20 Digital Innovators transforming work

From hyperpersonalized text messages and nudges, to quizzes and sleep apps, technology is creating new ways for employers to engage their employees in benefits, healthcare and wellness.

New technologies are becoming an absolute necessity for companies, and HR leaders are adopting artificial intelligence to make more data-driven decisions. Eighty-two percent of HR executives say that their jobs will transform due to increased focus on people management and less attention to administrative tasks, as well as the adoption of tools like artificial intelligence, according to a survey from HR technology company Sage.

Behind this industry transformation are our 2020 Digital Innovators — the individuals and teams driving these technologies and making such innovations possible. After poring through nominations from Employee Benefit News readers, editors weighed each of the candidates to select this year’s honorees.

Amir Inditzky, CEO and co-founder of dayzz

Amir Inditzky
Their innovation: Dayzz, a sleep monitoring and tracking app. The program syncs with wearable technology, like Fitbits and Apple watches, and monitors sleep patterns and other behaviors that would be detrimental to quality sleep, like mobile usage, caffeine intake, and noise and light exposure. Dayzz’s goal is to improve employees’ health and overall quality of life, while simultaneously lowering the costs incurred by employers in terms of reduced productivity, work accidents, poor health and more.

Why it matters: Sleeping well and working well go hand in hand, but for the majority of Americans with sleep issues and disorders, arriving at the workplace refreshed is a challenge that’s affecting a company’s bottom line. For employers who recognize the need to make sleep a priority, apps like dayzz and other digital sleep solutions can help them do that.

Al Lewis, CEO of Quizzify

Al Lewis
Their innovation: Quizzify has created quizzes on everything from health benefits and the coronavirus— where employees can test their knowledge, while at the same time learn how to protect themselves against the virus — to financial wellness and smoking. The content is developed and reviewed by industry professionals, and gives managers admin tools to customize quizzes and effectively measure employees' learning.

Why it matters: Healthcare illiteracy can not only harm employee health, but it can also cause them to misuse medical care and corporate healthcare dollars. The employee learning platform helps employers promote topics like health and healthcare education among their workforce in an engaging way, and ensures that employees have the expert knowledge they need to make the wisest, healthiest decisions.

Atif Siddiqi, CEO of Branch

atif siddiqi
Their innovation: Minneapolis-based financial wellness benefit company Branch, which was originally founded as a scheduling platform for hourly employees, provides early wage access, budgeting tools and suggestions for shifts to pick up when bills are due to hourly workers at no charge. In April, Branch partnered with Servant Systems, the software developers behind Domino’s payroll and order entry system. Under their agreement, the more than 100,000 U.S. employees at Domino’s franchises are able to receive hourly pay, tips and mileage reimbursement at the end of their shift through a digital account.

Why it matters: In response to the financial strain caused by coronavirus, more employers — including Postmates, Grubhub and Uber Technologies — have offered early wage access and other financial wellness benefits. A majority of U.S. workers do not have sufficient savings to help them in the event of an emergency. Almost 20% of Americans don’t save any of their annual income, according to Bankrate. Early access to pay through tools like Branch can help employees who struggle between paychecks.

Amy Friedrich, president of U.S. Insurance Solutions at Principal

amy friedrich
Their innovation: Financial investment management and insurance company Principal offer a benefit design tool that allows business owners to compare their packages against other employers. Benefit managers can use the comparison tool to see how their benefits — for example life or dental insurance — stack up against other companies based on size, industry and region. The free online resource also compares retirement plan benefits, and long- and short-term disability.

Why it matters: Comparing benefit offerings with others can help smaller employers remain competitive in a tight labor market. Tools like Principal’s, which is specifically tailored for companies with less than 100 workers, make comparing benefits packages easy so business owners can focus on growing their business and not spend a lot of time on administrative work.

Andrew Le, CEO of Buoy Health

andrew le
Their innovation: Buoy Health, an AI-based platform for health, provides employees with programs ranging from managing chronic pain and lab testing to addiction treatment and connecting with an expert. The company started collecting information about the coronavirus on Jan. 25, when there were only two confirmed cases in the United States. Anticipating that the virus could potentially spread in the U.S., and hoping to ease growing fears over an outbreak, Buoy updated its algorithm to screen for symptoms and risk factors related to coronavirus. They also provide advice for next steps and methods for self-triage, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, a partnership with HealthMap, an outbreak tracking system operated out of Boston Children’s Hospital, identifies hotspots of disease in Bouy’s own data.

