While the concept of “employee experience” has dominated much of the development efforts in the HR technology market over the past couple of years, it’s important that HR leaders seeking to improve EX drill down a bit deeper and examine what employee experience really looks like at their organization. Just like we’d assess our overall experience of, say, a Disney vacation as a composite of many components—the trip planning and booking, the travel to the destination, our accommodations, the length of time we had to wait for popular rides, the food and drink options—our employees’ experience at work is the collection of dozens if not hundreds of distinct activities, actions and encounters.

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But since employee experience is still mostly intangible, it can help to break down the concept into more manageable, measurable and actionable components. Conducting this exercise also helps to clarify which elements of employee experience are more important to your situation than others. This, I think, would reveal that employee benefits are among the most important determinants of employee experience, perhaps even the most essential for some employees. With that in mind, and with the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference coming up in May, let’s look at three areas where new, modern benefits technologies can have a significant impact on employee experience.

Financial wellness

Estimates of the percentage of U.S. workers who are managing their finances on a paycheck-to-paycheck basis range from about 50% to well over 60%. I think it’s safe to say at least half of Americans would be significantly and usually negatively affected by errors in a weekly or bi-weekly paycheck. And although consumer prices rose less than expected in the last couple of months, persistent inflation has caused real wages to decline. Additionally, real average hourly earnings are down 1.9% from a year ago, according to the latest numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This leaves many U.S. workers in a bind, tapping into their cash reserves or leaning on credit just as interest rates are rising at the fastest pace in decades. Ultimately, most U.S. workers have important concerns about their financial situations, and any disruption in their expected paycheck and net pay would present a serious issue for them and their families.

See also: Inflation is taking a toll on open enrollment

Employers are increasingly focusing on financial wellness benefits to help employees manage these challenges. While this traditionally meant providing access to 401(k) plans and associated support tools, financial wellness has expanded to incorporate more aspects of an employee’s financial situation. Many employers are now providing employees resources for advanced financial counseling, budgeting, emergency savings, student loan management and repayment, management for tax-advantaged accounts and even PTO conversion. Innovative providers to monitor in this space include SoFi, First Dollar and PTO Genius.

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Related: Financial wellness: How HR can step up and ‘be deliberate’

Mental health and wellbeing

After a difficult three years in the workplace and the world at large, organizations are doing their best to support workers whose wellbeing continues to be disrupted. As the first quarter of 2023 nears its end, but with many of these stressors unresolved, mental health and employee wellbeing will remain a critical priority for organizations of all kinds, even as employers recognize that new approaches and technologies may be needed to make a meaningful impact. According to the Workplace Mental Wellbeing Trends 2023 report from Koa Health, 56% of employers said mental health was a priority in their workplace, and 42% of employers plan to increase spending on employee mental health this year.

See also: Remote work and high rates of depression: What HR needs to know

Much of this additional investment in employee mental health and wellbeing will be directed toward emerging technology. These mental health solutions go much further than traditional EAP programs, or even mental health resources provided by primary healthcare providers. Some great examples are Color, RethinkCare and the above-mentioned Koa Health.

Artificial intelligence

Finally, with all the buzz we’ve been hearing lately about advances in artificial intelligence for consumer applications, it’s important to note that AI technology has been incorporated into enterprise technology solutions for some time now. In the benefits technology domain, AI is being used to automate benefits administration, simplify open enrollment, and provide personalized program and plan recommendations to employees. Additionally, AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants can provide employees with quick and convenient access to benefits information, and free up an employer’s benefits staff to concentrate on more complex and personal interactions with employees. While I expect that most, if not all, enterprise technology providers will incorporate AI and other advanced technologies eventually, Businessolver, in particular, has made meaningful advances in the application of AI for benefits decision support, providing access to information and personalizing the employee experience. Take a look at its virtual benefits assistant, “Sofia,” for an example of how this can work for your organization.

Related: ChatGPT: ‘Bigger than anything’ HR has ever seen?

These are just a few of the trends in employee benefits technology that are making it easier for employers to offer more attractive benefits packages and to drive better, more relevant employee experiences. I’m always excited to talk about employee benefits and particularly new benefits-related technology. And I’m also excited to share I will be at the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference in May, where benefits leaders, industry experts and the latest innovators in benefits technology will all be in attendance, sharing insights to help organizations make the most of these important investments in employee experience and business success. I hope to see you there!

To learn more about the Health & Benefits Conference and to register, visit benefitsconf.com

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