Paul Andrews

Paul Andrews

Global Benefits Director

Previously, we looked at how a global health and wellbeing strategy has endless possibilities, and takes many forms. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a written down, set-in-stone, one-size-fits-all approach.

Whilst a global healthcare setup is important to any international organisation, the challenge is to achieve a balance between the company’s objectives and approach to looking after employees, and what’s considered ‘important’ and ‘relevant’ on a local and cultural level. In broader terms, the theory of adapting a global brand, product, or messaging to fit local norms often referred to as ‘glocalisation’, and has been adopted by the majority of huge organisations, particularly in their marketing and web presence. While the process has been there for some time, we now see this term making its way into the infrastructure of our working lives, including our employee reward and benefits setups.

How glocalisation is implemented varies according to a company’s benefits philosophy. For example, with life insurance - a core benefit in most territories - two contrasting strategies could be:

  • We view the lives of all our global employees as equally important and wish to provide protection to all of their families. All employees will be given a minimum of 2 x base salary life cover.
  • We provide cover in line with local legal and cultural norms.

As well as budget restrictions, organisations may face challenges with local regulations if they were to implement the first option. For example, the need for Takaful insurance (a type of insurance compliant with Shari’ah law) in Muslim countries would immediately cause challenges with a blanket minimum cover approach. However, we can at least see that an overarching approach can be taken in some instances, and that it would be more attractive to a prospective employee over option ii.

Of course, for multinational companies who wish to implement something like life insurance globally, there could be a challenge in sourcing this benefit in every region, as certain local markets may be under-developed or cannot offer this cover. In some cases, a cross-border or international solution may be necessary to achieve a level of consistency.

In the second approach, where employers take their cue from regional laws and norms, there may be some areas where life cover may only feature as part of an accident plan, or it could be absent entirely. Or, conversely, they could find that their information and data is benchmarked against company peers and wider market expectations rather than concentrated regional laws.

Key considerations when balancing global objectives with local necessities

Mandatory requirements

In some regions, the presence of a developed and comprehensive social provision may mean fewer benefits are required, meaning that - per-employee - you may have to make a higher social security contribution. In which case, there may be no need for private medical cover or pension scheme at all, or there may be a ‘top up’ system in place – France being one example. In addition, collective bargaining agreements will also steer the extent of a benefits package, meaning there is limited scope for choice and variation.

Local norms

Many countries have cultural norms that require your consideration, such as the end of service gratuity which is popular in the Middle East, or a spa allowance in Scandinavia. You may also consider hyper-localised benefits such as commuter allowances for specific offices in large cities with expensive transportation or housing costs.

Local retention and recruitment

In some regions – parts of Asia, for example, see this kind of thing – employees will move jobs for as little difference as $10/month. Therefore, having and communicating a competitive package is essential to recruitment and retention.

Workforce composition

Age, gender and company sector will influence the benefits you may need to offer. Where there is a significant number of working parents within the company, a childcare or creche option will be highly regarded, useful and a positive for retention and recruitment.

As you can see, often these factors are interlinked; it’s the combination that will help design your local flavour for your global strategy.

How can we satisfy multiple local norms while remaining unbiased?

What cannot be underestimated in any part of the world are those low-cost benefits that will be valued by employees and improve their advocacy of you. Examples we have seen of this include parking benefits, local creche allowance, or transportation allowances.

Flexible Spending Accounts are a great way of providing flexibility and choice to employees for these types of benefits. This enables them to tailor their benefits based upon their individual needs at a specific point in time. Whilst offering choice, we have seen companies use this as a way of promoting specific initiatives such as improving health and wellbeing costs. Others promote is as a way of saving for a holiday, or fun activities which can be linked to wellbeing objectives. An employer can of course provide a fixed sum, match contributions by employees, or rely on employees themselves to accumulate funds. This is increasingly of interest where local benefits choices and the use of flex are limited. There’s also the option to offer a ‘life events pot’, where contributions are matched, providing financial security against unforeseen events such as medical treatment or helping employees cope with the cost of a new born child.

The key to a harmonised global employee offering is communication and consistency. These approaches we’ve looked at can help you align your global strategy with local requirements. It is possible to have an overarching initiative which still allows for choice and tailors your offering from place to place, ensuring that each employee feels personally cared for while contributing to the central aims of your organisation.

Read more in The ultimate global reward and benefits guide. Everything you need to consider when putting together your benefits scheme.

Paul Andrews

Paul Andrews

Global Benefits Director

Paul joined Benefex from Mercer in 2019 with a wealth of international benefits experience, having worked with a large number of high-profile, multinational clients to review their approach to global talent and reward. He leads Benefex’s global benefits delivery team and he’s doing an excellent job of it, if we may say so ourselves. He is skilled in international risk assessment and management, legislative compliance, trend research, cross-border claims, and customer relationship management. AND, he can speak fluent French, mais oui!