Counterpoint: Go Local
By Jared Shelly is senior editor/web editor of Risk & Insurance®
The best way to handle benefits across an organization is to empower local offices.
The idea that a central office needs to serve as a command-and-control center for a global businesses is ludicrous -- especially when you have talented people running local offices.
Employee benefits have a particularly local flavor. Cultures and regulations are vastly different in different markets and management in those countries will know local and regional cultures best.
How can you expect a central office to know the ins and outs of a local market better than the people that live and work there every day?
The culture of work can vary greatly in different parts of the world. In China, for example, workers expect heavy, almost constant feedback from their managers.
In Dubai, the typical work week spans from Sunday to Thursday, rather than Monday to Friday. In Tokyo, a bottle of American whiskey is seen as a considerate gift, but giving such a token would be a major offense in many Middle Eastern countries.
While in the United States, employers can afford to be picky because there are plenty of potential workers to fill jobs, the climate in developing countries is quite different. Competition for top talent is nothing short of fierce.
If an unaware employer doesn't offer competitive benefits consistent with countrywide regulations and practices, that can hurt its ability to attract and retain talent. On the other hand, offering benefits that are too generous may create conflict with local customers and customs.
Organized labor in a certain location might simply dictate what the benefit strategy needs to be -- and that can easily conflict with corporate strategy.
Plus the quality and regulations of a local heath care or retirement system may vary widely from country to country, so it's possible that a corporate policy would need to be amended anyway. Why try to fit a square peg into a round hole?
Knowledge is power when managing your overseas workforce and nobody has more knowledge than employees who have been working in that market their entire lives.
Without strong local control of benefits, an employer will be at a severe competitive disadvantage and possibly be subject to legal action or political repercussions.
June 1, 2013
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