Employers are becoming increasingly global. In the US, while domestic employee growth was flat a couple of years ago, growth of non-US workforce was around 4%, according to US Chamber of Commerce data. According to figures from MetLife, the expat workforce is estimated to grow by more than 10% this year.
Similar patterns of growth outside the domestic market are becoming evident in European and emerging market multinationals, and with economic recovery gaining momentum, that figure is expected to rise.
It falls to the HR and rewards teams to take on these new global responsibilities and ensure that their compensation and employee benefits packages, so crucial to talent acquisition and achieving strategic international objectives, can be delivered across multiple geographic locations, often encountering language and cultural barriers, while at the same time, balancing costs.
Technology will become crucial in enabling organisations to fulfil their international expansion plans and establish global workforce.
Employers and their HR and benefits professionals will become increasingly reliant on technology platforms and solutions to provide the insight they need to build benefit programs that will maximise employee attraction, retention and engagement in any given market, and analyse the HR data that is now so fundamental to business strategy.
These IT systems can provide valuable feedback on benefits take up, serve as a central platform for staff communication around pay and benefits, and crucially, given the unpredictable nature of health care costs in global markets, flag up any chronic health care risks that exist within their employee populations.
Advances in mobile technology are already providing many expat workers with flexible access to their pay and benefits information, news and updates from their multinational parent company, and communication with their HR manager.
Another area of concern is how to manage expatriate employee benefits cost effectively. In the US, most employers with global sites have kept their overseas staff on a US-based, with those that operate overseas market specific plans tending to be the larger employers, with more than 5,000 employees.
Multinational pooling, developed as a system of sharing risk cost effectively across international borders, is still popular, but growing more slowly than multi-local plan structures.
Other challenges facing employers in managing benefits for their global employees involve the legislative and compliance issues, including tax jurisdictions and local regulations around compensation and reward. Domestic and host tax issues need to be considered upfront, and assignment costs should be properly accrued and tracked, to minimise costs and avoid unplanned expenses.
As employers continue to penetrate new business markets, the challenges of managing a global workforce and administering their benefit programs cost effectively will inevitably become more complex.
Increasingly organisations will be seeking more flexible and tailored benefit and reward solutions, which in spite of the remoteness of the workforce, will ensure that talent can be deployed or engaged locally, and that teams remain fully engaged and productive, without costs spiralling out of control.