Why it matters: Employers can use Buoy’s AI to screen for symptoms and risk factors related to coronavirus, mitigating any fears employers and workers may have about contracting the virus. The platform can help protect employees’ health and address concerns, as well as safeguard employers’ business interests from virus-related impact and loss.

Alexi Robichaux, CEO and co-founder of BetterUp

alexi robichaux
Their innovation: Developed with traditional executive style coaching in mind, mobile-based platform BetterUp gives non-executive employees the opportunity to chat one-on-one with a coach to develop professional skills. When employees sign up to use the app they are given an initial assessment. They are then paired with three potential coaches and can choose the one they feel fits best with their skills. Workers then schedule individual sessions with the coach or text chat with them whenever they have a question. Employees can use BetterUp to set professional goals — ranging from improving presentation skills to being more mindful at work — for themselves.

Why it matters: Coaching can help motivate and empower employees, and can also be a way for them to identify their strengths and development opportunities. Offering a coaching platform to workers is one way to let employees know the company values their professional and personal development. It also provides opportunity for workers who are remote, or not spending all of their time in the office, to develop their professional skills.

Cliff Sentell, vice president of health solutions at Alight Solutions

Their innovation: Alight Solutions, an Illinois-based business process outsourcing company, launched in March a hyperpersonalization solution that provides employees with targeted alerts to help them make more informed decisions around their health, wealth and careers. The app, email or text communications might nudge employees to check if they are contributing enough to their 401(k), or to remind employees that they haven’t taken advantage of their insurance-covered annual physical yet. Alight’s hyperpersonalization platform is driven by data and artificial intelligence, and fully integrates with the company’s HR, benefits and healthcare programs. The platform provides each individual employee with information and encourages them to make active decisions on everything from health benefits including enrollment, cost comparisons and health savings accounts, to wealth and career functions like retirement savings, debt management, budgeting, pay, performance and time off.

Why it matters: To meet the changing needs and lifestyle of an increasingly diverse workforce, U.S. employers are increasingly offering a broader selection of voluntary benefits and services. But with a flood of benefit options that don’t apply to every single employee, they can find it confusing and difficult to navigate and miss out on benefits that they would potentially use. Alight Solutions’ hyperpersonalization tool helps employees make better use of benefits and other resources available to them, driving up engagement and participation in their benefit offerings.

Bulent Osman, founder of StaffConnect

circle-cropped (1).png
Their innovation: StaffConnect provides mobile employee engagement solutions for remote employees and for those working outside of a corporate environment. Employers using the platform are able to improve internal communications and increase employee engagement levels and productivity across the entire workforce. One of the app features enables users to easily and securely connect to HR systems, content systems and an employee engagement toolbox. Remote employees will have access to secure instant messaging with integrated chat. Through StaffConnect, employers can also distribute news and announcements in real time to every employee to prevent them from feeling out of the loop and disconnected when working from home.

Why it matters: Remote workers get to enjoy quite a few perks including flexible schedules and not having to commute, but working from home also comes with struggles, especially when it comes to connecting with peers and the organization as a whole. With a large part of the workforce currently remote, companies need to find ways to better engage with their workforce. StaffConnect is one way to do that.

Colleen Werner, founder and CEO at LulaFit

Their innovation: LulaFit, an amenities management firm, offers a platform that provides employees with virtual social, fitness and wellness experiences. LulaFit LIVE is accessible via desktop and mobile devices and provides programming comparable to the experiences LulaFit typically offers on-site, such as social gatherings and exercise classes. The platform has livestream and on-demand content such as exercise and meditation classes. The schedule provides flexibility for workers to tune in when it best fits their schedule.

Why it matters: Working from home has brought bad ergonomic habits and solutions — with employees using everything from their kitchen table to their couch as their workplace — but exercise including yoga, cardio and strength training can help ease some of that tension and pain. With gym closures disrupting wellness benefit offerings as well as employees’ workout routines, virtual solutions like LulaFit can help keep employees engaged, productive and healthy.

Daniel Freedman and Mike Kott, co-founders of BurnAlong

Screenshot 2020-09-14 at 14.35.53.png
Their innovation: BurnAlong, a corporate wellness platform provider, offers a virtual summer camp benefit for the children of employees who use the platform. The programs range in age from babies and toddlers to children in elementary school. The camp activities include classes on health and wellness, nutrition, physical activities, mindfulness and emotional wellness.

Why it matters: The coronavirus pandemic has created greater pressure for working parents, as 60% of respondents in a Boston Consulting Group survey said they have no outside help in caring for and educating their children, and another 10% have less help than before the pandemic. With forced school and camp closures this summer, many working parents have been struggling to balance caring for their children while working. Providing resources like BurnAlong help employees keep their children active and occupied while continuing to work from home due to the coronavirus.

