Top performers and talented hires are the lifeblood of an organization, providing new skills, capabilities, perspectives, creativity and innovation. Companies that fail to consistently attract and retain these employees can struggle to maintain their overall business performance, according to Aon 2024 Global Benefits Trends Study.

Report indicating that global minimum benefits standards are becoming standard for multinationals. The study examined the evolving roles, responsibilities, and priorities of benefits professionals in multinational businesses in a dynamic global benefits landscape.

It highlighted rising benefits costs, changing views on employee mobility, pay transparency and equity mandates, and the role of technology in fostering company culture and employee engagement.

Aon’s survey was conducted in 2024 and received 288 responses from participants in 31 countries across North America, EMEA, APAC and LATAM. Study reflects feedback from nearly 300 global benefits professionals on the human capital issues of primary importance to multinational companies.

The intent of the study was to understand the global benefits trends associated with multinationals around the world and to gather insights about the roles, responsibilities and evolving priorities of global benefits professionals in multinational companies.

Key findings from benefits report

Multinational businesses must be able to adapt benefits strategies rapidly to ensure employees continue to thrive.

Globally, the most common minimum benefit standards offered by companies are employee assistance programs and life insurance (73%), maternity leave (70%), and paternity leave (69%).

These standards support strategic priorities such as diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB), employee wellbeing, environmental, social, and governance (ESG), holistic wellbeing, and the future of work.

One in three multinationals are currently drafting and articulating their global benefits strategy and reviewing these annually.

Trends like DEIB, employee wellbeing, and ESG are driving this more frequent review process.

Globally, the most common minimum benefit standards

Strategies are becoming more detailed, with 64% of businesses stating they have articulated detailed design principles. However, there is a gap in the local implementation of these strategies, leading to an inconsistent employee experience.

59% of organizations surveyed are capturing employee feedback to guide strategic priorities.

Benefits communication is a major opportunity for improvement. Many businesses indicated that communicating and increasing the perceived value of benefits is a top strategic priority.

Globally, the most common minimum benefit standards

However, efforts to enhance employee perception and understanding of benefits are currently ineffective, with only 33% including communication guidelines in their global framework. Additionally, 72% of businesses leave communication to local benefits teams, resulting in inconsistent experiences worldwide.

Organizations are implementing minimum benefit standards to cover key employee needs

Celine Ng Tong, global benefits consultant at Aon

“We expect the prevalence of these standards to double in the next few years, with future focus areas including wellbeing programs, preventive health, mental health, and sick leave”, said Celine Ng Tong.

2024 Global Benefits Standards Study

Rapid Transformation in the Global Benefits Profession

While the landscape on which GB professionals function is shifting dramatically 2024 — a point we will explore in later findings — the role of the GB professional itself is shifting as well. This is one of the most significant findings of the study.

The top global priority across all industries and sizes of companies is ensuring compliance and competitiveness of benefits programs, with 89% saying this is a current priority.

The compliance aspect of this priority requires that companies meet all national and local regulatory benefits standards across a multitude of geographies. The competitive element provides that companies are able — at a minimum — to attract and retain talent and stand out in the market.

Where Multinationals are Focusing their Energy

Where Multinationals are Focusing their Energy
Source: Aon

Companies aim to align benefits programs with corporate priorities and create a unique identity to better connect with employees. This has led many global benefits (GB) professionals to review their benefits strategy more actively and frequently.

Globally, one in three multinationals are currently drafting and annually reviewing their global benefits strategy, indicating the fast-paced nature of this field.

Trends such as DEIB, employee wellbeing, and ESG are driving this increased frequency. In the APAC region, the response to these trends is notably strong. However, only 53% of companies have a clearly articulated global benefits strategy.

Despite this, strategies are not as comprehensive as needed. While 96% of companies focus on health and risk benefits, fewer emphasize pensions (74%) and leave (72%). There is potential to expand strategies to include allowances, perks, and more.

Compliance presents an opportunity for GB professionals. Although respondents recognize its importance, only 35% list it as a key objective.

Slightly more than half (53%) rely on local offices to enforce compliance. More mature companies adopt a global/local partnership approach, but there are concerns about its robustness given the importance of compliance.

Europe is a key region to watch as new pay transparency legislation takes effect in 2026. European companies currently rely heavily on local markets for compliance (59%), but this may shift with the new regulations.

Overall, there is a lack of formal governance around compliance. While two-thirds of respondents regularly benchmark benefits offerings, only one in three conducts annual or bi-annual compliance checks.


Revamping Benefit Investments for Greater Value

Revamping Benefit Investments for Greater Value

To manage benefits spending in this environment, companies are using their benefit strategy to prioritize investment options, optimize governance structures and implement cost-effective strategies at the local level.

Some are also exploring new financing arrangements through the use of global underwriting, captives and multinational pooling, with a focus on generating financial savings and accessing better data.

