What is Global Consistency and Why Develop a Global Consistency Strategy?

This guide’s goal is to inform employers on a variety of different elements to consider when creating their strategy. It also explores the business case and core tenets to focus on in establishing a thorough approach while providing guidance on how to produce a more equitable ecosystem.

February 22, 2022

This guide’s goal is to inform employers on a variety of different elements to consider when creating their strategy. It also explores the business case and core tenets to focus on in establishing a thorough approach while providing guidance on how to produce a more equitable ecosystem.

What is global consistency? Global consistency means that employees have the same benefits experience, regardless of residence or work location.

Why develop a global consistency strategy? The pandemic has taught us that the world is more intertwined than ever, and employee benefits strategies know no borders. Also, the workforce is becoming more mobile, demanding company leadership to have a truly global view. To retain and recruit diverse employees in today’s hyper-competitive labor market, it’s important to prioritize closing gaps in coverage while effectively managing costs and maneuvering through local obstacles.

A global consistency approach is also a key driver and facilitator to a stronger governance structure. Governance is not easy to define, but basically, it means developing and managing consistent, cohesive policies, processes and decisions for a given area of responsibility. With the absence of governance to guide the journey of global consistency, decision-making may vary across countries or regions, resulting in inconsistent global policies and practices at the local level. Business Group on Health conducted a governance survey and found most participants stated that their governance structure covers:

governance structure

The top reasons for implementing a global governance structure include:

The top reasons for implementing a global governance structure

A best practice governance model can build consistency across the globe in the delivery of benefit programs. Some governance best practices are to:

  • Have central access to data and market information on global benefits programs, especially for programs outside of the market norm, such as fertility treatment, gender affirmation services and critical illness coverage. The data collection process requires ensuring that your broker/consultant know your global strategy and key priorities, as their default view is looking for cost savings and market median.
  • Develop well-defined risk management policies, including an operating model with roles and responsibilities defined at the local, regional and corporate levels.
  • Conduct formal audits to ensure that local benefits are aligned with global policies.
  • Align benefit programs with overall workforce strategy.

Guiding Principles in Articulating and Managing a Global Consistency Strategy

When developing a global consistency strategy, it’s helpful to identify overarching guiding principles that can create buy-in to gain alignment. Another important element of a global strategy is understanding cultural applicability and local nuances in programs, as well as gaps between desired programs and the social system. Recognizing that some benefits provided outside the U.S. are framed significantly by government regulations and statute is crucial as well.

A shining example of variability in benefits worldwide is global leave, where the U.S. lags behind the rest of the world in paid leave for parents. Besides Papua New Guinea, the U.S. is the only country in the world with no government mandated policy guaranteeing maternity leave. Of the world's richest 41 countries, the U.S. is one of 15 that does not offer any paternity leave.

Weeks of parental leave by country

The World Policy Analysis Center at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health states that the average national paid maternity leave around the world is 29 weeks, and the average national paid paternity leave is 16 weeks. While it may not be realistic to create a global consistency strategy that mimics Estonia’s 82 plus weeks, it may be within reach to develop a company standard at a level that lets you achieve a minimum that can adjust upward over time while taking local nuances into consideration.

This variation in length of leave across the world is one example of how each country offers a different benefit, and it is important to consider this as a company looks to create consistency within their approach.

The top factors to think through when managing your strategy include:

  • Reinforce your company’s health and well-being strategy. Whether viewed as an equity issue or a business imperative to attract, retain and move talent, a global consistency strategy can strengthen a company’s commitment to a culture of health and well-being in today’s race for talent.
  • Alignment with company mission, values and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) priorities. Evaluate if your benefits support the company’s commitment to being a great place to work and align with external efforts to support the broader communities where employees live.
  • Keep an eye on equity for your employees. Reaching health equity and ensuring an inclusive experience for all employees may not mean the same benefits and approach for everyone. It will likely require a variety of benefits for the variety of situations employees face. Making benefits equitable may not mean that everyone has the same benefits, since equity looks different for everyone.
  • Seamless global mobility. Support the mobility needs of your workforce by developing and maintaining a worldwide standard level of benefits, especially in medical coverage.
  • Protection against catastrophic financial loss. Review gaps in or lack of benefits, such as life insurance or critical illness coverage. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed early on the importance of lifelines like these and how employees and/or their dependents can fall into a dire financial situation quickly.

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