When considering a global benefits strategy, employers should first consider their overall values, the industry landscape that the organisation works within, the needs of its workforce and, most importantly, what it is looking to achieve by aligning international benefits practices with its brand identity.
The best benefit strategies identify clear objectives, combine performance, salary grades and benefits in line with the organisation’s philosophy, and are transferable and relatable in all operating regions.
The initial attraction for developing a centralised structure may be business efficiencies, such as reducing costs or administrative burdens. However, competitive employee benefits can vary significantly between countries and industries. So, a consistent approach across the globe is likely to result in benefits being offered in some regions well above the market rate.
As with local legislation and industry regulations, the needs of the workforce may well be different in each country of operation; a more pragmatic approach, therefore, might be for an organisation to align its strategy to each of its respective local markets, ensuring it is competitive in each region.
It is important to recognise that HR cannot create a strategy in isolation; the finance, risk management and legal departments, as well as other support functions, may also be needed to ensure a global benefits strategy works in practice.
It is critical that any global strategy is built to allow a certain amount of flexibility in order for it to last, taking into account domestic legislation, as well as local tax requirements and culture.
The potential return on investment for an employer looking to roll out a unified benefits strategy across multiple regions is hugely attractive, but the impact can easily be lost when it is not communicated clearly or consistently. Success can largely be dependent on local buy-in from management, HR and, where applicable, unions and work councils.
A successful strategy will improve employee retention rates and attract new talent, increase productivity in the workforce, encourage employee engagement and, ever more importantly, improve employees’ physical and mental wellbeing.
Alice Hallsworth is a solicitor at Child and Child