In an increasingly volatile world, companies are trying to ensure their global mobility strategy remains competitive while increasing their return on investment from costly global assignments. Interestingly, more employees are interested in a global stint now than in the past, even those at relatively junior levels. In many organizations, realizing one’s career potential all but requires a global assignment.
Because of this, employers usually do not need to offer windfall-level benefit packages to coerce employees into taking these assignments, and there is much more variation in the assistance offered to global assignees than in the past. Senior executives might still receive rich packages but more inexperienced Millennials who are embarking on developmental assignments might require surprisingly modest assistance. As a generalization, they do not see these assignments as the hardship more senior employees often do.
These changed demographics free employers to pay more attention to cost containment when they are developing policies. The goal is to deliver the support needed for a successful assignment without spending money on unnecessary frills that may not be necessary to remain competitive.
KEY TRENDS IN GLOBAL MOBILITY
- “Global citizens” and mobility. According to Mercer, “global citizens” include traditional expatriates, “inpatriates” (sent from foreign locations to garner skills and experience at headquarters), third-country nationals and global nomads, and individuals whose personal background or previous work experience (they may have lived elsewhere or speak different languages) suit them for cross-national assignments. Many organizations have global citizens in their ranks without even knowing it and it is to their advantage to identify and develop these employees. It is somewhat easier for recruiters to look for global citizen qualities in potential new hires.
- More flexibility in expatriate benefits, creating a more satisfying experience for the assignee and lower costs for the employer. As suggested above, a variety of global assignments and assignment objectives allows for different levels of support. For employees on developmental assignments, full relocation packages may not be necessary. Utilizing a Core/Flex or a Managed Lump Sum approach rather than an overly generous full package can be more cost effective for the employer and sufficient to get the job done for the assignee.
- Spouse and family concerns continue to be a leading cause of failed assignments. Although this is not necessarily new or a trend, it requires mentioning. Surveys routinely confirm that spouse/family issues are the most common or second most common reason for a failed assignment. In long-term assignments, the family might never have adapted to the new location. In short-term assignments, it can be the stress stemming from long periods away from home. These might seem like personal issues, but if an assignee is stressed due to home and family issues, that stress can manifest itself in lower productivity, distraction, increased absences and unwillingness to take on future future global assignments. While cost-control is important, it is in the employer’s interest to assess and select candidates carefully and to provide for appropriate counseling for the employee and family. A failed assignment is much costlier than candidate assessment and counseling.