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10 Nov 2023
by Dawn Lewis

REBA Inside Track: A tale of two halves as international businesses strive for fairness

REBA's Dawn Lewis takes a closer look at our inaugural multinational benefits strategy research to uncover the challenges facing expanding global and multinational organisations

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Of our 4,300 members a significant and growing proportion have responsibility for benefits across more than one country and we, as the Reward & Employee Benefits Association (REBA), felt it vital to explore the challenges faced by those responsible for benefits on either a multinational or global basis. 

REBA's latest report, Multinational benefits strategy research 2023, in partnership with Howden Employee Benefits, looks at benefits strategy across regions and countries, and finds a community of two halves. 

Broadly, for those who work more on a multinational basis (many of whom are still growing their international presence) a joined-up strategy that connects to wider HR and business strategy is still an ambition. We call these ‘stage one’ organisations. 

While those with an established strategy are plagued with ongoing challenges around data, communication and managing the array of cultures and legislation. In this report we refer to them as ‘stage two’ organisations. 

A two-stage approach 

By looking more closely at these stage one and stage two employers, the research is able to point to a direction of travel for those aiming to develop and harmonise their approach to create a multinational benefits strategy. 

The stage one employers tend to be smaller, emerging multinationals with a primary focus on introducing benefits principles and instructing a benefits consultant or broker to support them with this aim. 

Stage-two employers  tend to have a larger global presence and are looking for ways to optimise it by removing inefficiencies or building on the existing framework. For them, harmonising some benefits and improving communications are key challenges. Enhancing data capabilities are also high on their agendas. 

The drivers of multi-country benefits 

Regardless of an organisation’s current approach to multinational or global benefits, the drivers for change are consistent. As other REBA research reports have shown, introducing fairness in benefits is the top driver of change, closely followed by aligning to sustainability or environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals and digitalisation within the business. 

Fairness, such as introducing minimum life assurance cover or standardising annual leave allowances across multiple countries, is essential for organisations that want a consistent approach that aligns with their ethos and values. This is especially important in organisations that are seeking to be more transparent about their reward and benefits. 

Indeed, this research highlights the influence employee expectations are now having on benefits decisions. More than two-thirds of respondents said that meeting employees’ changing expectations was a challenge, featuring significantly above traditional issues such as recruiting in-demand skills and retaining talent.

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