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Employee Benefits, Global

How to achieve your global benefits aims while catering to local nuances

09-01-2024

Employers have a lot to think about when it comes to providing great experiences to all employees, regardless of location – especially as people’s expectations are evolving faster than ever before. Indeed, 52% of global employees say their expectations of their benefits package have increased in the last 12 months (in 2022, only 40% said their expectations had increased). 

One of the challenges for international organisations when rolling out employee benefits to multiple countries 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. ‘Glocalisation’ is a strategy that balances global aims with local context. 

Finding the right approach 

How you implement your global strategy 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 two. 

For multinational companies who wish to implement a benefit 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. Where employers take their cue from regional laws and norms, there may be some regions where life cover may only feature as part of an accident plan, or it could be absent entirely. Or, they might find that they need to adjust their offering to keep pace with wider market expectations.  

6 questions to ask when balancing global objectives with local necessities 

1. Are there mandatory requirements? 

In some regions, the presence of developed and comprehensive social provision may mean fewer benefits are required, or mandatory benefits requirements such as pension or healthcare benefits might mean that you need to make higher contributions per employee. Where state provision is high, there may be no need for private medical cover or pension scheme at all, or there may be a ‘top up’ system in place – for example, in France the state pays for 70% of healthcare costs and then a top-up health insurance ‘mutuelle’ can be purchased to cover the rest of the cost.  

In countries such as France, Spain, Italy, and Mexico, there are requirements to provide meal allowances, commuter expenses reimbursement or profit share. Where these are provided by companies, the high costs may mean that little else is offered to employees.  

2. Is your offering in keeping with 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, MultiSport card in some European countries, 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. 

3. How can you ensure your offering supports local retention and recruitment? 

In some regions – parts of Asia, for example – employees will move jobs for as little difference as $10/month. Therefore, having and communicating a competitive total reward package is essential to recruitment and retention. Being able to benchmark your benefits offering against the rest of the market in each region will ensure your benefits package is market-leading. Take a look at our ‘Going global with employee benefits’ guide where we explore the benefits landscape in 12 key countries. 

4. Are you catering to different demographics?  

Age, gender and company sector will influence the benefits you offer. For example, 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. Diverse benefits that cater to specific needs are growing in popularity – especially across women’s health, mental health and neurodiversity. For example, many organisations have introduced a Menopause plan in the last year to support employees with access to specialist care.  

5. What challenges can you solve for employees?  

Sometimes it’s low-cost benefits that are most valued by employees – benefits like parking, a local creche allowance, or transportation allowances can have the greatest impact on employee engagement. One of the best ways to understand what employees need most is to ask them – we find that a combination of surveys and focus groups works best. After consulting employees, one of our customers introduced a bus to transport their people from local transport links to the office as this saved them a lot of time on their commute.  

Where local benefit options are limited, spending allowances can help you deliver more personalised and relevant benefits to employees. With allowances, employees can choose (within your rules) to make absolutely anything a benefit. Companies often use allowances to promote specific initiatives such as health and wellbeing, or for fun activities that help employees make the most of their leisure time.  

6. Are you delivering benefits in a consistent way?  

Wherever your employees are based, the technology you use to deliver benefits can help create a consistent global employee experience. Just 23% of employees rate their employee benefits technology as good, and with expectations continuing to rise (in 2022, this figure was 30%), the right tech is the foundation of global benefits success. Not only does the right tech give employees a seamless and simple benefits experience that makes it easy to understand the value of everything their organisation does for them, but it also takes away the high level of administration and complexity that offering these benefits would otherwise require.  

Going global with employee benefits 

Administering global benefits and navigating the unique complexities of different regions isn’t always straightforward. To see success, we recommend having an overarching global strategy that’s flexible enough to be tailored to local requirements. This helps each employee to feel personally cared for at the same time as feeling they’re part of the organisation’s wider culture.  

If you’d like to discuss your global benefits strategy, please get in touch 

Picture of Paul Andrews

Paul Andrews

Global Benefits Director, Benefex

09-01-2024
Picture of Clare Dolan

Clare Dolan

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