Communication Mix: Research reveals attitudes to digital benefits solutions

April 2013

Research regarding the communication and management of employee benefits reveals the high level of appeal of digital solutions. Specsavers Corporate Eyecare undertook the research to see just how far online systems have been accepted into the workplace and the advantages seen by employers.

The research took place among more than two hundred heads of companies and HR directors across the UK. Overall, the results have revealed that online benefits systems are in demand for their ease of management but that employers are not yet ready to leave paper-based options behind completely.

Overview of digital impact
Despite the number of manual jobs within the UK labour force, 90% of respondents say the majority of employees now have work-place access to the internet.

UK companies have become hugely reliant on digital technology with 98% having email, 91% retaining a website and 80% using an intranet. Well over half (58%) also now have access to their data on the move, with the use of smart phones.

When needing to find information or carry out research, the overwhelming majority (94%) of respondents say they now turn to the internet. Just 2% refer to a book and 2% consult a colleague.

Digital communication with employees
Digital communication is now an important part of the mix. While 67% of employers still include information regarding employee benefits in the induction pack, 65% now use their intranet and 63% use email or online methods. Benefits are communicated through the staff handbook by 53% of employees and notice boards and meetings are both used by 46%. The high percentages of each method show that employers are using a mix of communications.

Laura Butler, corporate account manager for Specsavers Corporate Eyecare says: ‘While companies are embracing new technology and are keen to distil information digitally, they are still retaining the old paper systems while bringing in new online options.’

Digital management of benefits
When it comes to actually managing benefits, allowing employees to claim and make use of their entitlements, the majority of employers (51%) use a mix of online and paper systems. Nearly a third of employers (32%) have migrated to online methods and less than a quarter (24%) still use paper-based systems. Laura Butler continues: ‘A significant 40% use somebody else to arrange the details, an HR manager, for example, or a third-party administrator. This does raise the question of whether there is a better use of an HR managers’ time than spending it making appointments for employees.’

Over a third (34%) of employers believe their employees would rather make their own arrangements, regarding benefits, using an online system. Some 31% believe employees would rather use a third-party administrator to arrange details on their behalf. A quarter (25%) believe they would like a mix of paper and online methods and just 4% believe their employees would prefer to be purely paper-based.

Advantages of online benefits
Regarding the advantages of administering employee benefits online, the most common response, from over three quarters (79%) of employers, was that it saves time. Ease of use was also selected by over three quarters (76%) of employers and the environmental and cost saving aspects were appreciated by 70%. Ease of management and gaining information were also common reasons for administering benefits online, selected by 60% and 49% respectively.

The majority of employers (56%) would like employees to be able to manage their own eyecare needs using a digital system. Interestingly though, nearly a quarter (22%) of employers state they ‘don’t know’ if they would want their employees to be able to access and manage their eyecare benefits online. Laura Butler adds: ‘This suggests, perhaps, that employers need greater information about how such a system could work and the advantages it could offer.’

Offering choice
The majority of employers (55%) like to offer employees a choice of how to manage their own benefits, either paper based or online. However, a third (34%) of employers like employees to use a specified system. ‘Choice does seem to be a major factor overall,’ concludes Laura Butler. ‘Employers like to have various options or alternatives, to benefit both themselves and their employees.

The research was undertaken, on behalf of Specsavers Corporate Eyecare, by eMedia. Over 200 heads of companies and HR Directors, from the UK and Ireland, were surveyed during March 2013.

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