Although cultural differences might appear as important to account for the cross-national variation of human resource practices, institutional differences are equally important. Thereby, deciding on a communication strategy for benefits may not only reflect cultural but also institutional variability.
Communicating to a global workforce may take place via direct and one-way modes of employer communication, for example staff handbooks, posters, emails, newsletters, total reward statements, SMS, webinars, podcasts or more interactive means such as staff meetings or forums, intranets and social media such as internal Facebook sites.
The institutional perspective suggests the importance of representative institutions of employee voice that are embedded in particular institutional contexts.
Employee voice institutions refer to opportunities for employees to be involved in collective decision making. These include trade unions, collective bargaining and forms of works councils or consultation committees.
For example, collective bargaining provides a venue to negotiate various benefits, such as childcare, bonuses, healthcare, pensions and annual leave, and hence to communicate them to members. Thus, employees in organisations with collective bargaining agreements are typically well informed about those perks that take the form of entitlements.
By contrast, when employees rely only on downward information sharing, this may be unidirectional and less effective. The benefits strategy should be embedded into local employee voice institutions that reflect home-country arrangements and norms. As long as employees feel that they jointly shape benefits policies and their needs are taken into account, the communication strategy on benefits is bound to be more successful.
Dr Andreas Kornelakis is a lecturer in human resource management in the School of Business, Management and Economics at the University of Sussex