Because benefits packages differ according to a variety of factors – including locale, workforce needs, legal requirements, available technology, and organizational resources – they can be hard to administer from centralized locations. Thus, international companies have traditionally had to manage their benefits packages regionally – at least until now.

HR didn’t hop on the lean management train as fast as many other verticals did, but now that it has, the function is reaping a number of boons. Chief among these new advantages is the adoption of an HR shared services (HRSS) model of benefits management. Under this model, stakeholders within a company pick and choose what HR services they need for their particular areas.

Nearly 60 percent of multinational respondents to the latest iteration of Thomsons Online Benefits‘ annual “Global Employee Benefits Watch” survey say they now have a defined approach to global benefits management.

“Last year’s ‘Global Employee Benefits Watch’ research found that when organizations implement both an HRSS center and a technology solution to run their benefits programs, they were more likely to achieve success against their global benefits objectives,” says Matthew Gregson, senior vice president of data and analytics for Thomsons. “The results show that the combination of HRSS and global technology allows benefits teams to be much leaner, reducing the administration burden without sacrificing the employee experience.”

Centralizing HR functions isn’t a strategy suitable only for global benefits management, but it does drive unique efficiencies for this particular HR function.

“While the benefits of this streamlined approach to HR administration are far reaching, they are particularly strong for global benefits because they provide the opportunity for HR and benefits programs to mutually support each other, saving time and money as well as increasing responsiveness to employees along the way,” Gregson says.

The Thomsons report shows that organizations with global benefits strategies that have been in place for more than three years are four times more likely to have globally implemented HRSS. Furthermore, 32 percent of organizations are “very effective” or “effective” at meeting their global benefits objectives when they have HRSS in place, compared to 5 percent of those that don’t. Additionally, 33 percent of organizations with no plans to implement a shared services model are ineffective at meeting their global benefits objectives, compared to 5 percent of those with an HRSS model in place.

The Digitalization of Global Benefits

Globalizing benefits management was near impossible even a decade ago, but changes in technology and the digitalization of work functions have reduced the difficulty significantly. Despite this, some HR professionals still resist the implementation of globalized digital benefits management.

“Businesses cannot afford to continue processing benefits manually while digitizing the rest of HR, neglecting the savings and employee engagement opportunities that technology can bring,” Gregson says. “The impetus around employee engagement as well as rapidly advancing new technology solutions now give HR and reward leaders the tools that enable them to put benefits at the heart of their employee relationships.”

Organizations that do not embrace these changes to benefits management will quickly fall behind their competitors.

“This chasm between the haves and have-nots – and the differences in benefit strategy outcomes – will just get bigger,” Gregson says.

Meanwhile, those businesses that do embrace new and existing technologies in their benefits programs are reaping rewards, according to the Thomsons report.

“Our data highlights a further increase in the proportion of organizations that have a longer established approach to globally consistent, technology-enabled benefits programs,” Gregson says. “In fact, they are leading the way for the rest.”

According to Gregson, using benefits software to administer global benefits programs “significantly reduces the time spent administering benefits and increases effectiveness.”

“For example, it takes the benefits team on average 16 days per month per country to administer their benefits when benefits technology is used globally, compared to an average of 21.3 days without automation,” Gregson says.

Given the importance workers now place on benefits when weighing employment options, it’s crucial that companies not only offer generous benefits packages, but also administer those packages efficiently. Failing to do so will surely have a negative impact on a company’s global brand and employee retention efforts.

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