Mercer launches benefit engagement tool Harmonise

24 September 2015

Mercer has launched a tool that aims to help employees better manage their retirement and health goals. Engagement among workers remains low, as do retirement aims. To improve engagement among employees with employers, and help employees better prepare for the future, Mercer’s digital tool, dubbed Mercer Harmonise, will inform employees of their current benefit situation, and provide a means to set long term achievable goals.

Employee engagement remains a thorny issue for many employers. Disengaged employees are generally less productive and less inclined to go over and above. A recent Aon study finds that only 57% of workers in 2014 were engaged in Europe, and according to Deloitte, the lack of engagement is the number one issue for organisational health. The health of employees also remains of concern for employers, with three in four being stressed at work, according to Capita. The study also shows that a considerable number of employees are not saving sufficiently for their golden years; half (50%) say that confusing and complicated terminology is inhibiting them from investing in their future.

Mercer Harmonise

Mercer Harmonise
In a bid to improve engagement and employee health, Mercer has launched Mercer Harmonise. The platform provides tools with which the UK workforce can better address retirement savings and health issues. According to the consulting firm, the new platform will provide a ‘one stop place’ for employees to access and manage their health, workplace benefits and financial affairs.

The new platform will be accessible from a wide range of digital channels, including smartphones, tablets, and desktops. Through the service, vital employee information, such as pensions, insurance and health data can be accessed in one place, from which employees can manage their goals – such as adjusting savings, selecting benefits and comparing themselves to their peers. The service uses the ‘nudge’ theory to help push users toward particular goals seen as benefitting them and the employer.

Fiona Dunsire and Niall O’Callaghan, Mercer

Commenting on the development of the tool, Fiona Dunsire, UK CEO of Mercer, says: “Benefit and health costs are increasing as the workforce ages. Most employees are still not saving enough for retirement and won’t be able to retire until much later in life. This has huge ramifications for the workforce. Across all life stages and ages, employees’ personal worries about their health and financial security are having a dramatic effect on how they operate at work. If employees are worried, distracted, not as healthy as they could be, then they are not as engaged as they could be either. Enabling employees to address their concerns is in the interest of employers and employees. Mercer Harmonise is designed to help.”

Niall O’Callaghan, a Partner at Mercer who led the development of Mercer Harmonise, adds: “Mercer Harmonise is designed to help employees understand where they are financially and where they want to be through an intuitive, dynamic and customised interface. It guides them in taking decisive action to improve their future. For employers, it helps improve their benefits and rewards strategy by driving improved engagement, increased productivity and reduced benefit administration costs. The digital interface is built with an understanding of how individuals receive information in real time supported by modern data visualisation tools. Mercer Harmonise will inform not scare, prompting employees to have greater interest and take more control of their critical workplace benefits.”


Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

17 April 2019

Soft skills matter in the workplace just as much as technical expertise, writes Samantha Caine, Managing Director of Business Linked Teams.

For too long technical expertise has been seen as the marker of a strong candidate for development into a sales or leadership position. Sales and leadership candidates are tasked with demonstrating a diverse and wide-ranging set of technical skills, yet their aptitude in these technical skills or ‘hard skills’ cannot signify great leadership potential. This is why a healthy balance of soft skills and technical ability is required. 

So what exactly is the difference between technical skills and soft skills? In engineering, it’s crucial to demonstrate knowledge of physics as well as a strong grasp on mathematical equations. Yet, in any industry, it’s important for leaders to be able to interact with other people effectively with soft skills like communication, empathy and adaptability. 

Business Linked Team’s 2018 study into internal leadership development revealed that 69% of large organisations are prioritising the identification and development of future leaders from within the workforce. As more and more organisations begin to invest in sales or leadership development within their existing workforces, more focus needs to be placed on ensuring the right soft skills are in place. 

With those soft skills in place throughout the workforce, the business will benefit from a wider pool of potential leaders developing under their noses, and it should be the same where sales candidates are concerned. 

It’s not just about easier access to ideal candidates for these positions without the rigmarole of recruiting from outside of the organisation. The leadership development study also found that 89% of HR decision makers say succession planning has become a top priority. Those currently serving in leadership positions can’t lead forever and the same goes for those generating sales for the business.

Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

From people leaving for new opportunities or retirement, to people simply stepping aside to focus on other areas of the business, successful leaders and salespeople require experienced and capable successors that will be ready and able to confidently step into their shoes and pick up the mantle without the business experiencing any lapse in performance.

Soft skills make stronger candidates

When it comes to the soft skills required, a strong leader must be able to manage through clear communication and effective time management, coaching and goal setting. They must be able to demonstrate empathy and empower their teams to be successful, productive and fully engaged. And beyond simply giving direction, they must also be able to take direction from those above them and cascade the business strategy down through their teams. 

A strong sales candidate must possess the ability to communicate value to the customer, negotiate well and protect margin or the ability to increase the scope of a particular sales opportunity. 

With the relevant soft skills in place, the business will benefit from increased productivity, greater agility against changing market conditions and greater transparency. In turn, this will provide visibility on issues and inefficiencies while removing opportunity for miscommunication. All of this can transform the culture of a department, improving employee satisfaction and reducing staff turnover. 

Ultimately, developing leadership or sales candidates will require the business to strike the right balance between technical skills and soft skills, and this requires an effective and sustained learning journey.

A balanced learning journey

Facilitating and supporting the development of leadership and sales is best achieved by establishing training groups. By cultivating training groups, businesses are creating talent pools that will inspire and support each other on the learning journey. However, personal goals and learning objectives must be defined for each individual based on their own existing skillsets and the skills that each individual needs to develop. 

With the emergence of e-learning, businesses recognise the value of online-based learning activities, yet many make the mistake of opting for one-size-fits-all solutions which are solely focused on self-study. A development solution will only deliver true return on investment if it combines e-learning activities with group learning activities that provide opportunity for shared experiences and support.

A blended learning solution that combines self-study and face-to-face group learning activities will aid strong development of the talent pool through shared experiences. Through these shared experiences, those undergoing the training will organically develop a support network that supports the development of the group as much as it supports the development of each individual. 

The blended learning approach is supported by one of the seven principles of human learning that socially supported interactions aid the individual development of expertise, metacognitive skills, and formation of the learner’s sense of self. The strongest opportunities for development can be unlocked by blending workshops with online activities such as virtual sessions, peer coaching, self-study, online games and business simulations. But it’s crucial to provide a blend of one-to-one and group sessions too.

Beyond delivering a better learning outcome for the employee, the blended learning approach allows organisations to adapt their training quickly and easily to shifting business demands in an ever-changing landscape.