As someone who has spent the vast majority of a 25+ year career focused on technology and how it can improve the lives of HR and Benefits professionals, I couldn’t be happier to see an increased focus on technology within our industry. Within the last week alone, the following headlines have popped up in my in-box from our friends at Employee Benefit Advisor: Taking Action on HR Technology; The digital healthcare revolution is just beginning; and 7 up-and-coming trends in HR tech. We are in a time of unprecedented growth of technology within our industry and yet, unfortunately, too many advisors and agencies continue to take a “spray and pray” approach with their clients. This approach will most certainly not address the root of an employer’s problems because you cannot solve a problem without first seeking to specifically understand from where the pain is coming. It is the proverbial, ready, shoot, aim approach — and it will miss the mark.
We are all in an industry where solving problems should be our primary focus. It matters not whether you are designing a wellness program, developing a new contribution strategy, exploring alternative funding mechanisms, negotiating with a carrier, or exploring new technology, if you are working within a vacuum while performing these tasks, you are wasting energy and will not be successful. In any client engagement, you must first understand the problem that a client is having and then dig deeper to identify the root cause of that problem. It is only upon identifying and understanding a client’s pain that you can then begin developing a tailored solution to address that pain.
Assuming that an identified solution may involve technology, you must also understand where your client falls on an adoption/innovation curve. You may have heard of this as the Rogers Adoption/Innovation Curve and is pictured below. This curve comes from a 1962 article by sociologist Everett Rogers, where he introduced his The Diffusion of Innovations Theory that explains how, over time, an idea, behavior, or product gains momentum and spreads through a specific population. To bring this back to 2017 and our industry, this theory is relevant with benefit consultants in terms of how you approach your clients with technology and processes recommendations. It is important for you to understand where your client falls on this curve and should drive how you (with our assistance) approach your client. According to Rogers, there are 5 types of profiles that determine how quickly (or not) someone is willing to adopt an innovation. What is their risk tolerance? How well prepared are employees to utilize new technology? Do they have a track record of successful technical implementations? Will an IT department/resource be involved? Do they have appropriate resources aligned to ensure success? Generally speaking, HR departments tend to lean to the right side of the bell curve, whereas IT departments generally lean left. Understanding where your client falls and having a conversation with them in this regard will increase your likelihood of being viewed as a trusted advisor in helping them address their unique business challenges.
You will do yourself a great favor by seeking to understand the pain points of your clients and recognizing their willingness to adopt new technologies. Without investing the requisite time and energy upfront, you will likely fall victim to the spray and pray mentality – where you spray many things to your client and pray that one of them sticks. Instead, we recommend that you sit down with your client, listen to their challenges, and design a solution that will hit the mark. Ready. Aim. Shoot.