Consider cultural impact carefully when integrating IT

Cancer Research UK puts its benefits technology to the fore, but also takes account of the need for paper-based communication

Making the most of the benefits offered by an employer is very important, and in my case I have joined the pension scheme, enjoyed my holiday, used childcare vouchers, bought a bike, phoned the employee assistance programme (after cycling in London), and bagged some great discounts. Choosing the most appropriate technology to underpin the benefits that are on offer is equally important for the employer.

In September 2007, Cancer Research UK launched a new rewards and benefits hub, which can be used by all employees that are linked to the internet, for access anywhere.

Employees visiting the site can select three benefit preferences from a holistic range including work-life balance, health and discounts and savings. Each month the site will update itself to present new information about different benefits in each of the categories chosen by the employee. From a technology perspective this is not hugely sophisticated, which is good for the budget, but our employees tell us they like the personalisation.

We are also able to understand what benefits employees prefer to hear about.

The effective use of resources is important in any organisation, and this is particularly critical in a not-for-profit environment. If you are intending to grow your benefits in the future, remember that the architecture and functionality of your chosen solution must allow for this.

When the rewards and benefits hub site was developed, we wanted it to have plenty of space to grow, so when we broaden our benefits offering in the future, there is room to expand with no additional cost.

If I may use the ‘p’ word in an article about technology, it is to say that it may often be difficult to avoid paper, especially where employees have different levels of access to technology in the workplace. For example, in a charity retail chain, where there is no access to the internet in-store, we have taken an inclusive approach to those employees without internet access either at work, home, or both. “The Hub Book”, an abridged paper version of the hub, is available for those who need to pick up the phone, rather than click, to access their benefits.

Defining the information needs of your employees at an early stage will be absolutely critical for engagement. At least if you need to resort to paper-based communication, you will know beforehand what opportunities exist for finding alternative ways of increasing engagement.

At Cancer Research UK, our benefits offering is limited compared with many private sector organisations, and generally speaking the capacity to flex these benefits is small. Nonetheless, there are many benefits to working for this organisation, such as the culture, learning and development opportunities, and the work environment itself.

Best fit, rather than best practice, is far more attractive if your organisation is somewhat unusual in terms of culture or workforce profile, as is the case with Cancer Research UK. Some of the most effective benefits technology and communication examples are based on simple approaches that suit the organisation in question.

Knowing what other organisations have done to deliver their benefits is very useful, but developing a strong understanding of what might work well in your own organisation, whether it is culturally or technologically, is a major step forward.

Tom Russell is director of strategic resourcing and reward at Cancer Research UK


Best practice tips

  • Even if you are not intending to develop a fully flexible benefits system, explore ways of developing personalisation.

  • Make time to understand whether all your employees have equal access to the technology that will deliver your benefits.

  • Design a system that will exceed your current requirements and give room to grow.

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