Ian McKenna: How employers can use data better

Organisations want to know as much as they can about customers, so they can better design services to meet their needs. Shouldn’t the same apply to employees?


Big data is transforming the way many organisations work, from retail to healthcare, enabling unprecedented insight into a wide range of areas. Employee benefits should not be exempt from this process because the benefits can be just as significant for HR as they can for sales and marketing.

Such information can also be aggregated to help an employer better understand staff expenditure.

For reasons of confidentiality, this is typically only appropriate where more than 250 staff use such a service.One practical application of this is financial wellness services.

Designed to help employees take better control of their day-to-day finances, the best systems enable users to aggregate details of all their bank accounts, credit cards and other financial arrangements into a single service.

This enables employees to have a clearer understanding of how they spend their money and, in turn, to help them learn better budgeting techniques.

However, having a clear picture of what overall employees spend most money on has obvious advantages when reviewing benefits packages.

It may also be worth giving special consideration to services where wider information can be available in addition to the primary benefit. This can increasingly be the case with some healthcare services, such as eyecare.

Analysis reported in February by US-based human capital risk management firm HCMS Group and eyecare provider VSP highlighted the fact that non-invasive eye examinations can now identify the early onset of many chronic conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Benefits that open the possibility of early action to address such conditions can help employers and employees alike.

Ian McKenna is director of the Finance and Technology Research Centre