When it comes to innovations in HR technology, personalization is key, a panel of experts said Monday at EBA’s Workplace Benefits Summit conference.

The field is shifting from ‘one size fits none,’ or making broad products, to ‘one size fits one’ by getting to know each individual employee, as that is what employees are demanding — “something built for them as opposed to generic programs built for none,” Jeff Ruby, founder and CEO of Toronto-based wellness tech company Newtopia, said at the conference in Boca Raton, Fla.

From left to right: John Young, Edward Walker III, Timothy Mutrie and Jeff Ruby at a session at EBA's Workplace Benefits Mania in Boca Raton, Fla. on Sept. 18, 2017.
From left to right: John Young, Edward Walker III, Timothy Mutrie and Jeff Ruby at a session at EBA's Workplace Benefits Mania in Boca Raton, Fla. on Sept. 18, 2017. Elizabeth Galentine/EBA

Although there are more than 160,000 general health apps in Apple’s app store, Ruby made the case that less is more. “More technology for technology’s stake is not the answer,” he said. “Another app is not the answer. Think of how many apps you use on a regular basis.”

Instead, companies that create the technology, brokers who help clients choose the right product and employers who select it for their employees should find items that are meaningful and revolve around personalization and more than technology.

Ruby has found the right mix is a combination of human touch and technology. “Using the human or technology alone to change complex personalized behavior has failed,” over and over, he said. “I’ve yet to see one instance where it worked. Those who provide one or the other will be sorry.”

That personalization may revolve around some fields such as artificial intelligence, which is already used in everyday life, such as when OnStar asks questions after a motor vehicle accident or AT&T’s U-verse, which uses chatbots to help their customers.

“Everyone thinks [artificial intelligence] is coming,” Timothy Mutrie, VP of marketing and technology at ACI Specialty Benefits in San Diego, said. “It’s already here. Don’t be afraid of it.”

AI is bringing personalization and innovation to benefits through multi-platform availability and 24/7 access, he explained.

Innovation and personalization do not need to be something new, added Edward Walker III, CEO of Hunt Valley, Md.-based executive insurance provider ArmadaGlobal. “When one thinks of the word innovation, who thinks innovation means creating something brand new that never existed?” he asked. Rather, it is never the new things; it is the thing that created more stickiness or engagement, such as Apple’s iTunes.

“Innovation can be very many small things, but also revolutionary,” he explained. “Employers need to balance those things out.”

Therefore, it is important for employers and brokers to get away from one-size-fits-a-lot and to make it about each individual, Ruby said. “Make sure what is being offering is personalized to … [every] employee, it’s much easier to have one broad stroke fits all,” he said. “Engagement will come when people know and believe [there] … is something of value.”

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