Regional Interest in Alternative Financing Strategies

Nearly one in three companies, particularly mid-sized ones with 5,000 to 20,000 employees, are exploring new financing arrangements like global underwriting, captives, and multinational pooling.

Globally, 72% of companies cite financial savings as the main reason for considering these alternative financing tools. Accessing better terms and conditions follows at 59%.

In the UK, 43% of companies are considering captives and 46% are looking at global underwriting. In the U.S., interest is slightly higher, with 62% considering captives and 59% considering global underwriting.

In APAC, there is a notable focus on global underwriting (54%) and multinational pooling (46%).

Global Minimum Benefits Standards

Despite this interest, actual implementation of a global financing strategy is lacking. About 67% of companies leave financing decisions to local markets, with 77% in the UK. Among companies with a mature framework, 51% delegate decisions locally, and 47% of those with captives also leave decisions to local markets.

Another approach that companies are employing in the face of rising costs is the use of holistic data to identify cost drivers, understand what employees value and drive preventative actions.

Not surprisingly, this is a strategy we are seeing mature companies and companies with captives in place embrace more than the general market.

This approach is particularly strong in the UK (60%, which is 25 percentage points higher than the global average of 35%), where companies say that understanding disability and medical claims drivers is a key future strategic priority.

Access to data is still a challenge for the industry in general. However, global financing arrangements are being leveraged to make this task easier.

70% of companies with captives say they have access to detailed claims data, and approximately 60% of companies with global underwriting/multinational pooling say this is accessible to them.


Global Minimum Benefits Standards

A key tactic to implement these priorities is to include them in a broader suite of global minimum benefits. Of multinational companies currently offering or planning to offer global minimum benefits (43% of all companies surveyed), nearly three out of four congregate around four main offerings: life insurance, employee assistance programs (EAP), maternity and paternity leave.

This is not a surprise given that life insurance and EAP are generally easier to roll out, and maternity and paternity leave have been topics of discussion in the news in the past few years.

Global Minimum Benefits Standards, Among Companies Currently Offering

Global Minimum Benefits Standards, Among Companies Currently Offering

Organizations with captives are more likely to have fully implemented their global minimum benefit standards, which is also not surprising given that captives can support the implementation of these standards.

EMEA and the UK are less likely to have a minimum benefits standard in place for EAP and life insurance, respectively. APAC is currently focused quite strongly on parental, maternity and paternity leave.

DEIB, wellbeing, ESG and the future of work

DEIB, wellbeing, ESG and the future of work have been hot topics, generating many headlinesand much discussion. However, in Aon study, on a global basis, these topics were consistently ranked as mid-level critical priorities for organizations, behind compliance/competitiveness, cost management, governance and communications.

In EMEA, organizations are less likely to prioritize DEIB, potentially conflicting with the EU Pay Directive, which addresses the gender pay gap. Although the directive mentions pay, it also includes benefits, so its implications on benefits must be considered.

Strategic Priorities Influencing Minimum Benefits Standards

Strategic Priorities Influencing Minimum Benefits Standards
Source: Aon

In APAC, 71% of organizations prioritize wellbeing, more than other regions. Companies in APAC also rate benefits supporting the future of work and flexible work as high priorities. This suggests a move towards accommodating part-time/remote workers, phased retirement, and a hybrid workforce.

In the Americas, companies align with the global average on DEIB and wellbeing. Many multinationals here were early adopters of significant benefits changes reflecting these trends and have since adjusted their focus.

Benefits Communication: An Overlooked Priority

Many companies in the study have stated that communication and increasing perceived value of benefits is a consistent top strategic priority today. It is consistently a top-five priority for every segment and, in some cases, comparable with cost management.

This assessment is especially strong for the technology and financial services industries, where it is the second highest priority today.

This finding is not particularly surprising, as these industries tend to invest heavily in employee benefits. Therefore, ensuring that employees are aware their benefits and appreciate them is the natural next focus area.

While it is perceived as a critical strategic priority, only 38% state that ensuring the benefits are highly valued by employees is a key objective for global benefits teams.

One method for centralizing messaging and utilizing technology is digitalization. However, only 40% of respondents rank digitalizing the global employee experience as a top-five priority. This figure rises to 54% among APAC respondents and 62% among UK respondents.

Over 85% of participants report ongoing efforts to digitalize the benefits experience, with technology playing a moderate to critical role. Interestingly, EU-based companies show the least interest in technology.

Multinational companies are creatively enhancing the digital experience for employees. They often collaborate with third-party benefit portal providers, use total rewards portals, or utilize available insurance carrier portals.

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AUTHORS: Michael Pedel – Head of Global Benefits at Aon, Carlota Redondo – Sr. Vice President, Physician’s Professional Liability Practice Leader at Aon National Healthcare Practice, Céline Ng Tong – Global health, benefits and wellbeing consultant at Aon

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