For the last 15 years I have hosted the Thomsons Reward Club Day. This has grown from four people in our very first to hundreds of clients across the US, Europe and Asia attending. This year we ran it virtually. Whilst the event went well, I really missed the buzz of being in a room with all our clients. Naturally many of the topics were COVID related. Some of the key areas being how HR teams are having to consider. Here are some of my take-aways from the event:

1. Differentiating with data

Prior to the pandemic, there was a divide between those companies benefiting from the latest technologies and those not. This gulf will only widen as we continue on the road to recovery.

Those businesses with access to technology will also have access to data – and this will become an increasing determiner of success. Equipped with data, businesses will be able to understand how the pandemic has impacted their workforce and how employees’ requirements are changing – or likely to change moving forward.

Benefits technology – and more specifically benefits data – can provide an invaluable window into employees’ priorities, helping HR leaders develop offerings to meet their current and future needs. This level of data insight enables reward professionals to identify potential spikes in spend. For example - if relocating employees to a new market would increase healthcare premiums, employers can take steps to prepare for, or mitigate these extra expenditures. In this way technology, and the resulting data, will be instrumental in helping HRs balance the needs of the business and its people.

2. Catering to diverse needs

The way people want to work is changing, and so is the support they’d like from their employers. Companies must be agile and respond to these shifts if they want to retain the best talent.

It’s likely that tomorrow’s workforce will be more spread out and reliant on collaboration technology than ever before. The traditional office set-up may no longer be a reality for many, with the 9-5 and daily commute things of the past. This will create new challenges for employees, which HR teams will need to help them overcome.

Teams should be prepared to take a holistic approach to health to meet diverse employee requirements. We’re used to different age groups looking for different health benefits, but increasingly HR leaders will need to consider employee location as part of the equation. Someone working front of house or in head office will have very different needs to someone working remotely. Benefits such as cycle to work schemes or workplace gym memberships may no longer be applicable to all employees. Instead, some might be looking for mental health support or initiatives to help combat feelings of loneliness or isolation.

While benefits funds, which allow employees to choose how their benefits funding is directed, have existed for some time, we anticipate more companies adopting these. These can be accessed from anywhere at any time, providing a personalised employee experience to each individual while maintaining a supportive company culture.

3. Balancing economy with empathy

This time of turbulence has caused a period of reflection. Remote working has broken down professional and personal barriers for many, with regular video calls offering glimpses into people’s homes and family lives. In response, employees are expecting empathetic leadership that respects their individuality and non-work lives, and is committed to building a sense of community.

Businesses will need to balance economics and empathy to meet employees’ changing needs within budget constraints. Adopting more preventative, as opposed to reactive, measures will be integral to nurturing a supportive environment that balances budgets with pastoral responsibilities.

With the world continuing to change, employees are increasingly seeing their employer as part of their support network. Employers need to embrace this new role. By providing access to reliable news, targeted benefits and useful resources, they’ll help employees cope with disruption, and earn their loyalty and trust in the process.

Looking ahead

This pandemic has some time to run and the effects will be long lasting. Companies need to be embracing this change so as not to be left behind by those that do.