Technological advancements are bringing consumers closer to convenience and control. A recent example is the April upgradation of Alexa to incorporate HIPAA-compliant healthcare skills (USA), which allows patient-consumers to book appointments, and carry out other patient-tasks. Naturally, companies are looking at the areas of employee benefits with a new technology-lens. Cut to India, and many conversations about rewards still revolves around the “basket of rewards”, which employees must be able to choose from, for a truly immersive rewards experience! Here is a look at what the tech-driven Future of Rewards in Asia looks like.
The Future of Rewards in Asia
The rewards philosophy stems primarily from the business environment and talent landscape. While business growth across Asia, Middle East and Africa (AMEA) has been strong, the labour market continues to remain tight. Attracting and retaining top talent is no longer merely about offering high salaries. Yes, salary continues to be a critical factor, especially in the high growth markets of India and China, where salary budgets for 2019 across Asia-Pacific have been robust. For example, 2018 saw a 10.4% average annual salary increase for India, while the planned increase for 2019 is 10.5%. Yet, employees today are attracted to companies for a wider range of reasons- empowerment, growth opportunities, greater responsibilities, work culture & management styles, and rewards which closely reflect their own values.
Noteworthy to note is the distinction between the Asian talent market and the global talent market. Asia continues to be driven by different factors, for example, the pay differentials within India are largely driven by services vs. product companies as opposed to local vs. multinational companies. Whereas, in the US-market, large pay differentials exist for similar jobs based on geographic location, such as the San Francisco Bay Area setting the premium, especially for technology companies.
Indian organizations must think differently, to ace the War for Talent, over and above some of the key trends in Rewards Technology, such as:
• Personalization of rewards offerings
• Digital enablement to allow employees to select from a basket of rewards
• Wider benefits and intelligent suggestions encompassing lifestyle choices and stages
• Wellness is being treated as a rewards-cum-engagement offering
Emerging technologies can come to the rescue to enable one or more of the above outcomes. Big Data and Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Self-servicing software- these must be leverage to create a compelling “rewards experience” for the employee. Here’s how:
The Futuristic Rewards Architecture
Most progressive organizations have pretty much streamlined the rewards delivery experience- payroll, HR operations, rewards communication, and so on. But how many have actually empowered the real recipient of the rewards i.e. the employee? A self-servicing rewards platform, which stands on a strong foundation of the rewards philosophy, while embracing the modern-day expectations is the way ahead.
• Streamline the basics: Some employees still struggle with basics such as understanding their salary slip, or addressing salary concerns. This is a hygiene factor, and a modern-day rewards platform must be equipped with AI-led chatbots for query resolution. A training module in the form of videos and podcasts, hosted on the rewards website, and available at the “point of need” when an employee actually needs an answer, is a great engagement tool.
• Understand people expectations through intelligence: The rewards platform must be able to “analyze and “insight” employee expectations in terms of pay, career aspirations, learning and growth, hygiene factors etc. Talent Analytics and Artificial Intelligence tools can help gather and make sense of the information and must be leveraged to design a platform which customizes “Rewards packages” accordingly. Many formal interactions such as email, intranet, social media, engagement surveys, and even day-to-day informal conversations can throw up information related to life stage, dependents, location (and cost of living), career and personal aspirations, and so on.
• Access to information: Today, most rewards teams, HRBPs and supervisors professionals spend a lot of bandwidth allocating, deciding and communicating rewards-decisions. Much of this bandwidth involved in operational tasks can be freed up if employees are offered access to the information they need, anytime, anywhere. The rewards platform can be part of the HR module, in the form of an app, where people can learn about their leaves earned, accrued, salary structure and payouts, along with the rationale. Of course, proper access controls and checks and balances must ensue so as to uphold privacy and confidentiality.
• Rewards platform for communication: Only access to information is not enough, employees must also know “why” a particular decision entails. Sharing the “why” of the rewards offerings goes a long way in building trust and transparency. The rewards platform must be able to host messaging in the form of rewards philosophy, business updates, leadership connects, incentive schemes etc. HR must employ innovative media such as banners, videos, micro-information nuggets, notification pop-ups, gamification, etc. to build awareness about rewards.
• Enabling and encouraging self-service: If information and awareness are at an all-time high, yet employees are not able to actually maximize their gains with the right behaviours, disengagement will follow. Self-service modules are a must- whether it is controlling tax investments, or choosing from a “bucket of rewards”. The modern millennial may want to select a wellness benefit from the latest Zumba classes, while a middle-aged family person may be on the lookout for medical cover for his or her aging parents. Reaching out to HR and rewards POCs for such simple decisions can be very frustrating. The way ahead is to design an app/platform which proposes all suitable options as per an employee’s budget entitlement and allow him or her to select, finalize and initiate.
• Don’t forget the recognition: Recognition is going hi-tech, it is no longer relegated to a physical pat-on-the-back. Organizations are employing Facebook-like internal social media forums, email and intranet communication, and the Yammers of the world to spread the word about work done well. The rewards platform must hold functionality for peer-to-peer recognition, bottom-up recognition, real-time responsiveness, and creating the buzz around “achievements and celebrations”. For this, leaders must lead from the front, taking initiative in commending top talent.
A lot needs to be changed to make an employee-centric rewards system a reality. Decentralization of power, with employees being given a hand in the selection, is just the starting point. Organizations will need to up the game in systems, technology, and data expertise because any glitch in a rewards platform can have more than serious repercussions. For example, what happens when the company direction and therefore, the rewards philosophy changes? Will the entire system be redesigned, or how will the workflows change? How do cascading individual or team goals impact reward payouts? The leadership team must apply thorough design thinking and also invest in top-notch technologies. Roping in experts in the areas of Data Analytics, AI and ML, chatbots, HRIS and systems integration (with other HR and business modules), is a must. Most importantly, the success of new-age rewards is largely driven by employee adoption. Employees must be given the time and training to invest time, effort and skills so as to further their own rewards prospects to suit their peculiar needs.