How to launch a benefits strategy built for international success15.04.21
Global Benefits Director
Although we’re only a few months into the year, thoughts and planning have already started for the next calendar-year, and budgets for future plans are being drafted. Benefits and employee wellbeing will no doubt be top of your agenda for your employees, wherever they are in the world.
As part of this, you may be considering your global benefits and reward strategy – a task which can be all too daunting. There’s a lot to consider, to compensate, to factor in, to not forget… and most of all, a lot that needs to go right. In my role at Benefex, we often see many growing companies don’t know where to start when it comes to taking their benefits strategy international, or are reluctant to do so purely because it appears to be such a complex and time-consuming task. In the longer term, however, resisting the roll-out of a global strategy and benefits platform implementation leads to disparate workforces and disjointed experiences.
So, how can you launch a successful benefits scheme, on a global level, without being overwhelmed? The key is breaking it down.
Step one: Get researching
When looking to expand an offering globally, companies have many points to consider. There is a need to both satisfy global strategic aims and ensure that the benefits are local in scope and how they’re appreciated.
Working with our customers, we suggest one of their early actions is to find out what would be beneficial for employees and what they would like. Your existing employees know what they want the scheme to look like – use this! You can survey employees themselves or simply listen to feedback, such as from your HR teams who are finding recruitment and retention challenging.
Along with this, benchmarking also gives an indication of where you need to boost your benefits. You may know what your competitors offer, or you can speak to one of our benefits experts for a benchmarking report!
Another consideration is composition of the employee population. We recently worked with a customer to implement a hugely-popular childcare benefit in one country, as this was a concern to employees. These specific benefits however may go against the overall global strategy for a company, and a balance is needed between global aims and local requirements and expectations. For example, could this be part of a global family-friendly strategy to look after employees with children? Does the state already provide childcare?
Where a benefits platform is used already, research can be undertaken using tools available – this could be as simple as asking employees for their feedback. Research like this can also provide analysis to see which benefits are popular, to give an indication of likely interest as well as more detail on the profile of employees, e.g. family-style benefits are less likely to be popular with a younger workforce who may be more interested in lifestyle options.
What cannot be underestimated are those low-cost benefits that will be valued by employees and show the employer in the best light. Examples we have seen of this include wellness allowances with a broader range of included options, local creche allowance or eco vouchers.
Typically, we see global strategic aims to be broad so that a local nuance can be applied. For example, ensuring all employees have life cover so that families are protected. The level of cover can then be defined on a local basis. Or alternately providing access to an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) globally so that all employees have support when they need it regardless of where they are.
The challenge is to match the global strategy with the local design.
Step two: Review and choice
Once a benefit or benefits has been identified as missing or below market norms, the next step is to review the market and select the best solution for you and your employees. The considerations here include how this will be delivered – will it be a global solution, regional or a group of local providers?
In terms of benefits, this may not be something offered by a provider. It could be administered in-house such as an allowance for health or fitness with a fund available to employees to use as they wish; other companies may offer the provision of wellbeing days so that employees could take time out of work to help reset their mental health. With the current situation, these are likely to be highly-valued as employees juggle work, childcare and personal concerns.
Above all, remember who the end recipient is, so that the benefit remains relevant and accessible to them.
Step three: Keeping it ‘glocal’
This stage is very important, to ensure that perception and appreciation of the benefit is as high as possible, whilst taking into account local norms and requirements.
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.
However, if the benefit to be rolled out is a global EAP, the considerations may be around language skills available, time zones and whether access to a professional is always available. Is online self-service more suitable than access to support by telephone? Most importantly, how will this work alongside the culture and sensibilities in a country or region?
By having a broad approach, the local aspect can be catered for to allow the employee to feel this benefit’s relevance to them.
It is of course important to remember that in every location, analysis will need to be done to consider if the benefit will be taxable, will it contravene any local regulations, and how will this work in conjunction with any existing local, state or mandatory provision.
Step four: The power of comms
The success of a benefit launch can truly hinge on how the communication is carried out: Get it right, and your employees will feel a real sense of belonging, even if they are in a small satellite office thousands of miles away from headquarters. Get it wrong, and you could risk disengaging pockets of your population and see very little return on your new benefit.
Creating a global reward brand can help to ensure that a global framework is in place, as well as making sure cultural and country nuances can be tailored to and catered for. By this, we mean the differences noted above as well as the tone, language and means of communication in each location. Whilst your communication regarding this new, exciting benefit may be by digital means in Asia, your US employees may be more enthused by desk drops or mailings. You also can’t forget that this may need to be in the local language, or for countries with English as their primary language, employing local terminology and spelling.
Some organisations like to be flexible and allow regional or local teams to have their own ideas and input, but always adhering to global guidelines. With a benefits platform, this is made slightly easier with one place to go to access this information in a centralised online hub. Pointing to a single location where employees can hear more and find out how to use this benefit will improve an employee’s experience, and as a result, they’ll engage more with the initiatives. The company can also monitor the take up or visits to the relevant page.
Step five: Continued assessment
Once launch is over, it’s time to move on to the biggest step… continuing to monitor, review and renew your scheme as your organisation grows, and your employee base shifts. First, there is opportunity to monitor and review.
Questions may arise such as:
- Is take-up as expected?
- Do we need to do further promotion?
- Are specific populations needing different communication?
Using a global platform can assist with providing the data that you need to see how successful the launch was. Based on this information, you can continue to raise awareness through campaigns, or make changes in the future to the benefit – sometimes just on a local basis.
During the past year in particular, companies have been keen to promote and highlight existing benefits to employees as part of the ongoing phase. These could be the availability of EAPs, virtual GP services or discounted electronic goods for both work and pleasure purposes. But this focus doesn’t need to end when we go back to business as usual and this may in turn highlight new areas to promote.
Your reward and benefits scheme is an evolving, growing, fluctuating part of your business. Don’t let it become stale, wherever in the world it may be.
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Looking for the next step to bringing your international scheme to life? Our report will take you from start to finish with step-by-step advice form our experts.
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!