Big Data + Little Nudges = Love

 In Thinking

Sometimes a nudge is just a nudge. And sometimes, a nudge becomes a revolution.

Nudge theory (behavioral economists and social psychologists have many labels for this concept) entered the public conversation more than a decade ago. Some think the landmark book that became the multimedia phenomenon known as Freakonomics had something to do with it, particularly in the way it highlighted how the smallest changes in individual behaviors could trigger significant economic, cultural, or political consequences.

In today’s age of big data, artificial intelligence (AI), and predictive analytics, the ability to gather information about every consumer choice has never been greater. But data is only the halfway point in creating real benefits engagement. As Deloitte Review pointed out in a 2015 article, “‘Nudge’ connotes the application of findings from psychology and behavioral economics to prompt people to make decisions that are consistent with their long-term goals.”

So in our work, we combine predictive analytics (big data used to anticipate future events) with behavioral science to send relevant messages (little nudges) at exactly the right moments to enable people to get the best use out of the benefits provided to them.

And we do all this with one goal in mind for everybody: benefits love.

Big Data + Little Nudges = Love

Why use a word like “love” to explain what we deliver? In a recent SHRM survey, more than 80% of employers said their number-one objective was retaining employees, and 51% said using benefits to retain employees will become even more important through 2020.

The right array of benefits has become a more important component of engaging employees, to the point where 68% of workers would prefer new benefits over a pay raise. So when we say benefits love, we’re talking about an experience everyone deserves with benefits that will allow them to reach their goalsboth professional and personal. Not only for employers to optimize the value of their investment, but for employees to have the support they need to achieve the things that matter to them in life.

You can’t have love without the right data

Big data, AI, and predictive analytics are all terms we hear, but are often used somewhat interchangeably. However, they all refer to the highly customized approaches of excavating key information from data. The goal is to identify patterns and predict specific activity.

Here are some of the leading techniques used in the process:

  • Data mining: spotting patterns and relevance in audience-tracking data, using a variety of tactics
  • Statistical monitoring: tracking ongoing behaviors in a particular set of individuals
  • Machine learning: using computers to comprehend specific information as they collect and process data

It’s not about static delivery of the right health plan or the right blend of benefitsbecause depending on an employee’s circumstances, what’s “right” changes month to month (or week to week)! Benefits technology should be maximized to pick up signals as they happen so employers can make guided adjustments to offerings based on real occurrences.

Big data is revolutionizing all industries, driving university-level training and corporate investment as leaders attempt to predict the future in ways they’ve never done before. For the HR departments, it offers a way to not only predict benefits demand, but to potentially influence employee behavior in a way that produces a more desirable benefits experience.

The right nudge can make all the difference

Obviously, no two employees are alike. From demographic to individual lifestyle choices, we’re all a bit different. So how does technology deal with that?

We start with the view that everyone is a work in progress. Each person has an evolving profile reflecting different needs, wants, and life circumstances that can change instantaneously or over time. At the end of day, benefits should be fun to choose and a personalized, positive interaction that makes each of those different employees want to take an interest in what their company is providing.

When it comes to benefits communications, we try various outreach techniques with each person, and their responseor lack thereofinforms the way we choose to engage them next (here comes that “nudge”). Our system starts to learn with the first action or inaction, informing future offerings and little nudges that are most likely to engage each person. There are several behavioral science principles we tap into to make these nudges more relevantand more motivatingto the person receiving them.

Historic communications, actions, and life events affect each messaging strategy as well. For an employee in his mid-40s with two children and a chronic health condition, such as diabetes, the messaging he receives might involve timely reminders to contribute to his HSA, or a suggestion to consider switching to the less costly, generic option of his prescription medication. On the other hand, for an employee in her twenties who recently graduated from college, the nudges may focus on taking advantage of her company’s tuition-reimbursement or student-loan assistance program.

By adding behavioral science into the mix of personalized nudges, big data has a partner in bringing benefits engagement to life.

To nudge without being a noodge

Employees can sense cookie-cutter solutions. They recognize messages that speak to someone like them, but certainly not them.

The right mix of data and behavioral science lets each worker truly see how a certain reminder or helpful suggestion is tailored to them, especially when it seems to come at just the right moment. That’s the difference between a mundane experience of choosing benefits, and an experience that’s seamlessly integrated into everyday life.

That’s the difference between everyday benefitsand benefits love. Learn how you can achieve benefits love for your organization.