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Privacy Versus Personalization: Striking the Right Balance

Author

Patrick T. Leary, M.B.A., LLIF
Corporate Vice President, Workplace Benefits Research
LIMRA and LOMA
pleary@limra.com

February 2024

Connecting effectively with today’s consumers requires organizations to not only embrace digital strategies, but also to create engaging online customer experiences. To be successful, organizations need to gather and leverage personal data and information, as consumers expect customized and personalized experiences. Consumers, however, are sensitive to the risks they take when sharing their personal data and information online. How do organizations balance the access they need to create customized and personalized offerings while at the same time acknowledging and respecting consumers’ privacy concerns? And how does this translate into workplace benefits experiences?

Sharing Information Online

Not surprisingly, today’s consumers are highly engaged online. New LIMRA research reveals that 62 percent of consumers are either highly or moderately active online and regularly engage across a range of social media, informational, shopping and/or other online sites. While Generation Z and Millennials are most engaged, older consumers are also active. Almost 7 in 10 Baby Boomers and 6 in 10 Silent Generation consumers are active and engage online at least occasionally. As such, the need for a digital strategy is critical for organizations looking to connect with today’s consumers, regardless of their age.

Yet, while many consumers embrace online engagement, they recognize that there are risks. More than half of consumers are extremely or very concerned with the risk of fraud or identity theft (59 percent); that their personal information could be shared without their knowledge (57 percent); who has access to their information (57 percent); and how the information is protected (55 percent). Other concerns include how the information is used, where the information is stored and unsolicited contacts/advertisements. Well over 90 percent of consumers express at least some concern over these potential risks, with older individuals expressing the highest levels of concern. As such, companies looking to collect personal identifiable information (PII) must have these perceived risks in mind and provide ways to help consumers be more confident and comfortable about sharing their personal data.

What would make consumers more willing to share personal information online? Almost half of consumers (47 percent) cite the trust they have in the organization; 27 percent cite it as the primary reason that they would be willing to share PII. A legal statement also helps make consumers more comfortable with sharing their data, cited by 41 percent of consumers overall and 23 percent who cite it as their primary reason. Other reasons that would encourage consumers to share their personal information online include: the personal convenience (e.g., saved passwords and payment options for quicker login/purchase); the requirement to share PII to conduct business online or to access a company’s website; and discounts in the cost of services or the product they are looking to purchase. One in 4 consumers, however, say that nothing would make them willing to share their personal information online.

PII in Workplace Benefits

So how do these perspectives relate to workplace benefits? In a post-pandemic world, technology and digital themes will take center stage in creating new models of success as remote, hybrid and other work arrangements become mainstream. Advancements in technology will present significant opportunities for organizations to create engaging employee experiences to help them learn about, enroll and take advantage of their benefits.

When it comes to workplace benefits, workers value a digital experience, but are still concerned that their personal data, including information about their benefits, could be accessed by someone other than themselves, or by an entity other than their employer or the benefits provider (Figure 1). Encouragingly, the level of concern is not extreme for most workers, indicating a level of trust and comfort in providing personal information regarding their benefits, albeit there could be risks, as unfortunately, data breeches do occur — even with the most secure data.

Figure 1. Level of Concern Regarding Access to Personal Workplace Benefits Data and Information


Filter the data in this chart by clicking on a color bar in the chart legend.
Bases: Employees enrolled in benefits at work
Source: U.S. Consumer Sentiment, LIMRA, October 2023.

Having workers comfortable with who has access to PII and how that data is being used are both important considerations as employers look to provide benefits that help employees reach their health, well-being and financial goals. Oftentimes, these solutions are provided by companies that seek to use personal information in order to provide personalized services and solutions in these areas. Workers are not comfortable, however, with the employer providing their personal information to these companies outright and are hesitant overall with sharing this information. Most (76 percent) feel that employers should only share their personal information with their express permission. One in 5 workers feel that their PII should never be shared. Furthermore, just 27 percent of workers somewhat or strongly agree with the statement: “I expect my employer to use personal information about me to improve the benefits and services available through work.”  This number increases significantly for those workers who have a great amount of trust in their employers and benefits providers. As such, employers and benefit providers must be proactive in building a trusting relationship with workers and addressing data privacy concerns to obtain the PII they need to create customized solutions.

Conclusion

As workplace benefits organizations look to create data-driven solutions, they must be vigilant and ensure appropriate safeguards and governance policies are in place regarding the use of employee data. They must protect against unintended bias and potential discrimination that may emerge within their models. Companies must be able to explain their models in ways that business leaders and others can understand. By adhering to data security best practices and addressing employee concerns, organizations will successfully create engaging customer experiences and connect workers with the coverages they need.

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