More firms expect to move employees abroad

by Ray Clancy on April 19, 2013

Expats in Hong Kong feel their children are safe to spend more time outdoors

More firms expect to move employees abroad

Over 70% of companies expect to increase short term assignments for expats in 2013 while 55% are set to increase longer term assignments, a research report shows. The report on expat policies and practices by Mercer also shows that there has been an increase in the overall number of international assignments over the last two years.

It found that China, the United States, Brazil, the United Kingdom and Australia are the priority destinations in their respective regions for expats. ‘International assignments have become diverse in order to meet evolving business and global workforce needs. Relatively low pay increases in some regions and pressure on companies to attract and retain talent, have spurred many to embrace a wider range of global mobility strategies to incentivise high performers,’ said Anne Rossier-Renaud, principal in Mercer’s global mobility business.

Some 47% of firms said that the main reason for moving staff abroad is to provide specific technical skills not available locally and 43% said it was to provide career management and leadership development. A total of 41% said it was to ensure knowledge transfer, 39% said it was to fulfil specific project needs and 38% to provide specific managerial skills not available locally.

Some 45% of companies in North America and 46% in Europe indicated that career management and leadership development is one of the main reasons they have international assignments. In the future, worldwide, 62% of participants anticipate an increase in the number of technical related short term assignments, 55% anticipate an increase in talent development assignments, and 50% anticipate an increase in key strategic assignments.

The research also shows that the average duration of a long term assignment is now slightly less than three years at two years 10 months. The average minimum duration is one year, five months, and the average maximum duration is five years, four months. The average age of long term assignees is between 35 and 55 years. For short term assignments, minimum, average and maximum durations, worldwide, stand at four, eight and 13 months respectively. 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.

Quote from ExpatForum.com : “I’m originally from Scotland and moved to Australia with my parents when I was younger.  I’ve recently completed my Masters in Architecture here in Melbourne. I’m finding it hard to find an graduate architecture job here in Australia.”

There are more female expats, with the average number being assigned jobs abroad at 13%, some 3% higher than two years ago. Latin American and Asia Pacific companies show female average percentages lower than those of North American and European respondent companies. Family related issues, such as concerns over children’s education in a new location, remain a major obstacle to employees moving, according to Mercer. Partners and spouses of employees asked to work abroad may also have successful careers in their own right that they may not want to compromise, it points out.

Two out of three employers, 65%, have no specific tools to track and manage assignments and their related cost, other than using basic tools such as Excel and Word. Likewise, 63% of participants reported that they keep no statistics on turnover of repatriated assignees.

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