Changing Employee Needs Driving a New Look for Overseas Job Transfers, Says Survey

As the global relocation landscape continues to change, leading multinational companies are navigating through it with new approaches that help them get their preferred employees to take global transfers while controlling costs.

Global relocation

For the seventh time since 2002, Cartus Corporation has released its “Trends in Global Relocation: Global Mobility Policy and Practices” survey report, which outlines the challenges companies are facing, the solutions they are employing, and where they are sending their transferring employees.

Sponsored by the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC), the study elicited responses from 176 mobility managers—representing nearly 10 million employees, globally—on dozens of topics. Below are just three of multiple key findings that can be found by reading the full report.

1. The Look of Overseas Job Transfers Continues to Change as Companies Seek Flexibility

As companies strive to provide their internationally transferring employees with an improved relocation experience—while still controlling costs—they are seeing the need to build more flexibility into their mobility programs.

  • 76% of this year’s survey respondents reported an increase in the need for flexible approaches to job transfers, driven increasingly by generational needs and changing expectations, as well as by cost concerns.
  • The traditional forms of assignment—long and short term—involve sending employees out to a host location and bringing them back after the assignment is completed. However, survey respondents report that the top way in which they are moving employees now is permanent—one way—moves. In these cases, return trips upon completion of an assignment are handled separately.
  • Despite, this, however, survey findings suggest that long-term assignments are still the best way to achieve certain company goals, with 81% of U.S. respondents expecting long-term assignment activity to increase or stay the same over the next 2 years.

“The high prevalence of permanent (one-way) global transfers among companies potentially indicates a growing recognition of the importance of global work experience, especially among Millennials, who appear willing to get the experience in other ways than the traditional long-term ‘expat’ package,” says Matt Spinolo, EVP Global Client Services, Cartus Corporation.

2. Cost Control Becoming the ‘New Normal’

Since 2010, survey respondents report that while their companies’ cost control pressures aren’t necessarily increasing, they aren’t decreasing either. This leaves them with a “new normal” in terms of cost control focus. What is changing is how they are seeking to trim those costs.

  • In Cartus’ 2014 survey, the #1 area of change being considered to control cost was policy. This year, outsourcing topped the list of ways to save.
  • 71% of current respondents say they have already started to outsource and the remaining 29% say they are considering doing so.
  • Outsourcing for relocation not only gives companies access to industry-specific technology and expertise, but frees human resources and mobility managers to contribute to more strategic initiatives, such as linking talent with mobility to accomplish company goals.

“The continued focus on managing costs, regardless of industry, is a theme we constantly hear from our members. The focus on cost makes it even more important for companies to pay attention to return on investment, including preventing employees from leaving companies once they repatriate. Companies need to see assignments as an investment for the enterprise as well as for the expatriate,” says Bill Sheridan, vice president, IHR Services, National Foreign Trade Council.

3. Compliance Issues are a Growing Concern for Companies

Seventy-nine percent of survey respondents stated that their organizations’ focus on compliance has increased in the past 2 years. As this focus shifts, it’s important for companies to consider their level of care for employees who “don’t know what they don’t know” about tax, legal and immigration compliance, as well as safety and security, and even appropriate preparation prior to undertaking an international assignment.

“Rounding out our top three challenges, compliance is again in the spotlight. While continuing deployment of IT resources and methods has helped employers understand more of what is going on, and has helped employees deal with new and novel experiences, it has also helped tax and immigration authorities to know who is where, when, and for how long.  More data means more information, more guidance, and more compliance reporting,” says Matt Spinolo, EVP Global Client Services, Cartus Corporation.

For more information on this report, click here.