Refreshing a global benefits strategy by using efficient and effective resources can help drive organizational success.
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Every benefits strategy is a work in progress when the goal is to continually improve the value of workforce investments. Global employers, in their efforts to keep their benefit strategies relevant and successful, face the added challenges of balancing meaningful corporate objectives with cultural differences, local regulations and employee expectations.

Regardless of geographic boundaries, the benefits management capabilities of leaders can have an enormous influence on organizational success. What matters most is the depth of their commitment to local cultures while establishing consistent values across a diverse and dispersed workforce — from leadership to the front line.

Employers across the globe may vary by industry, region and workforce demographics, but they share the common need to attract and retain talent, engage employees and promote holistic wellbeing. As digital platforms increasingly foster communication and expectations among all employees, global benefits plan design and related engagement strategies deserve a closer look.

A global approach to benefits strategy and governance

For employers with a multinational workforce, a centralized benefits philosophy and a formal global governance approach offer a consistent framework to aid decision-making across countries and regions. Together, global strategy and governance address minimum benefit standards and guiding principles that apply uniformly across the organization. Standardization, where practical, increases the likelihood of fair and homogeneous implementation, along with improved oversight and approval processes.

Global organizations are increasingly turning to alternative financing mechanisms such as multinational pooling and global underwriting for their benefit programs. These mechanisms offer more favorable terms and conditions while providing the potential for dividend revenue to reinvest in benefit enhancements or wellbeing programs. Larger global entities can achieve additional benefits by forming a captive, gaining maximum control over benefits deployment and cost.

The overall objective of a global approach is to centralize benefits strategy and management as much as possible, to help stabilize cost and risk while accelerating decision-making. Outside of the benefits strategy, other actions also contribute. Similar advantages are gleaned by exploring global standards and commitments across absence programs; employee performance and recognition approaches; workforce and family wellbeing; and diversity, equity and inclusion.

The overall objective of a global approach is to centralize benefits strategy and management as much as possible, to help stabilize cost and risk while accelerating decision-making.

Providing simpler and more targeted solutions

By thinking more broadly and creatively about their benefits strategy, pioneering employers are considering the value that individual options provide. The goal is to find the optimum balance between financing protection and offering personalization. Reflected in affordable benefit coverages is a duty of care to employees, while greater choice allows each person to select what's most important based on their career stage and lifestyle. Voluntary or flex benefits expand opportunities for employees to meet their unique needs and preferences.

Caution is also advised because it's possible to inadvertently complicate benefits in the quest to improve employee health while managing costs. For example, in the US, a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) with a health savings account (HSA) can be unattractive to employees. Those who are focused on the deductible often don't understand the value of the HSA or how to use it. By the same token, specialized vendors offer many advantages for employees and employers alike, but point solution fatigue can make benefits feel even more complex to employees than they already are.

A reset may be in order for organizations that want to go back to the basics, renewing a focus on intuitive and approachable benefit programs. One example of a simple but potentially effective approach is offering coverage through a basic employer-sponsored health plan that meets fundamental needs, with an option to buy up to a more comprehensive plan — possibly using employer-provided flex dollars. Streamlined approaches increase the odds that employees will understand their benefit programs and make better-informed decisions.

Using consumer-grade communication for better results

Authentic, concise, consistent and consumer-grade communication is the recipe for employee engagement. In all cultures, information competes for attention with bigger budgets and louder voices. Consumer-grade communications are relevant, entertaining and easily accessed to capture attention, engagement and influence.

Relatable messages land better with audiences, and when used appropriately, testimonials, examples, or personal anecdotes can establish common ground. Modeling tools help prove out benefit advantages. And hearing from trusted leaders and other influencers keeps employees more closely connected to the organization.

Trust is the backbone of impactful information. Messages register when backed by a trusted voice, leadership behavior and shared motives between the organization and the audience. When employees trust their leaders, managers and the organization, they tend to be more engaged, committed and productive.

Build trust by removing threats, slowing decision-making, using examples or testimonials, sharing motives, building togetherness.

How employers communicate is another factor that affects how employees respond to messages. Strategic use based on general audience preferences and support for neurodiversity can improve reach. In fact, the top driver of satisfaction with communication channels is the ability to meet employees' needs for how they get information. A third of employers are dissatisfied with their current channel mix and another third plan to add a channel in 2024. Overall, text messages, messaging apps, chatbots, portals, employee magazines and letters are all significantly underused.*

Measuring outcomes of communication is more important than measuring output. And 84% of employers want to measure their communications more often or comprehensively.* Helpful insights from this ongoing process come from tracking progress against goals and identifying areas for improvement, which supports data-driven decisions that enhance strategies. A combination of quantitative and qualitative methods often provides a more complete understanding of communication effectiveness.

84% of employers want to measure their communications more often or more comprehensively

Crossover advantages of adding and integrating technologies

Digitizing HR processes allows employers to take advantage of integrated platforms that streamline benefits enrollment, administration and communication. Through the use of employee benefits management technology, employers can centralize and simplify program administration across countries and regions. Deployment of this software also automates key processes, such as eligibility tracking and claims management. By improving data management, efficiency, compliance and communication, digitization can optimize the organization's benefits strategy and enhance the employee experience.

Data analytics tools help identify areas for optimization more quickly and accurately, offering another layer of actionable insight with a longer-term view into benefits use, trends and costs. While employers often focus first on using analytics to strengthen their benefits package, increasing employees' digital autonomy also creates an important advantage. Self-service portals can provide ready access to important information such as health plan documents or a direct connection to training resources. When the workforce is empowered through self-service, the need for HR's involvement in routine tasks is diminished.

The ability to streamline global compliance through digitization adds even more efficiency. Tech platforms that reduce the risk of noncompliance help ensure that benefit programs adhere to local regulations in multiple countries. Beyond legal and financial concerns, digitization can also demonstrate a commitment to ethical and responsible business practices, underscoring cultural values.

Modernizing the global benefits strategy to meet employee expectations and enhance engagement is an ongoing benefits management process. This dynamic helps connect a global workforce through centralized and compliant processes. And organizations that efficiently and effectively tap technology and communication resources can better leverage their benefit strategies to help drive organizational success.

Author Information


*"State of the Sector 2023/2024," Gallagher, Feb 2024


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.