Employee Benefits Awards 2012: Most effective reward or benefits strategy for staff based outside the UK

American Express, Global Benefits Governance

This entrant introduced a new international reward strategy that reduced its total benefits costs and used the dividends from pooling arrangements to fund health and wellness benefits around the world.

The Global Benefits Governance programme, which went live in 11 countries across Japan Asia-Pacific and Australia, and nine countries across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, marked a change in its approach to international reward. Historically, American Express had allowed local HR and procurement teams to govern their own benefit plans according to broad guidelines. But it found this decentralised approach was creating financial, legal and human capital risk and realised that a new, more centralised system would allow it to: adopt a strategic approach that embraces national differences; give benefit managers access to systems that allow global, real-time access to data; manage human capital; hold more sway with insurers; and actively manage pooling providers. One judge said: “The structure is a textbook approach with quantifiable benefits.”

A key feature of American Express’ new approach to international reward was the optimisation of multinational pooling. This was done in a number of ways, including managing contracts in the pool, investigating claims and looking at plan design. Two of its three pools produced an accumulative dividend of $100,000 (£64,300), which was used to fund a number of projects around the world. The judges considered this approach particularly innovative.

In the UK, the company introduced an eco-gym which includes bicycles that capture employees’ kinetic energy and feed electricity into power packs to recharge Blackberrys, laptops and blenders to make smoothies. UK staff can also tend to a rooftop garden, complete with beehive.

Enhanced governance, harmonisation and the use of a central global benefits database saved American Express 12% on its total benefits costs.

Jamie Green, global benefits analyst, said: “I think the judges were impressed that our strategy was integrated with healthy living.”


BNP Paribas Corporate Investment Banking, Deferred Compensation Portal, entered by KPMG
This entrant introduced a global compensation portal to ensure staff understood the value of their long-term incentives and rewards. The Deferred Compensation Portal was launched in May 2011 to 4,000 employees globally. Staff are shown the value of their long-term incentives through an on-screen presentation, and up-to-date information is provided on unit and cash awards. Under its previous system, staff were unable to see and value their assets themselves and communication was disparate.

Howden Group, Total Reward and Engagement Strategy
Howden’s strategy saw it introduce common criteria for job-levelling globally, so roles were benchmarked correctly in terms of pay for the first time. An employee engagement survey was used to kick-start communication. Information from the survey will guide the group’s use of financial and non-financial reward. After the strategy was introduced, international assignments rose by 50%.

Merlin Entertainments, Merlin Global Recognition Schemes: STAR and CEO Award Plan
After introducing company values internationally, Merlin rolled out new global motivation and recognition schemes. STAR, its recognition programme, recognises employees who reflect company values. Staff nominate colleagues for a star-of-the-month award. Under the CEO Award Plan, company shares are given for long service, outstanding performance, customer service and contribution to charity.

William Grant and Sons
This entrant offers universal benefits, promotes the value of non-cash rewards, and strikes a balance between respecting legacy benefits and being forward-looking on perks such as pensions and bonuses. Its international total reward strategy resulted in the company recording an overall employee engagement rate of 87% for 2011.

Read more about the Employee Benefits Awards 2012