How achievable is a truly global strategy and what challenges do we have to overcome to get there?
Paul Andrews, Global Benefits Director
A ‘global benefits strategy’ doesn’t necessarily mean a written down, set-in-stone plan, but a general understanding of how health and wellbeing benefits can work across multiple regions.
The biggest challenges a company faces are:
• Logistical requirements for example local compulsory provision
• availability of providers and services
• fragmented provisions across various plans and state provision
• different interpretations of wellbeing at a local level
Firstly, employers need to establish a solid interpretation of what they believe is meant by ‘wellbeing’, and base any benefits and initiatives on that, adapting where necessary for cultural changes, but sticking to the core foundation of their wellbeing beliefs.
Wellbeing can have a very pre-determined process. Employers can put a defined set of basic principles in place e.g. having an EAP, healthy food in the on-site canteen etc. However, these are probably going to focus more on physical and mental wellbeing rather than financial, which will differ more clearly between regions according to cultural norms.
Can any health and wellbeing offering be completely ‘global’?
While some elements can be centralised and offered in multiple regions, implementing a single overarching strategy is much more of a challenge: There are no global providers, and health and wellbeing provision differs from country to country.
Despite regional differences, employers can still link a global strategy together with consistent values. For example, an employer’s aim may be to ensure that all employees and their families have access to free or subsidised healthcare. As well as looking after the health of the employee, this can alleviate the emotional and financial concerns that expensive treatment may pose in a particular location. In some cases, this aim this may be met via state provision or offered as part of their remuneration package by employers – there is no need to purchase healthcare or wellbeing health checks somewhere if they are provided by the state.
The challenge is therefore to achieve a balance between what’s viewed as important and relevant on a local, cultural level, while ensuring that the company is looking after employees. In Scandinavia, spa days are considered an essential wellbeing benefit, while this may not translate elsewhere.
Freedom of choice
At Benefex we are seeing our global customers go beyond the traditional wellbeing package of health screenings and EAP, that are now considered must-haves by most companies. Creative thinking is taking centre stage, and providing employees with freedom of choice is becoming key.
A gym benefit doesn’t necessarily motivate those who aren’t already gym lovers, so instead a wellbeing cash benefit allows for an employee to choose an equivalent. For example, a golf club membership, yoga classes, or even sports equipment like running trainers. In some cases, employees are taking this one step further and allowing employees to use this for leisure activities. Who can argue that theatre tickets or weekend away isn’t a wellbeing benefit if this is how an employee chooses to unwind?
While not all employers can offer a budget for wellbeing, others have offered ‘wellbeing days’ at work so that employees could take time out of the office to help reset their wellbeing, should they need it. Naturally, many employers are cautious about this, but evidence has shown that people tend not to ‘bend the rules’ when trusted. This is where employers have to trust that their employees are making good wellbeing decisions.
The importance of integration and signposting
A wellbeing initiative’s success could potentially hinge on the ability to integrate all its aspects onto one platform, so that support and services are easily accessible and understandable to all employees.
Following this, the key to a wellbeing scheme’s success will be clear signposting. Pointing to a single location where employees can access all their workplace wellbeing information will improve an employee’s experience and user journey. As a result, they’ll engage more with the initiatives.
Right now, although it is a huge challenge to fully centralise a global health and wellbeing strategy, technology can play a considerable part in delivering consistent messaging across an organisation – wherever in the world their employees are. Employer wellbeing focus can be regardless of the wellbeing benefits offered on a local basis – there will always be this local aspect to employee benefits – but ensuring employees feel that their employers care will continue to increase in importance