Global Mobility Key to Workforce Effectiveness

Global Mobility Key to Workforce Effectiveness

April 17, 2013
The top reason for international assignment programs is to provide specific technical skills not available locally.

For the last two years there has been an increase in the overall number of international assignments, according to a recent report on expatriate policies by Mercer.

“International assignments have become more diverse to meet evolving business and global workforce needs,” explained Anne Rossier-Renaud, principal in Mercer’s Global Mobility business.

“Relatively low pay increases in some regions and pressure to attract and retain talent have spurred many companies to embrace a wider range of global mobility strategies to incentivize their high performers. Mobility and HR directors now face great complexity in the number and type of international assignments that need managing.”

Over 70% of companies expect to increase short-term assignments in 2013, while 55% of companies expect to increase long-term assignments

The report found that the United States, Brazil, China, United Kingdom and Australia are the priority destinations in their respective regions for expatriates.

The top five reasons cited for international assignment programs are:

  • to provide specific technical skills not available locally (47%)
  • to provide career management/ leadership development (43%)
  • to ensure knowledge transfer (41%)
  • to fulfill specific project needs (39%)
  • to provide specific managerial skills not available locally (38%).

Close to half of North American (45%) and European (46%) companies indicate career management/leadership development as one of the main reasons they have international assignments. In the future, worldwide, 62% of participating companies anticipate an increase in the number of technical-related short-term assignments, 55% anticipate an increase in talent development assignments and half (50%) anticipate an increase in key strategic assignments.

According to the report, the duration of long-term assignments is trending down. The average duration of a long-term assignment is now slightly less than three years (2 years, 10 months). The average minimum duration is 1 year, 5 months, and the average maximum duration is 5 years, 4 months. The average age of long-term assignees is between 35 and 55 years. For short-term assignments, the minimum and maximum average durations worldwide, stand at respectively 4, 8 and 13 months. The average age of short-term assignees tends to be younger, with a similar proportion of companies in the below 35-years old bracket and in the 35-to-55-years old bracket.

The likelihood of expatriates being female has marginally increased with the average percentage of female assignees standing at 13%, just 3% higher than two years ago. Latin American and Asia Pacific companies show female average percentages lower than those of North American and European companies.

Multinational companies continue to source most (57%) of their international assignees from the country in which they are headquartered and assign them to foreign subsidiaries. However, there has been an increase in the percentage of subsidiary company transfers (51%) indicating that subsidiary-to-subsidiary transfers, as opposed to HQ-to-subsidiary transfers, have increased since 2010.  This evolution is most significant among European companies, with six in ten (61%) reporting an increase of this pattern of assignments, indicating the growing competencies of staff in other parts of the world. 

About the Author

Adrienne Selko | Senior Editor

Focus: Workforce, Talent 

Follow Me on Twitter: @ASelkoIW

Bio: Adrienne Selko has written about many topics over the 17 years she has been with the publication and currently focuses on workforce development strategies. Previously Adrienne was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck? which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics and EHS Today

Editorial mission statement: Manufacturing is the enviable position of creating products, processes and policies that solve the world’s problems. When the industry stepped up to manufacture what was necessary to combat the pandemic, it revealed its true nature. My goal is to showcase the sector’s ability to address a broad range of workforce issues including technology, training, diversity & inclusion, with a goal of enticing future generations to join this amazing sector.

Why I find manufacturing interesting: On my first day working for a company that made medical equipment such as MRIs, I toured the plant floor. On every wall was a photo of a person, mostly children. I asked my supervisor why this was the case and he said that the work we do at this company has saved these people’s lives. “We never forget how important our work is and everyone’s contribution to that.” From that moment on I was hooked on manufacturing.

I have talked with many people in this field who have transformed their own career development to assist others. For example, companies are hiring those with disabilities, those previously incarcerated and other talent pools that have been underutilized. I have talked with leaders who have brought out the best in their workforce, as well as employees doing their best work while doing good for the world. 

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