Transformed US Benefits? Merging Towards Global Trend


Enrollment time: Hot topic lately. Also, popular among all talks these last few years has been the topic of Healthcare and benefits. Consequently, benefits have slowly but surely taken a new path in HR, apparently mimicking those offered globally.

Eye Opening Chart: Who Stands out?

Looking at benefits on a wide scale, we know that they are, in fact, particular to each country. They differ widely from country to country. In fact, even the most common benefits among developed economies are far from being equal: Denmark and France are on top of the chart while Ireland and the U.S. are at the bottom, ranking respectively 7.3 and and 7.2 vs. 2.3 and 0.3  on a scale score of most to least generous,  the U.S being a benchmark (Llewellyn Consulting Feb 2016 report). Different societies, different standards. Check it out here. Evidently, Europe is always leading but do other countries stand out as well? One could mistakenly think that benefits are quasi-non-existent in less developed countries. Nothing could be farther from realities: they simply take other forms. One fact is that there is insufficient survey data related to non-multinationals to ascertain benefit policies and practices of local companies in less developed economies. Furthermore, it takes a good understanding of local cultures and policies to understand the forms of benefits offered in any given country. What US workers and employers could see as a "requirement" could in fact be some form of employee benefits, such as "mandatory" vacation in Romania, or such as the still clear division between sick days and vacation days in most countries versus the now more common a pool of paid time off in the US. Compare worldwide leave policies here. Conversely, articles on benefits offered in the US that lean towards a new form are emerging. US employers are facing increasing competition in talent attraction and retention and are getting creative, mirroring to some extent benefits more commonly seen on a global scale. 

Defining Benefits on a Global Scale 

Benefits should be what it really means: benefits. That is, NOT an entitlement. Most benefits are non-mandated ones- granted the now not so new Healthcare Law has somehow changed that notion -. While in other parts of the world healthcare benefits was the least of all benefits, in the US it has not always been the case. Indeed, in most countries, the main advantage of being employed would be to have your healthcare "supplemented" thru  your employer, in one from or another, whatever the size of the organization. A bit confusing? When employees were surveyed on the importance of health benefits, results showed that while only 18% of a potential extra budget would be allocated by all (employees surveyed) to health benefits globally, in the US it would reach 29%.  Indeed, being "employed" globally is merely a path to better (enhanced), and easier access to healthcare, if not guarantee to "better" (quality) care, since basic care is/was universally offered in most instances thru one organization or another. From a different perspective, accessibility to better quality care at a lesser cost is more relevant to salaried workers vs. self-employed or hourly workers. Consequently, healthcare benefits was not really on the bargaining table whenever hiring for "valued" positions, nor had it a real effect on attrition and talent management. Instead, "benefits" (a more general notion, globally) refers to more than, if not anything but, healthcare. In the US those benefits would be referred to as "perks".


What Do You Put On The Table?

So, what is on the bargaining table for candidates, especially the highly-valued ones? In sum, enhancement of quality of working life. Interestingly enough to say the least, many HR or employers find it hard to believe that many companies around the world have all along been offering many of what we would consider "prime" benefits in the U.S. Designing and setting up a competitive benefits package in other parts of the world requires more than creativity: it calls for willingness to understand both society and workforce, and a sense of optimization given, in many instances, limited means. Branding and competitiveness within tight budget oblige. Nothing new, right? From a global perspective, it is always surprising to hear that US companies are somehow lagging on such initiatives. Maybe transformation is slow coming because "progress" in the US has been linked to "standardization" for the sake of streamlining. And of course, cost being a prime concern, offering "benefits" was never a priority. Today, cost of attrition and talent management calls for change in benefit approach. And while we don't say much about the cost of "burnout" and disengagement whenever it comes to benefit design, it is certainly also of growing consideration. Although the new face of benefits is not going to be a blooming trend in most U.S. organizations, it is a positive step towards global approach to benefits. Top employers understood that work is not just "work" for the employee. There is a strong linkage between work and life, and in that search for work-life balance comes into play the offering of the best perks. Perks from gym memberships and concierge service to family vacations are no longer reserved to highly paid executives. It is a tool to attract and retain talent at all levels. It is also a tool to maintain a healthy, happy, and fully productive workforce.

En Synthèse...

Enfin, les entreprises aux Etats-Unis commencent à comprendre que les avantages sociaux ne se limitent pas à l'assurance-santé! Bien entendu, nous devons comprendre que dans ce coin du monde (Outre-Atlantique) l'on a une notion différente du travail et des "avantages" liés au travail, car tout est légiféré. La nouvelle loi (enfin, plus si nouveau que ça maintenant) sur l'assurance-santé a bouleversé bien des choses pour les entreprises. (voir mon article sur le sujet ici) La notion d'avantages liés au travail ou "benefits" a changé. De "pas requis" (non-mandated), l'on ne sait plus vraiment s'ils ne sont pas devenus requis car si l'on ne les offre pas, ou si les employés sont condamnés à "prendre" l'offre "publique" (Exchange), eh bien, l'entreprise paie une amende pour ainsi dire. Alors, allez vraiment savoir... Mais ENFIN et finalement, l'on voit émerger la notion de ce qui a été offert dans les autres parties du monde depuis belle lurette: de vrais avantages sociaux. Pourquoi? Compétitivité oblige: la rétention des employés devient de plus en plus difficile surtout avec la mentalité des Millenials qui sont ouverts à "bouger" parfois à l’extrême (Job hoping). Si les entreprises Americaines sont encore bien loin de céder aux 4-5 semaines de congé annuel (cela se trouve mais c'est plutôt l'exception à la règle), ils font des efforts. Alors, regardez un peu ce que les meilleures boites offrent maintenant. Bonne accroche, n'est-ce pas?


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