How Can ‘Personalisation’ Be Applied To The Workplace? | Mercer

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How Can 'Personalisation' Be Applied to the Workplace?
How Can 'Personalisation' Be Applied to the Workplace?
Calendar12 September 2017

Author: Eve Read, Principal and Head of Proposition for UK DC & Financial Wellness, Mercer

“Customers can have any colour they want, as long as it’s black” is an ethos that is unlikely to sit well with the modern consumer. We’ve come a long way since the days of Henry Ford, practically doing a 180 degree turn to an era of mass customisation and co-production; consumers now expect at least a degree of personalisation when it comes to their purchases.

Take a simple coffee for example, you can walk into your local coffee house and essentially create your own coffee, tailored to your preferences. In 2008, a Starbucks representative estimated that the coffee company had approximately 87,000 combinations, couple this with a loyalty programme that accounts for 25% of all of their transactions in the US and 24,000 stores in 70 countries, Starbucks begins to build a very accurate picture of their customers using data.

Companies recognise a data-led, personalised approach is of mutual benefit to themselves and their customers; 83% of consumers now expect personalised experiences from brands and, in a buyer driven market, companies can’t afford to ignore this. However, despite this acknowledgement, it is a practice that has yet to be widely adopted for our internal consumers: employees.

Employers hold huge amounts of employee data that could be used to create relevant, personal triggers, while still being secure. They know when someone joins work, finishes a job, gets married, has children, receives a pay rise, turns 50 years old, and so on. Employers are ideally placed to use such data to create triggers to help employees to take timely and beneficial actions - even when these individuals are too distracted by daily life to recognise that they need to do so.

By combining this workplace knowledge with the latest advances in technology and behavioural science, employers could create an engaging, accessible, and personalised strategy to help employees value their benefits, while ensuring the business gets return on investment.

Personalisation and Pensions

A pension is a valuable part of an employee’s benefits package, but a lack of understanding can inhibit an employee’s ability to fully comprehend its value – why spend money on a benefit that employees don’t see the value in? There is also the issue that employees are ‘well intentioned’ when it comes to saving, however, short term financial pressures can often take precedence. The application of data to drive communications is nothing new, in fact, in the marketing world it is a mature practice. Segmenting a member population and providing personalised communications that engage, educate and empower seems like an easy win to reinvigorate member communications

One example is personalised pension videos, which provides the viewer with a forecast of what their retirement income is likely to be based on their current pension pot and contributions. It gives the member the opportunity there and then to adjust their contributions for a more palatable pension.

The personalisation of member communications is just one way in which employers can apply data to improve the financial lives of its employees. Financial wellness is a concept that has come to the forefront for employers as more and more research evidences the relationship between personal finance, mental health and productivity. Analysing employee data can provide a deeper understanding of what individuals need when it comes to their employee benefits, providing employers with the foundation to create a more consumer-centric benefits programme.

Personalisation and Health

Wearables seemed like a fad that would come and go in the blink of an eye, however, the worldwide wearables market is set to double by 2021 and is gradually making inroads into corporate wellness. Wearables present employers with the opportunity to gather more reliable behavioural data to design corporate wellness programmes specifically tailored to the needs of their workforce. As there tends to be a difference between what people say they want and what they actually want and use, the application of behavioural data could improve utilisation as well as the value employees derive from their benefits programme.

Most employers focus their HR policies, benefits spend and management time on the typically small employee population of ill (25%)* and long term disabled (5%)*, meanwhile, those living with health risks (55%)* go unsupported; this presents a ticking time bomb. Not catering for such a large portion of employees can be costly as preventative measures and education could mitigate the need for medical benefits. The capabilities of wearable technology could enable employers to monitor the health of their workforce and make real-time recommendations to improve lifestyles whilst preventing them from falling into the ill category. This could also be tied in with incentive schemes by rewarding positive behaviour with particular benefits adding an element of gamification.

Personalisation and Careers

According to the Mercer Talent Trends Survey 2017, senior executives are struggling to get the talent metrics they need to inform decision making. HR teams have large amounts, but don’t really know how to transform it into valuable insights. In fact, there is a mismatch between the information senior executives want and what is being reported.


The advent of platforms like Workday would facilitate much of the heavy lifting by encouraging employees to add information about themselves such as desire to relocate, career objectives, holidays, how much is earnt, how many dependents and so forth. With this information, HR teams would not only begin to tailor benefit programmes that are appropriate for the socioeconomic make-up of the employee population, but also design career frameworks that have been personalised for the individual. All too often employees leave a company for simple reasons, so providing them with the forum to raise issues so that they can be addressed would likely aid retention, especially in an age where the right talent is scarce. This data could then provide a solid foundation to introduce predictive analytics, moving the HR function to a data-driven arm on the business that can provide real insight rather than opinions on gut feeling.

Data Is a Double Edged Sword

Employers have an abundance of data, but there is a lack of strategy about generating insights from it. And to avoid crossing the fine line between personalisation and Orwellianism, companies must respect employee boundaries when it comes to data collection and use it ethically and legally. The application of data is, however, of mutual benefit to employers and their employees, as it helps to tailor offerings to the individual rather than the traditional one-size fits all which is out of keeping with modern consumerism. A data-driven approach also helps engineer a product that people are more likely to consume, which should see internal consumers derive more value.

*Based on data from Britain’s Healthiest Workplace research (Reilly Associates WPAI methodology)

For more information on how to engage employees and improve financial outcomes through behavioural economics and digital innovation, download our whitepaper.


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This article does not contain advice in respect of actions you should take. No decision should be made based on this information without obtaining prior specific, professional advice relating to your own circumstances.