06 July 2021

Not understanding overseas employees’ needs costs time, money, and staff

Employers who fail to understand the needs of their overseas employees risk wasting time and money on irrelevant benefits, seeing increased absence levels, and even losing staff. Towergate Health & Protection looks at why it is important to understand overseas employees’ needs, and how this can be achieved.

Why it is important to understand overseas employees’ needs

There are many ways in which a business will benefit from fully understanding the needs of its overseas employees. A comprehensive understanding will allow the employer to remain in control of budgets, manage absence, and improve recruitment and retention of staff.

Sarah Dennis, Head of International at Towergate Health and Protection comments: “Ultimately, knowing what makes your global employees tick will be a major step in the effective management of the business.”

Managing budgets

There are lots of different options for what to include in health and wellbeing packages for employees working abroad, and lots of potential to spend either unwisely or wisely. Some benefits will be costly but not necessary, others will be vital. For example, maternity care, dental treatment, and GP visits can be very expensive and not necessarily relevant for every demographic, in every region. For others, however, they may be essential. It is important to understand what is included within international health and wellbeing benefits, and what is needed.

Absence management

Absence management will be particularly important for companies where employees work remotely around the world, as days off may be less visible or easy to manage. It is important that employers make sure they implement the right health and wellbeing benefits – incorporating support for prevention and early intervention - ensure they are utilised, and drive access to medical treatment, as this can help eliminate high absences. Having adequate health and wellbeing cover is also a mandatory visa requirement in many countries.

Recruitment and retention

Replacing experienced overseas employees is expensive, and recruiting them is highly competitive. The right health and wellbeing package will help as a pull for new employees, but it will also assist in keeping valued staff in place.

How to understand overseas employees’ needs

Once the business is aware of the importance of understanding the needs of its employees who are working abroad, the next step is to gain the relevant knowledge.

Employee engagement surveys

One of the best options is to run employee engagement surveys. These should occur regularly to keep up with changes. Once measures have been implemented in response, the survey should be run again to see how things have improved.

Consider geographical differences

An employer must bear in mind that needs may change regularly and that they are likely to vary across different regions and countries. The culture and environment in which an employee is living and working may be an influence. For example, in a country like New Zealand, where an outdoors lifestyle is prevalent, employees may be more interested in support for fitness. As other countries are still struggling with Covid, access to a virtual GP may be the most important benefit to employees. Those in countries with less sophisticated medical facilities may want to know they can access medical care in neighbouring regions.

Consider demographic differences

Employers must also understand what is important to different demographics among their employees. Caring for the family may be the main requirement for those with dependants, while those newer to working overseas may need more support for their mental wellbeing in adjusting to different cultures. Others may need help readjusting and returning to the UK.

Benefiting both

Understanding employees’ needs will have positive outcomes for both employers and employees. The employees will receive better benefits that are more carefully tailored to their needs. The business will gain from happier, healthier, more productive and engaged employees.