No two employers have the same talent goals, we philosophically believe the right eco-system for one organization may not be right for the next.
MEDIA 7: Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Could you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
SCOT MARCOTTE: Like many career paths, mine took an unusual journey. Trying to find a connection between my passions for broadcast communication and engineering, I stumbled upon HR technology. Graduating with an industrial engineering degree, but with media work experience, traditional manufacturing jobs just didn’t make sense. Fortunately, along came the internet. HR was ripe for better process efficiency in the early 90s when I started my career – and many would argue it still is – and this new digital channel was an ideal tool for reaching employees and improving the HR experience. I got a chance to build some of the earliest online enrolment, total rewards, and recruiting systems that married personal data, targeted communication, and technology. All with the goal of better talent management and engagement.
Now AI, blockchain, robotic process automation, and machine learning provide opportunities to leverage technology to improve efficiencies for organizations and the HR experience for individuals. I’m excited that we at Buck can play a significant role in this evolution.
M7: That’s a great turn of events! Speaking of Buck, it has a history of more than 100 years. Could you share how Buck has evolved over the years and a little about its culture?
SM: For 105 years, Buck has adapted, applied, and even invented the latest in business technology to solve HR needs. In fact, our founder, George B. Buck Sr., sold the world’s first punch card verifier patent to IBM in 1915. Since IBM’s punch-card machine was the industry standard for computing technology through most of the 1900s, Buck’s invention established the analytic smarts behind one of the most important business technologies of the 20th century.
More than a century later, we continue to help organizations derive greater business value through the data we gather, the technology we administer, and the insights we provide. It’s about leveraging the latest technology and approaches to align organizational and individual value.
Culturally, Buck has consistently embraced the creative use of technology to solve client needs. We take a consultative approach to digital solutions and recognize that not every challenge can be solved by a one-size-fits-all approach. Buck has been willing to experiment with emerging tools and unproven technologies, allowing us to build some of the first HR mobile apps, algorithm-driven targeted messaging, online games, and talent analytics tools. Now, we can build off that rich past with established platforms, global infrastructure, and a continued entrepreneurial spirit.
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The more personal we can make the experience, the more value both the individual and the organization will achieve.
M7: Could you please tell us more about your innovative consulting solutions and easy-to-use administration platforms?
SM: At Buck, we’re small enough to break down silos and create cross-tower solutions that don’t rely on cookie-cutter approaches, yet we are big enough to confidently deliver services in more than 200 countries using 30 languages. Our services include comprehensive global digital workplace solutions that make an employer’s distinct value proposition come to life, along with point solutions for total rewards, decision support, benefits & equity administration, and analytics.
We bring our own flexible and scalable technology to the table or guide clients in the optimal build-out of licensed services. Either way, we know that meaningful organizational value comes from eager individual adoption, so a killer user experience (UX) coupled with goal-affirming analytics is critical.
Unlike most in the industry, Buck doesn’t start with a hammer in search of a nail. Instead, we take a tailored, consultative approach to bring order from the chaos. We tie together various disparate systems so that end-users don’t have to think about which system is used for what; rather, we architect a single eco-system, built from their perspective.
As no two employers have the same talent goals, we philosophically believe the right ecosystem for one organization may not be right for the next. For example, the HR needs of a global software developer are very different from the goals of a mid-sized Midwestern manufacturer. While there are plenty of processes and transactions that can be repeated behind the scenes, the means to entice and motivate talent needs to have a very organization-specific feel.
Buck tailors every experience to assure messaging, tone, incentives, and disparate systems align with business goals. We can even craft distinct transactional services that may not be available through off-the-shelf software, assuring the right plan design isn’t trumped by technology product limitations. Artificial intelligence assures the employee experience is personally relevant and meaningful across multiple underlying systems. Our administrative and decision support tools can be tailored to achieve desired outcomes for both the user and the employer. And we use back-end analytics to assure we’re driving the right behaviors and measuring the right impact. This approach allows organizations to take a best-in-breed, adjustable approach to vendor selection while maintaining consistent process flow and metrics.
