Brookfield Global Relocation Services (Brookfield GRS), a leading provider of global mobility services, has just released its 20th annual Global Mobility Trends Survey report. The 2015 results highlight the challenges that corporate mobility professionals face as they strategically plan for, and operationally implement, employee transfers around the world.The Survey results are based on input from global mobility and human resources professionals from 143 multinational companies representing different global mobility program sizes, all major industry sectors and diverse global headquarter locations. The report examines the roles of talent management and mobility, explore how mobility leaders are responding to cost pressures today, and investigate how family concerns and emerging assignment locations are presenting mobility with opportunities to better support assignee needs while remaining a cost savvy business partner. Watch the film here.
The Talent Management Imperative: Mobility’s Role for the Future
Developing leadership talent with a global mindset is critical for companies today, and leveraging international assignments as a developmental tool is a growing trend. For the first time, building international management experience has appeared as one of the top two reasons for sending employees on international assignments. As a result, mobility has been slowly seeking a stronger organizational alignment with talent management. The evidence in support of making this change is compelling. The companies with direct reporting links to talent management are more likely to require a statement of the assignment objectives and business justification at the outset of an international assignment, tend to have formal career management processes in place and measure ROI. These companies also reported better outcomes, especially in the areas of reduced assignment failure and attrition.
The Demand for a More Strategic Approach to Cost
As the world economy continues through an uneven recovery, the one constant that has not changed for companies is the near universal focus on cost. Seventy-four percent (74%) of respondents indicated that they had been required to reduce international assignment costs last year in response to economic pressures; the second highest percentage reported in over a decade. At the same time, the majority of international assignment programs are growing or remaining at current levels; albeit at a slower rate than we have seen in the past. Given the inordinate amount of cost pressure on mobility today, it is somewhat surprising that more companies do not seem to have basic cost management practices in place. Only 62% of respondents indicated that they track costs during an assignment, and even fewer noted that a cost benefit analysis is required at the outset of an assignment. With barely two-thirds of companies actually tracking the basic and most transparent part of their investment in assignments – their cost, it is not surprising that 95% of companies do not measure international assignment ROI.
Family Challenges: Growing Concern over Spouse/Partner Careers
While just under half of assignees’ spouses/partners worked before the assignment, only 11% of those also worked during the assignment. Spouse/partner career concerns came in as the second most noted reason for assignment refusal, and 35% of respondents indicated that spouse/partner career concerns were having an impact on their ability to attract employees for international assignments. Even when an assignment is accepted, from an adjustment perspective spouse/partner career changes can have an impact, however indirect, on the assignment experience overall.
Mobility leaders expect the problem to get worse. Sixty-nine percent (69%) of respondents indicated that they expect spouse/partner career concerns to have even greater impact on their company’s ability to attract candidates of choice in the future.
As BRIC Countries Remain atop Emerging Markets, Challenges Remain Too
As family adjustment issues remain front and center, international assignments are growing in the very locations that represent some of the most difficult assignment challenges. The top emerging markets for international assignments this year are noted as China, Brazil, and the UAE. In addition, respondents noted that the most challenging locations for both assignees and mobility program managers are Brazil, India, and China. Russia, the fourth country of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) is in the top five.
The twofold challenge of immigration and cultural adaptation overlays all locations; however, each location has its individual unique set of concerns that respondents often noted as causing issues. The development of country supplements to global policies can help strike the balance between codifying a global policy approach while maintaining an understanding of where local practices need to differ.
Conclusion: a Call for Mindful Mobility
The challenge for mobility will be to continue to innovate while bringing an up-skilled level of business acumen to discussions of mobility program effectiveness and enable them to articulate a value proposition focused beyond cost alone. It will be up to mobility leaders to offer solutions and develop innovative approaches to mobility practices that bring demonstrable value to the business. Mobility must be mindful about the challenges inherent in international assignments, work to attract the right candidates, and look at cost reduction as a strategy. In other words, mobility must bring a newer, more mindful approach to their practice.
Brookfield GRS has developed a microsite for the results which includes a Data Explorer that allows visitors to view and filter survey responses by region, industry and size. Visit the microsite to download a full copy of the 2015 Global Mobility Trends Survey report and filter the results at: http://globalmobilitytrends.brookfieldgrs.com/