Prioritising locations for a global benefits rollout12.08.20
Global Benefits Director
“Which country (or countries) should we roll out a global benefits platform to first?”
This is probably the question we’re most frequently asked by those considering global employee benefits expansion. Naturally, our first response is to say, “that depends!”
There is no immediate answer to this question, and there’s no right or wrong way to go about your global benefits rollout, but we can help you to plan a priority order that will take into account your aims and locations, so that it works specifically for you. As part of the process, we normally hold tailored workshops for our customers, so here, we’ve combined the most common factors to consider when prioritising locations for a phased rollout!
Starting with a ‘big win’
Typically, we find that the biggest and quickest ‘win’ in a lot of territories is in reduced benefits administration, resulting in a bigger return on investment. When reviewing the country list with a customer, we look at the administration burden on HR and on employees. At first glance, this may not be obvious until we begin asking questions as to the processes involved. In our experience, day-to-day HR processes are so embedded that many administrators aren’t even aware of the time savings that could be made. On the employee side, laborious touchpoints like forms or emails containing sign up information could be damaging their experience, and may be creating unnecessary queries coming into HR. While you don’t want your employees to feel like they can’t contact HR, a simple triage with information and FAQs on the benefits platform can reduce these incoming emails and queries overnight. This in turn allows you to focus on other tasks such as spending more time on engaging with colleagues pro-actively, or rolling out policies that will be beneficial to them.
Local benefits reporting
In many countries, many administrators are still manually reporting back to local brokers and providers. In areas where this is the case, a quick win is often easy to achieve by automating reports, for example you could easily update a medical insurance provider with an automated report of payroll or leavers/joiners. The more understanding you have of the reporting and workload that you or your local colleagues need to carry out due to social security or legislative requirements, the better you’ll be able to prioritise your countries when rolling out.
Consider the benefits complexity
We often help our customers to link their global strategy and branding with their global regions’ local nuances and requirements. The simple to complex scale takes these local aspects into consideration and helps guide you through a rollout plan. In regions where the benefits and administration are complex - perhaps with wider choice and flexibility - there is a need for greater research and review during the implementation project. A complex location such as the US requires a long build-time and a lot of resource. Engaging in two or more complex locations at once is not ideal, however, in the scenario where one region is complex and the second is simpler, resource can be more easily distributed. Add into this a renewal window in an established location where you and your team are reviewing benefits information, and a robust and realistic plan becomes crucial. Most of our customers align a renewal date with a launch date, building in sufficient time into the project for provider changes, rate reviews and addition of new benefits.
Without doubt, a significant number of our customers have used headcount as a guide for their global rollouts. Typically, the greater the headcount, the more opportunity for reduced administration, and the higher the potential for an enhanced benefits experience. While we see real merit in this approach, the need may actually be less urgent if there is already a solution in place. You may wish to move your focus to the second or third largest headcount countries, if paper forms and manual administration are cumbersome with a resulting number of queries from employees, and return back to the country with the highest population once the more urgent cases are up-and-running.
Some customers wish to implement strategically – often meaning there is a key stakeholder in a specific country, or a tricky acquisition where a new office or location needs some cultural investment and attention. We have also launched a new platform in-country as a pre-emptive effort to aid rapid expansion and recruitment, subsequently avoiding a huge increase in work for HR.
Employee noise and feedback may also create a demand for higher priority in a certain country. Where benefits have not traditionally been clearly communicated and/or there are challenges with recruitment and retention, there could be a need to move this location higher up the order. This may be yet more urgent if your benefits review in this region predicts a significant positive impact – culturally and financially.
Keep it human
Finally, while we can talk about return on investment, reduced admin and headcounts, we can’t forget the human element; a crucial part of your rollout. Is your team involved in other projects? Is a key colleague going to be on leave or secondment? The resources you can commit to a project dictate a restructure of your phased rollout. Alternatively, where you have several teams spearheading this rollout, multiple launches can run in parallel – e.g. one in Europe and one in Asia – if they do not involve the same people.
One thing to always bear in mind is that your plans can change at any time given the wide array of factors to take into account. We recognise the need to be flexible and frequently change the country rollout schedule as we go along, which is why it’s so crucial you’re working with an agile platform and flexible provider who can adapt to the changing horizon of global employee benefits.
Find out more about our global capabilities and your global benefits options in our online webinar discussions!
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!