Employees want more online self-service tools: Survey

New technology can lead to cost savings and greater processing efficiencies

Employers are failing to deliver the online tools employees want to manage their pensions, benefits and retirement planning, according to a study by consulting firm Mercer.

The data comes from Mercer’s 2010 Employee Rewards, Benefits and Savings Survey, compiled from responses from 79 major employers and 1,000 employees across a wide range of organizations and sectors in the United Kingdom.

Only thirty per cent of employees believe their company is doing a good job in helping them plan for retirement, and technology is widely referenced as an area that could help, the survey found.

The biggest technology gap surrounds general financial planning tools for pensions and savings. While 86 per cent of employees said they would like to receive these, only 16 per cent of employers confirmed that they actually provide them, with a further 28 per cent saying they planned to offer them in the future.

Flexible pension contributions are also cited as an area of interest for employees, though the discrepancy between employer and employee responses is less pronounced here, found the survey. Eighty-nine percent of employees would like to have access to this tool or already do so, allowing them to reduce or increase their pension contributions in line with their personal financial needs. Seventy-one percent of employers said they either offer this facility or plan to do so in future.

A further 54 per cent of employees said they would like access to alternative savings plans.

“The strong demand shown for alternative savings plans is consistent with more general feedback in the market — that pension savings are not appropriate for everyone at different stages of life, especially younger employees whose priority is often to pay down debt or get on the housing ladder," said Steve Charlton, principal and senior consultant at Mercer in the United Kingdom.

“Technology can improve processing efficiencies and help reduce cost,” he said. “If applied effectively, it can give companies a competitive advantage in the market.”

Respondents said the aim of introducing new technology was to provide greater employee and manager self-service (42 per cent), achieve greater processing efficiencies (39 per cent) or achieve cost savings (24 per cent). A further 39 per cent said that technology improvements were aimed at offering greater employee choice, providing general financial planning tools or responding to best practice.

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