BOLD&BEYOND by OVIAVO: How to build a global benefits strategy?

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BOLD&BEYOND by OVIAVO is an event series created to share experiences from different HR leaders across Europe about current and future HR Trends as well as challenges in the workplace. It serves as a platform to discuss bold and progressive topics that are inevitable for an inclusive work environment. Because we believe that understanding the sociodemographic trends and offering employees the support & benefits that actually matter will be the deciding factor for the workforce of tomorrow.

Our third event was once again full of exciting discussions, insights and exchanges. Under the motto “Luau” we celebrated the end of the summer with a Hawaiian inspired cocktail while speaking about the challenges of managing multi-country teams and how to build a benefit strategy that meets the needs of a diverse workforce all around Europe.

Anna Brandt, Founder (and former Head of Talent Acquisition at Uber and Mollie) guided through the evening and welcomed our amazing speakers Yessica González, Global People Operations Director at Hopin and Susan Wilson, CHRO at Mollie who shared their experiences, learnings and some exciting insights with our guests.

“We are seeing benefits as a way to differentiate,” started Susan. The experience of working at Mollie and the company culture is really important when it comes to standing out. “Benefits need to reflect who we are as a company and who we want to attract”, she added. Working at the company should not only be about getting your paycheck and a good compensation package, but also about benefits for the employee’s wellbeing. Therefore she believes that employees should be able to pick and choose what is right for them. The development of an Employer value proposition can be very helpful in both growing according to the values and selecting the right benefits for the future workforce. Especially when there are cultural differences, flexibility for employees is an important factor.

“We went the easy route,” said Yessica. As a hyper growth company the focus so far was mainly on hiring, benefits had to be simple and global to be interesting for a majority of people. Therefore at Hopin they created a Home Office budget for everyone who just started to work remotely for the first time. With this money, employees could equip their workplace in the best possible way by buying a desk, chair or other necessary items.

Not only the selection of the benefits itself but also the implementation in different currencies is a challenge, said Yessica. “What is valued in one country might not be valued in others,” she continued. This can be small things like the supply of a bicycle in the Netherlands, but also more relevant benefits like whether the company provides medical care for their employees. Something that is considered a “must have” for employees in some countries is only “nice to have” for other people.

In addition to the benefits mentioned above, Yessica also sees mental health as an important area where employees should be supported globally. Nevertheless, in her opinion, besides a global strategy, there is also a need for country-specific strategies in order to address individual needs. Since remote working is a challenge for many companies, Anna dived deeper into the question of whether certain benefits are needed in this regard. “People are really happy working remotely” answered Yessica. But besides working remotely 100%, people actually need to meet their coworkers from time to time. For this, Hopin provides a quarterly budget that employees can use for team events in the respective regions.

Anna also raised a question that is certainly of interest to many companies: “How do you measure the success of these initiatives?”. According to Yessica, success is often difficult to measure but reporting and engagement rates are good indicators of whether people need and actually use the provided programmes. Susan followed up by sharing an experience she had with Fertility Benefits during her time at Uber. What was surprising, according to Susan, was that they saw little engagement and usage in the beginning. In the following year, however, the level of engagement increased significantly, and the employees appreciated and benefited from the support to start a family.

Particularly regarding the topic of family, we see that many companies still need to work on a competitive offer when it comes to maternity and paternity leave. Again there is no one size fits all approach – while 16 weeks of paid parental leave is considered generous in some countries, it is very basic in others. Offering the same number of weeks to all employees worldwide is therefore not effective. A proportionate increase of for example 4 weeks on top of the requirements available in the respective country, on the other hand, would be a good alternative in order to provide all parents with the same number of weeks of leave, over and above the statutory regulations.

In addition to benefits for mental well-being, family forming and individual needs, financial well-being is also becoming an increasingly important issue. While salaries are usually good, especially in the tech sector, support through financial coaching or consulting in the area of savings, retirement planning or investments can be a helpful tool for employees. Not only to protect themselves for later in life, but also to make the right decisions and to take good care of their money and savings.

3 of the many key takeaways of the evening:

  • The right benefits have a huge influence on employee satisfaction, attraction as well as retention. However, especially for companies with employees in different countries, country-specific strategies are often necessary in addition to global strategies in order to address local conditions, cultural differences and varying needs.
  • There are numerous benefits that can be provided to employees that also set companies apart from others. These do not always have to be expensive. For example, companies can give their employees a certain number of days off to pursue a good cause or offer them unlimited holidays to allow for the greatest possible flexibility.
  • Benefits should be in line with the company values. By doing so, companies not only offer the kind of benefits that every other company offers and stand out from the crowd, but also attract the talent they want to have and keep in the company.

After the interesting discussions, learnings and questions from the audience there was also room for the participants to exchange their own experiences which led to an inspiring and really interesting conversation that could easily have gone on for another hour.

We are beyond excited to go deeper into those bold topics at the next edition of “BOLD & BEYOND by OVIAVO”. So, if you feel like sharing your own story to the group, please reach out to us directly. We’ll also share more learnings and insights from the event over the course of the coming weeks, so stay tuned and follow us on Linkedin.

Jenny Saft

Jenny Saft

Founder of OVIAVO

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