Multinational companies are still at the early stages of developing their global benefits strategy and management approach.
According to research from Towers Watson, two-thirds of respondents said they were either just getting started or narrowly focusing on a single global benefit management area.
It also confirmed that multinational companies' benefits and pension focuses were shifting away from defined benefit (DB) pensions to a more balanced view across a broader range of benefits, in particular, defined contribution (DC) plans and employee health.
Other focus areas appeared more enduring over time, such as the management of financial risk, benefit spend optimisation and the effective handling of corporate transactions.
The consultant also expressed concern that the majority of global or regional benefit managers at multinational companies had limited or no access to timely financial information related to current employee benefit spending.
The Current and Emerging Global Benefit Themes survey suggested this total was as high as seven out of ten.
Towers Watson senior consultant Mark O'Brien said the situation was unacceptable.
"It is striking that global and regional benefit managers at many multinationals - which often spend hundreds of millions of dollars on employee benefits annually - do not have this vital piece of information.
"Nowhere else within their businesses would such a lack of management information or oversight be acceptable. The underlying information exists, but needs to be extracted in a structured manner from finance systems, which is often the difficult part.
"Notwithstanding, we see more advanced multinationals allocating the resources necessary to address this so they can use information on benefit spend to help identify risks and opportunities, make decisions and prioritise their activities to increase the return on investment from their benefit plans," he added.
The consultant surveyed 492 professionals in reward, pension and benefit roles with global or regional purview across four geographic regions: Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), Latin America and North America.