Stuart Bennett

Stuart Bennett

New Client Consultancy Director

At Employee Benefits Live back in October, I attended a great seminar on the changing nature of international HR, and structuring global reward programmes. This session was closely aligned to my role within Benefex as leader of the team that is responsible for delivering the implementation of OneHub. Crucially for us, and a key topic of this session, is the rapid growth of global projects.

Largely, this growth is the result of:  

  • The drive for data at a global level
  • The opportunity to harmonise practices across countries
  • The creation of an identity that spans not just a single territory but that helps support a global culture and ultimately a global EVP.

One Size Fits All?

Firstly, there’s a host of different approaches to global reward, starting with a major HR systems provider which has a very rigid approach to reward and benefits across the whole organisation. Regardless of the country, very little discretion for local adaptation is afforded, citing cost control as the main concern.

But approaches to reward across the globe can – and should – be closely linked to the culture of that country or region. For example, in the UK there is a belief that we are much more amenable to risk when compared with Japan, who are naturally risk adverse. An approach to reward is far more likely to include longer-term incentives, the value of which can go up as well as down. Examples here include “All Employee Share Schemes”, Long Term Investment Plans (LTIPs), and share bonuses where there are a number of conditions associated with them before the value is released. Those countries that are viewed as lower risk (such as Japan) will be more focused on instant rewards, such as cash bonuses or shares which are accessible immediately.

Therefore, the risk would be taking a single approach to reward across a large UK and Asia base which may not be widely accepted throughout the workforce. Instead, the approach of a major global retailer takes the opposite approach, focusing on a “culture-driven philosophy”, with no central control on reward since it is all managed at a local level.

Our experience of working with global clients is that introducing a global benefits platform does present an opportunity for an organisation to review the offering across the territories in which it operates. Taking the opportunity to fix faults in your system before replicating it can be a great cleansing activity. Inevitably, as part of this exercise, local practices will become apparent. We then can consider whether those practices are right for the organisation and aligned with its objectives. Giving complete autonomy to countries presents risk, but also an opportunity to respond in a more agile way to the demands of those countries. The focus should not be on eliminating those areas that are different but more on ensuring that these differences are appropriate.

Flexible outcomes in a flexible world

Where differences exist, we have seen an increasing focus on making sure that employees only see what is relevant for them. If the benefits are varied between employee grades, let’s create an employee experience that is focused on providing relevant content, rather than placing the onus on the employee to complete their own self-discovery. An international workforce is no different, and we should ensure we design a solution that is flexible to the fundamental differences, as there are some obvious areas for focus beyond displaying the right benefits to the right people:

  • Language
  • Structure
  • Tone of voice
  • Branding

The development of OneHub was always intended to accommodate this. Using rules and logic to create that personalised experience. The advantages extend to the employer as well – management information which gives us (through the use of dashboards) the ability to have at your fingertips the information about an employee whether they were located in Bermondsey or Berlin.

The idea that an organisation’s approach should be enforced with little focus on the employee and their experience, would appear to contradict our core belief here at Benefex: that the employee experience is key. Employees should feel less like cogs and more like people; a global footprint is no excuse for losing sight of this objective.

Before any global benefits project commences though, planning is key. The single most important aspect of any project is establishing what the objectives are. Once these are understood, the strategy can be built around that. Possible strategies should include:

  • Identifying the key countries.
    • Inevitably, headcount is likely to be considered important but there are other considerations as well:
      • The benefit complexity in each of the countries
      • Are there some that would benefit from the use of technology, particularly in reducing administration?
      • Are there some that require more thought ahead of their implementation?
      • There may be areas where establishing the EVP is particularly key to support recruitment and retention. 
  • Consideration should be given to phasing the project.
    • Trying to tackle 100,000 employees spread across 50 countries in one big bang is going to complicate the project and will require large resources across many different jurisdictions.
    • By phasing the project, each stage will improve as learnings from the previous one are built into the plan for the next.
    • If you are going to phase the project, consider how this is done:
      • Which teams will be involved?
      • How does this align with other priorities across the organisation? 
  • Are there countries that would be keen to be early adopters? They will be champions for the scheme.

Finally, pick the right partner. The platform and technology are very important but our experience of global projects is that the focus should also be on the team you are working with. For a large global project, it is likely to have many phases, so you need to have a team around you that you want to work with. Here at Benefex, we treat our relationships as partnerships, rather than being just a “supplier” or a “provider”, and I would encourage any client to choose a partner over a supplier on any long-term project, especially a Global Benefits one.

Implementing it will be the focus, evolving it should be the goal.

If you need to talk to an expert about implementing a global reward scheme for your organisation, you can get in touch with us! One of our experts will be on-hand and happy to talk through your options.

Stuart Bennett

Stuart Bennett

New Client Consultancy Director