The Future: from thought leaders: Flying benefits management to the moon is not rocket science

This article is brought to you by SBC Systems

James%20MarkhamReward is lagging behind other departments in use of technology and it is time to catch up, says James Markham, MD of SBC Systems (UK)

Flying to the moon is not an objective for most benefits managers. But it was technology that got us to the moon and I believe technology will take us to the next frontier of benefits management.

To make technology work for you, it is important to have a vision. I live in a time when I can access bank account data over a mobile phone, set up online alerts to remind me of deadlines and go shopping on the internet, yet much of benefits management languishes in a world where selecting benefits online once a year is considered advanced technology.

So what is an achievable vision for benefits management? Organisations have a growing expectation for low-maintenance technology with up-to-the-minute data, seamless integration with other databases, straight-through processing, extensive self-service, user-centric design, comprehensive management control and accessible benefits intelligence. On top of this, employers want a high level of benefits intelligence. A key aspect of this expectation is touch-free administration that eliminates the need for manual intervention.Tools are required to help employees model the full range of rewards they receive from their employer. Obtaining management information is also important. Companies want their management teams provided with reports that give up-to-the-minute information on benefits usage and costs, as well as indications of which perks staff really value. Lastly, employers will envisage an efficient seamless service with easy-to-use technology, which is integrated with other data management processes and allows for services to be replaced, updated and added.

Surprisingly, achieving this vision would only put the benefits function on a par with its finance and sales counterparts. So the good news is, this vision is quite achievable technologically, and in fact is already a reality in some markets.

So what would the benefits moon look like? Benefits technology needs to develop to the point where it is not so much a platform, as a hub. This hub would integrate with all manner of best-of-breed applications and service providers relevant to the full range of employee services, not just benefits. It would also manage all the workflow business processes associated with administering these services within the organisation. Such a hub would include an employee user portal rich in the functionality we already find on leading-edge websites. A management console would be thrown into the mix to provide state-of-the-art business intelligence monitoring and control across the business by country, service line, function and grade. Technical maintenance, administrative monitoring and employee help-desk services could be provided through a tailored interface.

I want to go to the moon, but can I really afford this vision? These projects can pay for themselves in less than two years. For most organisations, rewards and other employee services form both their largest and least-managed cost element. The right technology will give an organisation the ability to manage costs, while at the same time deliver increased value.

The biggest obstacle to achieving this kind of vision is the absence of the vision itself. Benefit managers need to work together with their technology colleagues to inspire such an achievement.

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