Gregory Poulin, co-founder and CEO of Goodly

greg poulin
Their innovation: Goodly, a provider of student loan and college savings employee benefits. Based in San Francisco, Goodly's platform allows employers to make monthly payments, integrated with their payroll, directly to employees’ student debt. Greg Poulin founded the company after struggling with more than 80K in student loan debt after graduating from college and has since become an expert in navigating our nation’s student loan system.

Why it matters: Over the years, student loan debt has reached an astronomical sum. Over 44 million Americans are struggling with student loan debt, which has ballooned to more than $1.5 trillion total and is one of the country’s biggest consumer debt categories. An increasing number of employers have made offering student loan debt benefits like Goodly a key way to recruit and retain young talent. By helping an employee eliminate that debt, employers are investing in their future as well as reducing their current stress.

Justin Holland, CEO of HealthJoy

Their innovation: HealthJoy, a centralized benefits platform driven by AI technology, responds instantly to questions from its employer clients about COVID-19 in its mobile app. A coronavirus support card includes information directly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding support and testing, as well as contact information to connect employer clients and their employees to live support from a healthcare concierge team and telemedicine. HealthJoy’s concierge team is connecting members experiencing mild symptoms with a medical provider virtually through the platform. The team will also help members find an in-person provider who can conduct testing and can even schedule an appointment on the member’s behalf. To avoid in-person healthcare visits, HealthJoy also made telemedicine consultations free for every member, regardless of their health plan.

Why it matters: With the current state of the world, telemedicine may be more important than ever, and access to fast and accurate updates about COVID-19 are paramount as the pandemic continues. With healthcare vendors and consultants looking for ways to get their employer clients better and faster access to medical support in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, giving employees access to resources like HealthJoy can help them stay healthy and informed.

Kasey Edwards, CEO of Helpr

kasey edwards
Their innovation: Helpr, a Los Angeles-based family support technology company, allows working parents to manage scheduling and payment for their backup child care providers. Parents can add babysitters, neighbors, friends, and family as caretakers when primary care falls through or work runs late if employees are enrolled in backup child care subsidization programs. Helpr gives working parents access to vetted, reliable babysitters, instead of unknown sitters who are simply available. The service allows employees to schedule their care hours via the Helpr’s app, and the hours are fully covered or subsidized by their employer.

Why it matters: With the coronavirus disrupting child care and schools, benefits like backup child care and caregiving are becoming an increasingly important offering from employers in helping employees relieve stress in other aspects of their lives.

Ken Cahill, CEO of SilverCloud Health

ken cahill
Their innovation: Through its benefits platform, SilverCloud Health, a digital mental health company, is treating mental health needs through online modules, journaling and coaching. SilverCloud uses techniques backed by cognitive behavioral therapy, one of the most common forms of treatment. Users start by taking a short quiz, which identifies a variety of risk factors associated with their mental health and assigns them various program modules 30 to 40 minutes in length. Users also have access to in-person coaches who can personalize and suggest other modules and features, depending on their needs.

Why it matters: Mental health has become a global epidemic, further escalated by COVID-19, and employers are quickly becoming aware of how important it is to provide resources for workers who may be struggling. Despite the growing number of people living with mental health disorders, finding accessible and affordable treatment is often a barrier to getting help. Digital tools like SilverCloud Health are making mental health resources and treatment more accessible to employees.

Marthin De Beer, founder and CEO of BrightPlan

Their innovation: BrightPlan, a digital financial adviser, combines technology with an experienced team of technologists, innovators and industry professionals to make wealth management accessible to employees. It helps employees plan for their financial goals, shows them how to reach them, and lets employees track their entire financial life in one easy-to-use digital dashboard. On the financial adviser platform employees can also see their “financial wellness score,” which will provide insights on their net worth, retirement readiness, and preparedness for unexpected expenses.

Why it matters: Three in 10 employees say that financial stress impacts their job performance and 40% of workers report having had health issues due to financial stress, according to Prudential. More companies are investing in financial health resources as a benefit as financial stress affects more and more employees. Digital solutions like BrightPlan can help encourage employees to change their attitudes and behaviors around savings, and help them to reach their financial goals.