M7: Buck recently spoke at WorldatWork on using ‘nudge theory’ to maximize the utilization of benefits. Could you please elaborate on this?
SM: In an ideal world, every employee would choose the right HR programs for their family’s needs. They’d then use these plans throughout the year to meet each of their health, wealth, and career unique needs. They’d leave their organizations better physically, financially, and professionally than when they started.
The gap between that vision and reality is still far too wide.
One of our clients eagerly wants to help all of their benefit program participants make the most of the plans offered. We built a comprehensive portal incorporating a heavy dose of nudge theory to make a difference in their participants’ lives. Using thoughtful design we are directly impacting behaviors by helping individuals make optimum plan choices based on their personal life circumstances, and by helping them use the breadth of eligible and appropriate benefits through the year.
Using proactive nudges in the portal, the mobile app, through SMS and e-mail, we simplify the complex. Notifications are tailored to the individual to assure personal relevance. Messages that might otherwise be served up by downstream vendors are synthesized, prioritized, and coordinated through the portal so as not to overwhelm and be action-oriented.
Most importantly, the impact of the nudges is continually measured. Initially, we can confirm that encouragements are read and acted upon. Over time, we can see if those actions lead to ideal outcomes. For example, if we remind users of lost opportunities by not taking advantage of the company match, we can initially see if there are increases in savings plan participation. With time, we can see if that higher participation sustains and leads to better retirement readiness. We believe that the more personal we can make the experience, the more value both the individual and the organization will achieve.
Nudge theory coupled with human-centered design helps achieve this audience of one approach. The continuum of experience starts with generic, which can be valuable for top-down communication, but not much else. Persona-driven models help narrow ideal experience, but still, run the risk of being stereotyped. Personalized models assure an individual’s data, including historic interactions, is used to create a meaningful experience through the ideal channel with the right messaging and tone. Contextual experience provides the added benefit of applying relevant work and life events for a hyper-personalized approach. Nudges assure we get the right guidance into the hands of the users who need it. We call this “precision engagement” and believe it results in ideal outcomes for both the user and the organization.
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Applying lessons and experiences learned in other industries is the best way to innovate in the HR space.
M7: What trends in the HR technology industry are you watching keenly right now?
SM: Of all the advances in our industry, we’re closely following innovations related to blockchain. The more personal we get with experience, the more danger is introduced in how that data can be compromised. HR needs to continue to be stewards of the people we serve and the personal data they entrust with us. There’s phenomenal value to the individual with the massive amount of data HR can access – from biometrics to claims to financial holdings to career planning – but plenty of risk with how we use that data to guide and educate.
Blockchain brings necessary control to the individual to assure their data is being used the way they want. Since each entity in the chain needs to ‘sign-off’, users can control the degree of personalization of their experience. It also opens up the possibility of data outside HR’s control, such as personal holdings, genomics, volunteer initiatives, spiritual interests, and even hobbies to complete the picture of what matters to a person for complete life management.
Blockchain also allows these interactions to become more real-time. Delays related to nightly valuations, bi-weekly pay cycles, and brick & mortar working hours will someday soon become obsolete. As a cost center, HR often doesn’t get the latest technology. The improved business value of workforce efficiency could push HR to the front of the line when it comes to blockchain, and Buck is eager to help make that happen.
M7: What is your advice to aspiring professionals stepping into such a dynamic market today?
SM: Personally, I feel applying lessons and experiences learned in other industries is the best way to innovate in the HR space. I’d recommend aspiring professionals in HR to stay abreast of the latest marketing theory and technology innovations.
For example, external consumer-focused industries are the best early adopters for marketing technology, since they have such a vested interest in supporting and influencing buying decisions. Whether it’s the travel industry where past experience may help encourage that next vacation, or consumer electronics businesses that know when devices are becoming obsolete, there’s plenty of natural digital application.
The same can be said too, for HR. Job candidates, family members, alumni, and employees are all our consumers. It’s a great chance for us to treat them as our customers by anticipating their HR needs, driving behaviors that help them achieve their physical, financial, and professional goals, and measuring to assure these efforts meet business objectives.