Global benefits managers have to face numerous challenges as the economy, industry and legislation changes. In an interview Phil Borden, employee benefits at Kohler Co. describes some of the problems the industry has to deal with and how to best overcome these issues.
Borden has worked in U.S. benefits for 14 years and another 9 years in global benefits. He has seen the changes the industry has adapted to over time. He said some of the challenges today’s industry faces include staying abreast of the benefit environment, especially in emerging markets, and finding an appropriate balance between prevailing practices in a specific region and for the industry.
“In other words, how do you benchmark your benefit programs and what is your governance model to implement your solutions and ensure you remain competitive?” he said.
Another issue is keeping up with the constant legislative changes. He does so through:
- Regular communications and contact with local personnel to discuss the current environment as it relates to sectors like recruitment, competition for human resources and personnel retention
- Relationships with local insurers, administrators and/or multinational pools
- Global benefit group networking and informational services provided by organizations like the Global Benefit Association – these relationships can also facilitate networking between colleagues in other organizations who face similar challenges
- Relationships with consultants and brokerage services that specialize in distributing information about various legislative issues, whether through regular contact, webinars or newsletters, to existing and potential clients
- Purchasable services and organizational newsletters and groups
Borden said Kohler Co. transitioned its management from being more local to being more regional. The change to build regional service centers became necessary as the global footprint of the company grew. The regionalization applies not only to benefits but also to all aspects of the business, from recruitment to financial reporting and marketing, to ensure uniformity in processes and procedures.
Despite the regionalization, the company also has local representatives and global governance, all of whom work together to make sure that protocol is followed and practices are implemented. It also has a global network of advisors who provide expertise for a particular geographic area.
Borden said this year the company is attempting to implement one global mobility solution, one travel assistance program and one business travel accident program for traveling associates. Next, it will focus on global wellness initiatives, many of which have already been launched locally. Part of the challenge will be implementing metrics to measure the wellness initiative.
In order to be successful, whether implementing existing or new practices, a strong communication plan must exist, he said. Managers must take heed of the issues local officers and recruiters face so that they can adjust the total rewards packages accordingly.
Also, all changes should be made from as much valid data as possible, data which can come from, focus groups, local business associations, surveys and discussions with other employers.
Borden said that these are just a few of the keys to success and effectiveness. Kohler Co.’s growth in the last 10 years has come increasingly from hiring employees outside the United States.
This has occurred through acquisitions but also from developing the right packages to recruit the right people who will make future ventures successful. He said the key is to stay informed and to participate in discussion with peers and leaders in the industry.