Neta Meidav, CEO of Vault Platform

Their innovation: Mobile app Vault Platform wants employees to go on the record when reporting office misconduct. The app provides employees with a way to document and report sexual harassment in the workplace by using their smartphone. Vault provides a safe space or a “vault” allowing workers to write reports of harassment and store any evidence. The vault itself is private, but at any time workers can use the app to send that information directly to HR. If workers decide to report harassment directly to their HR department they have two options, they can elect to individually report or they can choose to go together. By using go together, the platform will search for other complaints about the same individual. If others exist, then the reports will all be sent to HR together.

Why it matters: The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency that administers and enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination, estimate that 75% of all workplace harassment incidents go unreported. Employers still have a long way to go in ensuring that harassment claims are supported, encouraged and acted upon. Sexual harassment is unacceptable, and it should be in employers’ best interest to stop any harassment that may be occurring in the workplace. If employees don’t feel heard at work, they may take to social media or elsewhere to relay their experiences, which is why it’s important to have tools like Vault Platform in place to support them.

Pouria Mojabi and Helena Plater-Zyberk, co-founders of Supportiv

Their innovation: Supportiv, a mental wellness support platform, offers 24/7 chat-based peer support on any emotional well-being topic ranging from depression, anxiety and loneliness to daily life struggles like parenting, relationship conflicts or stress and burnout. Users answer the question "what's your struggle?" for Supportiv to analyze and auto-match them to a small group of peers who relate. Each group has a live moderator to guide the chat, make sure each user's needs are met, and vet the personalized resources that appear as hyperlinks in real-time. It can be deployed as a dedicated web link, integrated into an EAP, or embedded as a chat window that appears on any existing benefits portal.

Why it matters: The disruptions caused by coronavirus continues to place immense strain on mental health. Employees have seen a 64% increase in feelings of depression and a 47% increase in anxiety levels since February, according to a May mental health index developed by mental health and wellness company Total Brain. Mental wellness platforms like Supportiv can help reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness by providing a platform where individuals can come together, overseen by a live moderator, to talk with one another about their experiences, struggles and challenges.

Kevin Parker, chairman and CEO at HireVue

Their innovation: HireVue, a software company that provides pre-employment assessment and video interview tools, offers app-less interviewing and SMS scheduling to eliminate barriers that still exist for job seekers. The company’s service allows job candidates to get access to, apply for and interview for a job — all using a text based messaging system on their phone. The virtual interviewing solution eliminates the need for email and enables candidates to access a job interview via their mobile web browsers without having to download an interview-specific app.

Why it matters: Some employees, particularly hourly workers, do not have an email account, or may not think of email as their primary method of communication, favoring tools such as texting, SMS or WhatsApp. These hurdles can significantly reduce access to new job opportunities, as email communication is often a requirement for the job application process. Full access to smartphone functions can also pose a barrier, which is why solutions like HireVue play an important part in making the recruitment process accessible to everyone.

Sean Duffy, co-founder and CEO of Omada Health

Their innovation: Omada Health, a digital care program focused on chronic disease prevention, is using digital tools to prevent diabetes diagnosis. The Omada app provides employees with access to professional health coaches, weekly interactive lessons, an online community where they can connect with peers, and health goals with real-time data and personalized coach feedback.Omada Healthreduced healthcare spending for Dow Chemical Company employees by $1,800 per employee over a two-year period.

Why it matters: The financial burden of diabetes and prediabetes treatment costs employers and healthcare systems hundreds of billions of dollars each year, with afflicted employees spending on average $16,500 a year for treatment. Employers know there is a huge need for early prevention, yet often workplace care only scratches the surface. That’s why digital care programs for chronic disease prevention like Omada Health play an important role in helping employers reduce healthcare spending.

Troy Bagne, CEO of Wanido

Their innovation: Wanido, an employee engagement and well-being platform, provides employers with tools such as polls and surveys so they can get real-time feedback from employees, giving them insights to their company culture. By collecting personal data, the platform also provides targeted content based on employees' unique health and financial needs. Through the platform, employers can communicate with their entire company, and employees can also use the platform to share suggestions. Anonymous survey results provide benchmarks to the areas employers need to improve. The data gives employers insight about their workforce, so they no longer have to guess or speculate on what their employees want and need from a culture, health, and finance standpoint.

Why it matters: Sometimes there can be a gap between what employers think their employees want, and what employees actually need and want. Anonymous surveys can help employers gain true insight into the culture of their organization. Well-being and engagement solutions like Wanido provide employers with a steady stream of employee feedback to build a strong culture, not just at a single point in time, but throughout the entire year. In addition to addressing culture, Wanido supports employees in engaging with their personal health and finances. Minimizing stressors employees face at work and in their personal lives can help improve productivity and increase revenue.