although many companies distribute annual compensation statements, these are not effective in year-round motivation and have no tools to allow employees to model potential rewards. on-demand total rewards statements have key advantages:
1. They are available year-round – refreshed quarterly, monthly or even by pay-period – for typically less or about the same cost as a one-time printed statement.
2. Information is always up-to-date.
3. Yhey contain tools to allow employees to model parameters such as 401(k) contributions or potential stock option values.
4. They allow for tailored messages to highlight participation – or lack of participation – in programs such as 401(k), espp and other voluntary programs.
5. They show not only the employee contributions for things such as health care – but also the employers’ rising costs.
Additionally, many total rewards statements have views for job recruits and line managers – and combine all of an organization’s compensation-related data fields to provide a consolidated means of reporting on total compensation.
Employers have found that deploying on-demand total rewards statements has helped them:
• Ease the pain of increases in health care premium contributions.
• More effectively attract and retain employees.
• Increase participation in voluntary programs.
• Provide managers with an effective tool to have compensation-related discussions during performance reviews.
Web-Based Onboarding Technologies
Perhaps the “hottest” innovation in hr communications today is onboarding. With the current war for talent – and surveys showing that as many as 80 percent of new hires decide whether or not to stay with a company in their first six months of employment – employers are embracing the concept of engaging new hires from "day zero" with a personalized onboarding experience.
Web-based onboarding applications allow employers to give new hires a link to an onboarding portal the day they accept their job offer. The new hire can then review company policies, complete forms (such as their W-2 and i-9 forms) online, model and elect benefits, read about company culture – even begin to network through linked-in social networking applications like blogs and mentor chat rooms. these activities not only increase new hire productivity on day one, they build a bond with companies that can result in higher new hire retention. Some onboarding applications also orchestrate the new hire process by integrating with hr and payroll applications, providing electronic acknowledgements and orchestrating processes such as provisioning. most will also automatically populate forms once the new hire begins – and can have delayed effective dates for health care and other benefits. And, ideally, the onboarding application will integrate with a knowledgebase and work/life events applications to continue the onboarding process throughout the employee life cycle – further increasing retention. Just about any company seeking to brand itself as an employer of choice, get new hires up to speed faster and eliminate the administrative burdens of onboarding is a candidate for these new technologies. new onboarding applications are also particularly popular among employers with high seasonal hiring, such as amusement parks or retailers, and companies with complex safety and compliance acknowledgement requirements, such as health care organizations.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Enwisen is the leading vendor of workforce communications technology. Enwisen solutions are rapidly deployed, provide a broad range of features for significantly less money than traditional communication venues and are hosted and maintained by Enwisen. For more visit http://www.enwisen.com