Every six months, Benefex facilities a round-table discussion with our Global Benefit Leaders group – a meetup of senior benefits, rewards and HR professionals. Led by Benefex’s Global Benefits Director, Paul Andrews, and CSMO, Will Davidson, the hot topic for our most recent conversation was “where next with your global benefits rollout?”  

With attendees from a mix of industries – from the green energy sector, to tech, consumer goods and beyond – the room had a mix of journey points. Some were at the start of their benefits rollout whist others were in the middle, and one was at a more advanced stage of rollout, with 20-plus countries in OneHub.  

The conversation covered a number of obstacles that attendees had faced during rollout, regardless of where they were on their journey, as well as strategies to mitigate these hurdles.  

Common goals for their global benefit strategies included to: 

  • Build a benefit brand for their organisation 
  • Deliver a consistent employee experience, regardless of location 
  • Patch holes in their existing offerings  
  • Better leverage technology to deliver standardisation 
  • Be able to report properly on the impact of their benefits programmes 
  • Keep pace with change and employee expectations  

Benefex started the conversation by touching on some findings from the global findings in our Great Expectations report which highlighted that employees want benefits to be more flexible, relevant and personalised. 77% of employees say their expectations of their employers have risen since the start of the pandemic. Of the over 4,000 employees surveyed, 44% said they want more choice and flexibility in their benefits and 42% want an increased focus on employee wellbeing.

Common global rollout challenges and how to navigate them 

Challenge #1: Inconsistencies across locations and regions 

One of the primary concerns that attendees said was making it difficult to scale are the inconsistencies across countries and regions in terms of benefits offerings – and the fact that some regions are more complex than others in terms of regulations. One attendee commented that there are more than 20 benefits options in the UK compared to six in Sweden (and these six are mandated). They highlighted that in Germany structured benefits like health and life insurance and pensions are very fixed.  

There was quite a bit of discussion around the need for personalisation to make benefits relevant to employees regardless of location; people want a tailored experience, in their local language. Benefits need to be personalised, flexible and they need to be relevant to where people are in their lives. For example, a 25-year-old would likely be more interested in leisure and vouchers than in life insurance. Whenever an employee changes their status or logs a life event, it’s an opportune time to send them relevant benefit information.

Solution: Take a flexible approach 

There was some consensus that being able to provide employees flexibility is key to providing the best employee experience; our Great Expectations report report supported these findings, with employees wanting more choice in the benefits they choose and access to more services that will support their lives outside of work. When it comes to being able to provide more benefit options, thinking about what else you can offer outside of the core benefits can be valuable – attendees mentioned cycle schemes, childcare, and car allowances (including electric vehicles).

Wellbeing continues to be a priority but gym memberships are being usurped by wellness allowances that employees can use as they see fit. There was some discussion around how best to manage this – one company gives a wellbeing benefit as extra cash in employees’ paycheques and don’t track what it’s used for, whilst another had it set up as a specific benefit to claim against several specific wellbeing options. And one company provides access to a meditation app for all employees, to support their mental wellbeing. 

What was clear in the conversation was that using a flexible technology solution can help smooth the process and make efforts more scalable. To translate materials, some attendees used a translation service and Benefex highlighted the benefits of using local-language online messaging  support to help employees access benefits quickly and easily.

Challenge #2: Getting buy in 

Often the benefits team and regional teams already back the programme, but other stakeholders need to be convinced. Securing buy-in to get a global benefits programme across the line can take months, so it’s important to have a strong business case to present internally.  

Getting buy-in from employees is also important, and understanding their needs. Attendees mentioned that employees are also pushing for benefits that reflect strong company values, sustainable benefits and inclusive benefits, such as menopause support.  

Solution: Have a good business plan 

Strong planning makes it easier to orchestrate a global benefits process. Coming up with a project plan and bringing in project managers to oversee the rollouts and keep them to timelines gives the rollout the best chance of success. Understand what will happen, when, how – and who will be involved, including employees. 

Most attendees started their benefits rollout with one country – often the UK – and then rolled out to other countries following a similar process. Highlighting the scalability, timelines and how programmes will benefit employees are key components of the internal pitching process.  

Being able to share statistical proof points is also important to support internal education. Participants highlighted that they have presented spend, projected savings, and continue to share results regularly with stakeholders once the programme is under way.  

Challenge #3: Budget 

Unsurprisingly, the cost of benefits can be a challenge when rolling programmes out to different regions. Costs can vary significantly from country to country – for example, one participant highlighted that the cost of medical in some countries, like the US and Switzerland, can be massive. This means that per head, the cost of benefits is much higher than in other countries.  

Attendees also touched on some market-specific challenges; they’re facing high employee attrition rates in countries like the US and UK so benefits are an important part of the overall compensation package they can offer to convince employees to stay and attract new talent – by showing everything that they do to take care of their employees. In some cases, they are allocating a higher benefits budget.  

Solution: Communicate the benefits 

When it comes to costs, the participants highlighted that it’s important to manage expectations with stakeholders in the early stages of the rollout – be transparent that some regions are more expensive than others.  

As well as managing expectations, setting your benefits programme up for success can help protect budgets and strengthen the business case. Communication is an important part of the benefits puzzle – it’s needed to drive employee engagement with benefits, align the experience across the company, and help prove the value of benefits programmes.  

So how are organisations communicating everything to employees? Attendees talked about using group resources to push things out and then following up with local initiatives such as regional awareness days, and ensuring communications are much more personalised – for example, using region-specific newsletters to communicate a different benefit each month. It’s also important that team leaders understand the benefits on offer so that they can highlight these to their teams. 

Closing thoughts 

Although it can be daunting, the attendees agreed the gains to be made from a global benefits rollout far outweigh the challenges. Good planning and project management smooths the process, and technology plays a vital role, offering flexibility, personalisation and consistency.  

If you’re experiencing these challenges, take a look at our report Global benefits tech: Getting it right first time. In it we explore how a great technology solution can underpin your global benefits and reward strategy, helping you to deliver a user-friendly, high-quality digital employee experience.