This week we have released the 2015 Global Employee Benefits Watch, our annual report providing insight into the benefits-related challenges that organizations like yours are facing in today’s competitive global market. The report reveals key trends and advances multinationals have made in implementing their global rewards strategies. If you haven’t yet requested your copy, you can do that here.

We have been conducting this research annually for ten years and, as I was looking through the results I’ve realized how much has changed in just one year when it comes to how international organizations address their global benefits strategy and administrative challenges.

The majority of my time is spent listening, talking and advising global HR and benefits leaders and,interestingly, the outcomes from our report resonate with my personal, more anecdotal, findings. I thought it would be useful to compile a summary of what I believe companies should consider doing differently in 2016 based on these results:

1. Develop and implement a global benefits strategy

While globalization has changed how businesses work, it sometimes feels like most multinationals have only just recently started becoming truly global when it comes to international benefits. It’s encouraging to see that the majority of employers (51%) have a written global benefits strategy already in place. In my experience this is the necessary first step for companies wanting to tackle challenges they face around administering and communicating benefits around the world.

Currently aligning benefits practices with business goals and attracting and retaining talent are the top objectives of a global benefits strategy for multinationals. Going forward a global benefits strategy will be absolutely crucial in differentiating an employer’s overall proposition. 

If you happen to be one of the 49% who don’t yet have a strategy in place, you definitely need to think about developing one in 2016. Not sure where to begin? Start by putting together the right “team” and reviewing what you currently have. (Read more on that here).

2. Communicate the value of your benefits packages

One of the most common things I encounter is companies spending hundreds of millions of dollars on their benefits programs, providing very cool innovative perks to their global workforce, but failing miserably to communicate that value to their employees. Therefore, it comes as no surprise to learn that 57% of global employers felt one of their main challenges is the lack of understanding of the value of total reward among their employees.

Communicating your benefits packages effectively should be your number one priority if you are concerned about employee engagement levels and retaining your talent. Today, only 9% offer total reward statements to their entire global workforce. Introducing total reward statements can really help educate your employees about the value you place on them (you can read about it here). 

Nevertheless, it is important to consider a blend of communication channels - from good old intranet portals-  to video and mobile apps to other interactive and innovative media.  So, when you are putting together a global benefits strategy, it can pay to ensure that communication strategy plays a major role.

3. Address your global benefits administration challenge

Most benefits teams understand the need to move away from decentralized and manual processes toward tech-centric systems. It explains why almost 30% of multinationals plan to increase their benefits technology spend. However, the majority of companies are still using a combination of tools, spreadsheets and manual labor to administer their global reward programs. This puts an incredible amount of pressure on benefits administrators who have to deal with all the data transfer, paperwork, errors and employee queries.  

Addressing global benefits administration challenges is not easy, but improvements can be felt immediately simply by removing paper based processes. Identify where your need is greatest, where your largest effort is spent, where your greatest compliance risk sits, and prioritize these first. Ask yourself: where will technology have the greatest impact in supporting your teams by removing the administration burden. Then allow them to focus on process improvement and more strategic activities.

4. Start making strategic data-driven decisions

Businesses and C-level executives are turning to HR to provide the information that will enable organisations to attract, retain and engage critical talent that will, in turn, help to secure competitive advantage and drive global business growth. At the same time, the majority of global executives doubt that HR leaders are able to demonstrate tangible correlations between HR initiatives and business outcomes.  

Indeed, according to our research almost half of global benefits teams (49%) are still struggling with reporting globally. Therefore, systems enabling HR to access global benefits data that is consistent, accurate, and up-to-date will be very high on the priority list in the 2016. 
I would like to see more multinationals introducing technology that will allow global benefits teams to deliver global reporting (whether the focus is on global benefits uptake or medical costs) and make strategic data-driven decisions. 

These are just a few of my observations on the key insights from our 2015 Global Employee Benefits Watch. Without a doubt, these are exciting times for all HR teams as they assume a more strategic role. However, this brings a lot of change to the way things are done today.