Four key takeaways from the CBBA Annual Conference for building a global benefits program

Author: Dieter Gistelinck


When designing an international benefits plan, the goal is to make sure employees thrive at work. Part of that will be ensuring that all program considerations are in place to address every dimension of wellbeing. Wellbeing is an overarching term, but it means that you care for your employees — and how you care for them can vary from country to country.

As an "architect" in that design, here are some key questions to ask yourself during the process:

  • How do I consider every employee, at every location, during every stage of their career?
  • How do I account for all employees, knowing each one's life and personal situations are unique?
  • How do I effectively communicate the value of the program I'm implementing across all my international locations?
  • How do I train my leaders within my organization to effectively translate the program's value to the local businesses and teams?
  • How do I see return on investment with programs that I am implementing, knowing it's not easy to measure such initiatives?
  • How do I take into consideration the holistic wellbeing of my employees while accounting for true diversity, equity and inclusion?
  • How do I navigate unintended consequences when addressing the needs of an entire global workforce across varying lifecycles and in different cultures/regions?

The questions themselves are intimidating, and the answers must be robust in execution — it is no small task! During the annual conference of Cross Border Benefits Alliance — Europe (CBBA — Europe), Dieter Gistelinck, managing consultant for Global Workforce Strategy and Consulting of the Gallagher's Multinational practice moderated a panel session titled "The Latest Approaches to Health Care Management In Multinational Corporations Around The World." With the help of Alessandro Paoli of Zurich LiveWell and John Whitaker of Workday, Dieter worked through the answers to these questions in hopes of aiding other global benefits architects walk the talk of what holistic wellbeing programs can look like.

Here are four key takeaways for building a global benefits program.

1. Consider the broad range of personal situations

Think about caregiving benefits for a moment. Caregiving for children might be the first thought that comes to mind, but many employees have caregiving responsibilities beyond children such as disabled adult children or elderly parents. Architects must be aware that caregiving comes in many forms. When you design a benefits program, to be inclusive, John Whitaker highlighted how important it is to design for the broadest possible range of personal situations and to immediately navigate any unintended consequences should these arise.

2. Convenience + digitalization: Good intentions, poor execution

Human Resources, as a department/person/function of an organization, emphasizes not only benefits program design but also program participation. They encourage participation by trying to make programs convenient, over-communicating the benefits and digitalizing the experience.

What ends up happening is that, by implementing such programs, employers demand more of their employees by giving them a jungle of applications, surveys, challenges, etc. to participate in. Further, if you implement the same "cookie-cutter" program across all cultures, reception and participation can be drastically different. For example, Alessandro noted that he has seen the Asian-Pacific region prefer gamification — such as prizes or award competitions — as successful engagement tools.

Overall, it's important to consider that while you may want to have measurable ROI, it's just as important to consider what and how much you're asking your employees to do.

3. Post-COVID continuity

While the height of the pandemic was a tumultuous time for everyone, some great habits were formed such as flexibility in work-life balance, daily walks, meditation and healthy boundary setting.

However, as the pandemic passed its peak, organizations began returning to work and redefining the new normal. Unintentionally, that shift created less space for these good habits that organizations once promoted.

In this post-COVID era, global benefits managers must take a step back and consider what good habits were formed and design programs that continue to support them while returning to "normal."

4. Support people leaders to handle effective deployment and consistent communication

The executive leadership team of an organization curates the strategy and planning of a global benefits program. However, people leaders at all levels must do the execution, deployment, communication and put in the sincere effort.

While the responsibility can seem burdensome, or you find that the program isn't as uniformly deployed as you had hoped, the program is often best received when it comes from people leaders.

As the architect, it's your job, during strategy sessions, to put together a plan that supports people leaders so they are well informed and have coherent empathy as they roll out programs. Just as critical of a step is executive leadership supporting those people leaders look after their own health order to manage everyone else's.  As the saying goes: you cannot pour from an empty cup. By supporting and coaching people leaders, they will be able to handle effective deployment and globally consistent communication, recognizing their own personal situation and many other tasks from the business.

Gallagher knows that you are a people leader who is often faced with unprecedented context daily, and that you are confronted with a constant launch of new programs and ideas. We get it. Dieter noted that, at the end of the day, your global benefits program should be about the targeted, diverse, equitable and competitive lifecycle of the employees in their specific culture. We are here to help you do that.

Author Information

Dieter Gistelinck

Dieter Gistelinck

Managing Consultant, Global Workforce Strategy & Consulting, Multinational Benefits & HR Consulting

  • Antwerp, Flanders


Consulting and insurance brokerage services to be provided by Gallagher Benefit Services, Inc. and/or its affiliate Gallagher Benefit Services (Canada) Group Inc. Gallagher Benefit Services, Inc. is a licensed insurance agency that does business in California as "Gallagher Benefit Services of California Insurance Services" and in Massachusetts as "Gallagher Benefit Insurance Services." Neither Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., nor its affiliates provide accounting, legal or tax advice.