Humanising employees - the demand for wellness technology

the world has adapted to new and different ways of working

Human resources departments have had to navigate unique and increasingly complex challenges as the world has adapted to new and different ways of working. Yet as employees increasingly work remotely and organisational structures become focused around resilience in the face of an everchanging environment, ensuring a high-quality and consistent employee experience is rising to the top of many boardroom agendas.

Expanding role for human resources

The new working environment has increased the level of responsibility that employers are being asked to take for employee wellbeing, in terms of both their mental and physical health. The lines between home and work for many remote workers have become blurred. Employers who refrain from offering an innovative and flexible approach can harm more than just morale, with productivity and profitability directly impacted. As a vital piece of any employee value proposition (EVP), HR can be as vital for the brand image as marketing, as demonstrated by easily accessible Glassdoor employee reviews. Industry recognition as a top employer will also add some punch; particularly when the fight for talent heats up again.

Rise of 'plug and play' solutions

solutions that provide employees with personalised advice

Human resources rightly see themselves as technology innovators. There are several ‘plug and play software applications’ that are emerging which offer tailored solutions that provide employees with personalised advice and key benefits whilst allowing them to give and receive better feedback. Typically characterised by interoperability with other software systems, these provide a best-in-class solution around a specific proposition.

Providing a personalised and relevant offering through data analytics

The growth in sophisticated data and analytics allows the personalisation of propositions. For many firms it may no longer be enough to simply have a programme in place; the best employers want to see how often and deeply their employees are engaging with it.

Relevant and flexible offerings that account for changing personal and wider societal circumstances are likely to be significantly better investments than blanket propositions. For example;

  • Restrictions on public transport have meant many more employees are participating in cycle to work schemes which have been available to employees as part of their package but haven’t been as utilised until now;
  • Whilst international travel benefits at a time of increasing uncertainty perhaps become less important; building up your immune system through key areas such as sleep, and nutrition comes to the forefront in a time of healthcare awareness.

The MyAnalytics feature from Microsoft 365 provides users with valuable new insights to encourage wellbeing and enables users to manage a healthier work-life balance. For example, the system shows users the number of days they successfully disconnect from work outside of working hours.

Utilising this wellbeing data companies are able to investigate in detail what makes individual teams happiest or most productive, then they are able to tailor benefit packages to create similar results for all employees in the company.

A growing interest in financial wellness

The wellness trend has been around for a few years, but some new subsectors are emerging. UK financial wellness apps such as Wagestream and Perkbox have raised significant venture capital rounds as investors look to capitalise on a new growth market.

The employee case is compelling. A recent study suggested that 62% of employees cited being able to pay their monthly expenses as their biggest concern, whilst employees regularly suggest that they trust their employer to provide financial advice, there is often a gap between what employees want and what is offered to them. When employers do find the right product, they often report a three times investment return on their programme.

An emerging focus on mental health

Mental health is another emerging area, with studies proving that companies that prioritise mental health awareness record more success.

The World Health Organization claims that depression and anxiety cost the global economy $1 trillion per year in lost productivity. At a time where the average life satisfaction in Europe, which has repeatedly led the world in wellbeing, fell to the lowest level since 1980 in April, digital technology is playing a crucial role in the treatment of mental illness and a focus on early intervention and prevention can be critical. Studies that investigate the impact of workplace mental health interventions cite the average return of investment (ROI) of around four times.

As the focus on mental health begins to shift, investment in this area is growing. In February, UK start-up Unmind raised €8.35m ($10m) in a Series A round alongside Swedish employee counselling app BlueCall who also raised €1.7m in funding.

Heightened investor appetite

Software and technology-led service propositions are likely to see heightened investor interest due to their ability to disrupt a large and international addressable market.

strong interest from both European and US investors

In many nascent markets, with numerous early-stage propositions, software point solutions will continue to participate in rounds of venture funding.

They will look to aggressively invest in sales and marketing to expand in order to scale, often at the expense of profit in the short-term. Established HR software providers and services will seek these out as partners or acquisition targets.

Buyers will offer premium valuations for scalable cloud solutions with a subscription model that provides a flexible and agile offering to help address these challenges. In particular, we expect to see those that can show 30%+ top-line growth with a global addressable market and revenues nudging €8.4m ($10m) annual recurring revenue (ARR) to transact for high revenue multiples, with strong interest from both European and US investors.

Employee wellness and engagement is not just about doing the right thing, there is an acceptance that it has a direct impact on the bottom line. The dehumanisation of employees is a real concern and businesses are looking to resolve inequities in the treatment of remote and onsite employees, contingent and permanent workers and those that are transitioning back from the furlough scheme. As nimble start-ups compete against more established and well-capitalised players, it will be interesting to follow the winners and losers as investors bet big that a new entrant has the potential to become the go-to solution as the market develops.

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