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Welcome to our latest blog post where we summarise our recent trip to the REBA Future Forum 2023, the bumper in-person event at the forefront of reshaping the HR, rewards, and benefits landscapes.
Held in late November, this event presents a welcome opportunity for HR and benefits leaders to navigate through the many complexities and challenges around employee experience and workplace environment, as well as mingle with exhibiting benefits and wellbeing providers (like us!), most of whom were offering up some fantastic merch and giveaways (not like us… although, watch this space for the next one 👀)
The day’s agenda was jam-packed – full of insightful workshops, keynote speeches, and connection opportunities, all aimed at reviewing, reflecting, and reacting to the latest trends to shape our workplaces and employee experience on the global stage.
A few members of the GoJoe team - Will, Jess, and Jack - were in attendance to learn from key industry experts and showcase our innovative digital health and fitness app and annual benefits platform. In this blog, we’ll attempt to share our key learnings and insights from the event. Let's dive in!
Right, first things first. The day of the event kicked off with a 6am run around the streets of Shoreditch for Jess and Jack, keen to freshen their heads before the main event. There was no danger of any PBs being set - but it’s amazing how a bit of activity and movement can get you into a more positive, focussed mindset for the day ahead, even if it’s only a 10-minute walk around the block.
Remember – if it’s not on GoJoe, it didn’t happen, and no one will believe you. (Sorry, Strava 😉)
🐊 Crocodile status secured, we hot-tailed it to the event to meet Will and get ourselves in the mixer.
It would be rude not to kick things off with a few stats, wouldn’t it? Debi O’Donovan, Co-founder and director of REBA, certainly agrees and her welcome speech set the tone for the day ahead, highlighting that:
- 93% of employers believe that employee benefits are more important now than they were 5 years ago (REBA Insights)
- 56% of those surveyed suggested their workforce health and wellbeing was currently a challenge for their organisation
- 44% are struggling with workforce culture
- 38% cite collaboration amongst their workforce as a currently challenging area
- 28% are experiencing issues with employee productivity
Buckle in everyone - there’s serious work ahead!
Interestingly (but perhaps unsurprisingly, given the current cost of living crisis and inflation fears) financial wellbeing is earmarked by REBA’s insights team as the key area in which spend will be reviewed / increased in the next 12 months, with a huge 44% intending to focus on it. Alongside it, employee engagement recognition & motivation is an area projected for growth - 44% want to explore further here, followed by benefits platforms at 43% and mental health support at 24%.
Do these figures represent a desire to niche down from the more generic (and readily available) mental health platforms, to specific areas of a person’s everyday existence such as financial wellbeing? It would make sense if so - financial strains are intricately linked to mental health problems, with money worries, debt and poverty collectively some of the biggest contributors to conditions such as stress, anxiety and depression.
So, looking ahead to 2024, and the topic on everyone’s lips (aside from Karehero’s life-sized llama 🦙😄)… What are your top rewards/benefits challenges for 2024?
Spreadsheet enthusiasts of the workplace wellbeing land, you’re in luck - a resounding 58% of the REBA audience in attendance want to improve their use of data for decision making.
Fortunately for the rest of us, it’s not all Excel formulas and calculators these days – AI is here to take over (ahem, we mean *support*) and there are so many ways it can lighten our workloads and speed up our processes when it comes to data – more on that later.
And, when it comes to transformation, there are some strategic changes to benefit offerings that support this in the offing. Employee benefits design, communication strategies, recognition programmes and environmental benefits all feature, but leading the pack is digital platforms and apps - 54% feel that these do not align with their current strategy and are planning to change. PSA - if you’re in the market for a new provider in this space – we know a rather good social fitness app that would love to help you out. 😉
Now that we’re all experts in 2024 key trends/challenges, let’s jump into the future a little more. 2030 - feels a long way off, right? But, when you consider that it was only 12 months ago that Chat GPT burst on to the scene revolutionising how the world sees the concept of artificial intelligence, it’s mind boggling to ponder just how much technology and AI will advance in the next 6 years. In Benefits for 2030: The Challenges That Lie Ahead, Matthew Gregson of Howden Employee Benefits outlined how product consolidation and simplification will be a huge trend in wellbeing.
➡️ Now? Scattered apps and solutions, confusing for the end users to navigate – overwhelm, app sprawl and low engagement galore.
➡️ Then? Streamlined and responsive solutions powered by AI that will give the user exactly what they want or need, exactly when they want or need it.
Incidentally, this is something we have been hearing from our clients (and users) for some time. That's why product consolidation and consumer-grade user experience are where we have been putting our chips for so long.
Whilst we’re on the subject of AI (and let’s be honest, who isn’t these days?) we should highlight a fascinating session from Graham Meinke of Zest: From Benefits to Personalisation to Personalisation 2.0: How AI is Driving Change. Graham shared insights into how AI can bring a positive impact to people team’s: speeding up repetitive administration tasks, helping businesses shift from reactive cultures to more proactive ones.
AI will play an incredible role in identifying key trends, and key culture points. We will gain tangible insights. We will understand our people better. We will be able to personalise meaningful content to our teams, improve business outcomes such as retention and attraction. But – to reap the benefits of these significant advances we will have to cross choppy waters.
