June 30, 2023
Prioritizing where to start in implementing a global consistency strategy can feel like a big task. Business Group on Health’s survey found that members with a global consistency strategy design their program standards by doing a gap or infrastructure capacity analysis. To make it manageable, companies narrow the areas and markets to focus their attention.
Prioritize areas of focus: To scale up at an achievable cadence, a company can tackle gaps in phases. When trying to determine where to start, the selection process should take into account the following:
- How many employees are impacted by the gap severity (i.e., does the benefit exist or have severe limitations);
- How gaps align with other benefit initiatives (e.g., a company rolling out a voluntary hepatitis B screening and counseling effort might want to make sure hepatitis B vaccination and treatment options are covered under the medical plan);
- How gaps align with what the company considers a core benefit; and
- How gaps align with the larger organizational goals (e.g., diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging targets in talent management strategy).
Employer Recommendation: Look at the global consistency strategy and core standards through the lens of improving the overall employee experience.
Most employers start with a couple of focus areas. Among Business Group members, the average number of core standards was 3.8, with a range of one to seven standards.1 Once these areas are addressed, the company can tackle the next set of challenges, listed below. Companies with more standards are further along their global consistency strategy journey.1
Prioritize markets of focus: Companies with a global footprint are dealing with a variety of complex markets. Here are some factors to consider when initially determining where to allocate your resources and scope:
- Countries with the highest need: If a company can succeed where demand is high (i.e., gaps are big and/or numerous), that success can demonstrate feasibility in less challenging markets. Keep in mind that launching a global consistency approach can be incredibly difficult if you don’t have a sizable population or if the benefits market isn’t mature.
- Growth markets: Focusing here allows capabilities to synergize with the company’s business initiatives and can help from a talent acquisition viewpoint.
- Countries with largest headcount: This allows the company to utilize its employee population to influence insurers and partners to create new products that will fill gaps. Successful results in these markets often have minimal impact on smaller markets. Some options that may help impact smaller markets are bundling multiple countries to a regional vendor (each market having country-specific plans) or using a captive or multinational pooling arrangement.
- One country to serve as an incubator: Some companies use one country as a pilot for innovative benefits and programs. The country is selected based on having access to data (e.g., U.S.) that can be extrapolated to other markets. The challenge with this model is that it can come across as country-centric unless a company addresses local cultural concerns and needs. Failure to do so could result in a lack of local employee buy-in to initiatives.
Some benefits such as transgender care or fertility may have legal hurdles in certain markets. Employers have chosen a prioritization process to roll out benefits where it is easier first and tackle more challenging markets in future years. This allows the company to offer the benefit with fewer hurdles earlier in the process while not losing the global vision that it wants to achieve in the long term.
Advance and Progress Your Vision
Once the prioritization outline and plan are determined and countries and benefits are selected, create your personalized roadmap and a tracking mechanism, such as a dashboard. Include details regarding definitions, eligibility, coverage level, dependent coverage, portability, exclusions, limits (e.g., dollar, visit) and waiting periods. Getting input from local and regional colleagues can help bolster these efforts and ensure that they meet local needs.
To ensure sustainability, it is important to be able to justify and make stakeholders comfortable with any associated costs from both a global and local perspective. Going into a new market where a benefit may not have been offered before can result in insuring risk that is less understood and opaque. The cost may seem extremely attractive, but is this solely to create business that will soon escalate at renewal time? Alternatively, is the cost way too expensive for your business to absorb? The associated risk should feel right and be reasonable.
As companies expand into new markets or grow in existing ones, review strategy guidelines to see if previously unviable benefits would be more attainable as the company expands. Companies should incorporate the global consistency guidelines into their mergers, acquisitions and divestitures processes for benefit harmonization.
Best practices after the renewal process are to note and inventory what worked and what did not. If a vendor won’t cover the gap, consider asking tailored follow-up questions. Review these explanations and your lessons learned with the team and consider whether to continue to negotiate during the next renewal cycle or develop an alternative approach.
Developing a global consistency strategy is an exciting yet challenging concept for many organizations. This process is a journey, and it will take time and persistence to construct a meaningful, market-leading strategy. Investing in the undertaking offers significant long-term rewards, giving your company a competitive advantage.
More TopicsArticles & Guides Global Benefits Management Governance
IntroCreating a Globally Consistent Benefits Strategy
Part 1What Is Global Consistency, and Why Is It Important?
Part 2Harnessing Long-Term Global Consistency Opportunities
Part 3Benefits to Include in a Global Consistency Strategy
Part 4Utilizing Financing Mechanisms to Implement a Global Consistency Strategy
Part 5Prioritizing and Advancing a Globally Consistent Vision