Our recent round-table discussion with our Global Benefit Leaders group provided some interesting observations. Led by Paul Andrews, our global benefits consulting director and James Hardwick, global delivery director (and tech expert), the conversation covered a broad range of topics from emerging trends to fragmentation. 

Our benefits experts 

Amongst the attendees, was Saad Killedar, global benefits manager at Reckitt, whose brand portfolio includes Dettol, Nurofen, and Durex; Nick, from Smart DCC part of Capita; Phil, from CooperVision, the contact lenses manufacturer; Shaun, who heads up Tesco’s UK Reward Team; Maral, director of international benefits and talent mobility at Exact Sciences, a US cancer diagnostics company; Helen from commercial insurers Markel; Brani, from Wise, a foreign exchange platform for money transfers overseas and Paul Johnstone, who heads up the global benefits for data company, Orange Business Services. 


Pain point #1 Fragmentation and a shift from traditional benefits

Paul started the discussion by citing some stats from Benefex’s recent research, pre-release, into the reward space with a particular focus on workplace choice. The figures were derived from 4000 employee interviews from companies in the UK, US, India and Singapore about how attitudes have changed since the global pandemic and the impact on benefits. Overall, 88% wanted more relevant benefits, 44% said their expectations of benefits had increased and interestingly, the top five most desired improvements included choice and flexibility, increased wellbeing, protection, relevant and personalised benefits, and making benefits work for them.  

This shift away from the typical benefits offering is evident across the board. Employees are demanding more; attrition rates are high; relevance is a key driver in satisfaction and different countries have differing needs. Thankfully data and employee feedback via surveys are more prevalent and, it seems, companies are listening.  


Pain point #2 Regional, geographical and cultural wants and needs

One of the primary causes for benefits conundrums stems from the inconsistencies across countries and even regions. For example, Paul Johnston explains that in his experience employee benefits for South Africa and Dubai, lack flexibility while employees in the UK and US tend to be happy to choose flexible options.  

For those companies branching into Eastern Europe, there is a very young, tech-savvy workforce and the attrition rate is enormous (rather than 14-15% turnover, it is more like 20-22%). Here, traditional benefits such as life insurance, accident cover and even family perks are not popular, instead, wellbeing, sports, leisure and even a bus to work are top priorities. This reminds us that getting the benefits right reminds employees of the value they are getting from their organisation, and the focus is most definitely on personalisation. As companies are rewriting their global strategies we are seeing more of this across different geographies. 


Pain point #3 Location influences benefit preferences 

One of the things that became apparent over the course of the discussion was that location influences what people see as important to them. A good example given was how car allowances in one country are more desirable than in others. In Germany - a car manufacturing country - the vehicle model is very important, and employees expect that to be reflected in their benefits and rewards. In the UK, for young, single people, family allowance is irrelevant, while those over 40 want income protection and life insurance. 


New trend #1 Wellbeing is everything 

We know this already, but how wellbeing is framed makes all the difference. Many of the attendees noted how wellbeing can be combined with leisure offerings too. In some European countries, for example, multi-sports cards exist, however for the Nordic regions, it’s a spa allowance that takes preference; in Eastern Europe, wellbeing falls under ‘leisure’ or ‘family’ allowance.  

Additionally, thinking about eco benefits; while bikes and electric cars are not cheap, tree planting is a great (and popular) alternative, and it helps with the global commonality – yes benefits need to be regional but having similar things that work across countries helps to tell the story more cohesively. For one of the attendees, India had a surprising take-up of tree-planting initiatives even though they thought it wouldn’t be popular. Carbon offsetting is also increasingly important to people. These benefits don’t cost the employer anything but give people a choice and help them feel like they are ‘doing their bit’. 


New trend #2 Relevance

We know that the traditional benefits are never going away – but instead, it’s about thinking ‘what can we offer?’ This includes things like parking allowance which we see in other countries, gym membership/season tickets and car allowance. This is now under the umbrella of ‘lifestyle allowance’ and is about how you manage that for your individual countries and demographics. A particularly pertinent example is a company based in Ireland that offers free annual passes to Dublin Zoo which really wraps around the ‘family’ piece but it’s relevant and people like this type of perk.  


New trend #3 Global strategy refresh 

Clearly, there is an appetite for a reinvigorated benefits offering. Life cover, income protection and other insurance products can be offered as standard, but flexibility around this is crucial. Providing five benefits to everyone, plus five voluntary benefits that employees can choose for themselves is a move that we are seeing more of. Not only does this provide a ‘story’ and some continuity across cultures, but it reminds people that their company is a cool place to work, that cares and puts them centre stage.  


Final takeaways 

In our experience, what we are seeing is a broadening of more flexibility and voluntary benefits. At present companies are busy reviewing their benefits, looking to future proof, making them more relevant and providing more choice. Leisure and wellbeing allowance, holiday purchases, environmental benefits (electric cars, bikes, plant a tree initiatives) and discount portals are becoming expected – and demanded – options by employees. As we move into the new normal post pandemic, it will be interesting to see how things look in the next 12 months.





Want to join us at the next Global Benefit Leaders roundtable? Get in touch.