Graham cites three key risks that may inhabit the AI space in the years to come:
- Credibility. As with the advent of any new technology or emerging trend, there will always be those eager to jump on the bandwagon. Graham’s advice is to always research carefully the technology behind any data solutions you wish to implement or companies you are considering partnering with.
- Data protection. Picture this: you’ve just received oodles of spectacular data sets from those annual wellbeing surveys that you’ve spent months facilitating- wouldn’t it be great to run them through Chat GPT for some quick and easy analysis summaries? Hold up! Whilst this seems tempting, it’s important here to remember GDPR obligations, your organisational legal policies, company guidelines on data and general data safety best practises. Speak to your legal team for guidance on this specific point!
- Black box decision making. With influxes of data, will we start solving the wrong problems? Companies will need to take time to get their approach right on this, looking for solid and proven solutions.
This is a key area for growth - 89% of the REBA audience specified that they wanted advanced analytics but just 33% of them are currently carrying out advanced analysis. Drilling down further, 80% want analytical tools integrated within their platform of choice. We’ve been upgrading our own analytics tools in recent months, with our clients requesting more and more data insights and results.
As an example, our wellbeing survey capability offers a suite of template surveys, with the option for customisation. Created in our business manager and enhanced by the user experience within the app (such as push notifications and prompts in-app) we are able to increase completion rates and categorise the data for analysis and review.
We dropped into a super insightful session by Guy Clarkson, who is a UK Digital Growth Leader for the organisation Mercer Marsh Benefits. Guy touched on the importance software and technology plays in the overall employee experience, and that these are most impactful when paired with the human touch – a marriage of technology and humans works the best.
It was referenced how the EVP is commonly measured via demonstrable outcomes around attraction, retention, and engagement, and that there are significant cost pressures, therefore emphasising the need to measure impact. People’s expectations are also shifting, and with wellbeing the number one priority across organisations, people are expecting consumer grade (not clunky platforms) and personalised technology. Technology can be the digital front door, however, it needs to be simple and not require endless clicks to find personalised content and pathways into the broader benefits available to them.
We learned from Kirsten Watts, part of the team from Barnett Waddingham about how our thoughts are now positively shifting to a people and planet first mentality, with sustainability being a part of how we can all play our part in the changing world. It’s now a common theme upon how we can all make a positive difference in the workplace – organisations now seem on the front foot with regards to supporting corporate objectives, attracting, and retaining the best talent, and using sustainability initiatives as a great opportunity to engage with their people.
Providers are now being held to account to ensure their benefits offering are sustainable with key measures around carbon offset being a key performance indicator.
With NHS queues stretching longer than a Monday morning without coffee, a staggering 8 million people in the UK alone are on a waiting list, and 5% have clocked up over a year in the quest for getting a consultation. The picture is similar in Canada, Norway and many other countries globally with struggling and overwhelmed health care systems. The weight of these long waits? It settles on the shoulders of workplaces worldwide – with unprecedented sickness related absence, low productivity and most importantly - unwell people who are struggling to get better and need help.
Enter the dawn of innovative health solutions. Digital medicine – it’s not just an episode of Black Mirror anymore, it's fast becoming the new normal.
From apps that monitor heartbeats to virtual consultations that make house calls obsolete, digital health is continually opening up new possibilities for prevention, care and treatment. Senior clinicians will be supported by digital tools, freeing trainees’ time to learn. When ill, people will be increasingly cared for in their own home, with the option for their physiology to be effortlessly monitored by wearable devices. People will be helped to stay well, to recognise important symptoms early, and to manage their own health, guided by digital tools and solutions.
Another booming area will be health tourism – think getting a hip replacement on your next city break. So, as companies become accidental health heroes, they're not just supporting employees; they're pioneering a revolution that could see us swapping hospital gowns for beach towels and transforming waiting rooms into living rooms. This is definitely one trend to keep a close eye on.
As the global workforce ages, businesses are increasingly facing the challenge of adapting their practices to support the health and wellbeing of older employees. This demographic shift is not just a matter of numbers; it's about rethinking workplace environments, policies, and health programs to ensure an inclusive, productive, and healthy work culture for all ages.
Another key insight from the Chair’s Welcome session was on the topic of supporting ageing workers - 38% of employers currently address age related physical wellbeing with 43% planning to address this within 2 years - this is an 81% increase. Cultivating a supportive culture will be the focus with health and fitness programs needing to be accessible to employees of all ages, covering exercise and movement but also age specific and tailored approaches across all areas of wellbeing – nutrition, sleep, stress and emotional support to name a few.
This is something we work hard on at GoJoe - everyone is welcomed and on equal footing in the GoJoe community - whether a 65 year old dog walker or an 18 year old triathlete.
Wow – what a jam packed day it was! The REBA Future Forum 2023 has certainly illuminated the ever-evolving landscape of workplace wellbeing, with a spotlight on the necessity for agile and personalised employee benefits. Amidst a frantic world adjusting to economic shifts and an ageing workforce, the importance of integrating advanced analytics, AI, and innovative health solutions into our benefits platforms is clear. By embracing these key trends, we can ensure a healthier, more inclusive, and engaged workforce, ready to meet the challenges of tomorrow.
Thanks to all of the fantastic event organisers, speakers, delegates and exhibitors for sharing your knowledge with us, and a massive shout out to our booth neighbours aka corridor buddies Sonder and TTMCoaching for keeping us company throughout the day!