2018 Global Mobility Survey Sheds Light on the Future of International Assignments

October 10, 2018 Cathy Loose

International assignments are evolving: Mature global organizations are reassessing their current mobility strategy and policies as part of business transformation, while newer multinational companies are putting in place international assignment policies to support global expansion. Regardless of what stage companies are at, a key objective is to ensure their current mobility strategy and policies are effective at deploying the right talent to support business growth — all while ensuring an employee’s assignment experience is positive.

With global mobility increasingly becoming a strategic business imperative, Aon and Worldwide ERC partnered on the 2018 Global Mobility Survey to inquire about companies’ overall mobility strategy and whether and how organizations use data analytics to improve the tracking of mobility processes.

With that in mind, here are seven key findings from the study that will help as you build or evolve your own company’s global mobility strategy and policies.

1. Asia-Pacific will have the highest concentration of international mobile employees (IMEs), followed by Europe.

Respondents report that Europe and Asia Pacific equally have the largest percentage of international mobile employees, or IMEs, at 31%. Looking at Figure 1 below, over the next three years, Asia-Pacific is expected to see the greatest increase in IMEs (47%), with Europe coming in second (21%).

2. There is a growing trend toward one-way permanent assignments. While long-term assignees continue to be the most prevalent type of assignment, permanent transferees are now the second most prevalent IMEs, surpassing short-term assignees. It will be insightful to track this trend over the next two years to see whether this is a temporary change or a permanent indication of companies moving toward one-way permanent assignments. Future investigations should explore whether permanent moves are replacing more traditional assignments.

3. The number of millennial IMEs (those born between 1980 and 1996) is expected to grow. When asked about whether they expect the number of millennial IMEs to grow over the course of the next three years, the majority of survey respondents said they expect it to either somewhat increase (53%) or significantly increase (27%). Only 1% expect the number to somewhat decrease, and the same percentage expect it to significantly decrease; the remaining 18% expect it to remain stable. Since most expect to see an increase in this demographic, we asked companies whether their assignment policy has changed to account for the increase in millennials. What we found is that only 30% of respondents are currently reviewing their policy while 60% say they haven’t made changes and don’t plan to review existing policies.

4. Delivery of total rewards depends on the type of assignment. In terms of delivering total rewards, the home-country approach is the prevalent practice for long-term and short-term assignees and commuters, while the host-country approach is the prevalent practice for permanent transferees — as you might expect. However, for global nomads, the approach tends to be more mixed, with 27% of companies providing a home-country approach, 11% using the host-country and 10% using a hybrid package.

5. The impact of a company’s global mobility policy depends on the goal it’s trying to achieve. The vast majority of organizations indicate that their current mobility policy is generally somewhat effective across the goals shown in Figure 3 below. Mobility policies have the strongest impact on fulfilling project technical needs (48%) and supporting business growth (47%).

6. Improved tracking of global mobility is needed. While companies do a good job of tracking assignment completion, costs and employee experience/satisfaction, they tend to lag in collecting more data that can help them understand the future success of expats, as can be seen in Figure 4. Roughly one out of four mobility professionals are regularly using descriptive analytics to help manage their mobility programs, but the use of predictive and prescriptive data analytics trails. As a result, many potentially valuable insights may remain hidden. For the mobility function to transform into strategic business partners, improved tracking will be necessary so that data can better guide decisions and measure talent mobility outcomes.

7. There is an increased recognition of the strategic value of data analytics. While the study shows that resources don’t adequately support a data-driven mobility program, there is an increased focus on data analytics at many companies. As shown in Figure 5, the majority of respondents say they want to focus more on data analytics to support strategic decisions. At the end of the day, resources need to be cultivated to enable mobility professionals to present their business cases, influence decisions, and become strategic partners to talent management and business leaders.

If you have any questions about global mobility programs or our survey and would like to speak with one of our experts, please contact us now.

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