Taking a Multipronged Approach to Global Mobility

We’ve reported in previous stories that the use of short-term assignments continues to grow in popularity, as companies look for ways to get a bigger bang for their global-mobility buck. So it’s no surprise to see that most multinational companies (56 percent) expect to increase their use of this approach during the 2015-2016 period, according to a just-released report by the consultancy Mercer.

ThinkstockPhotos-71080038The more noteworthy finding in Mercer’s Worldwide Survey of International Assignment Policies and Practices report is probably the increased level of diversification that companies are using when it comes to global employee mobility.

More precisely, over the next year or so, about half of companies anticipate an increase in the use of permanent transfers (54 percent), developmental and training assignments (50 percent), and locally hired foreigners (47 percent).

As for traditional long-term assignments? Well, a smaller but still respectable percentage (44 percent) of the 831 multinational companies studied expect to see an increase here as well.

As Steve Nurney, partner and leader of Mercer’s North America global mobility business, explains, “companies are using a more varied range of assignments in order to respond to evolving business needs and changing patterns in the global workforce.”

The report also noted a marked increase in companies with multiple policies (64 percent, up from 57 percent since 2012), further evidence of a trend toward diversification.

Other findings in the study worth noting …

The number of female assignees increased by 6 percent, on average, since 2010;

Dual careers and cost remain key barriers to mobility, but less so compared to 2012; and

Employers are embracing a wider definition of ‘spouse’ to cover same-sex couples in benefits arrangements.

As Nurney appropriately points out, the greater diversification is inevitably going to add more complexity to HR’s job, especially when it comes to compliance issues. So HR and mobility leaders, I might add, are obviously going to need to make sure they have the mechanisms in place to effectively manage a more complicated global-mobility process.

But Nurney also correctly suggests that the shift to a more diversified approach to mobility creates an opportunity for HR leaders to impact the overall business strategy in a meaningful way.

So now, I would think, it’s up to HR and mobility leaders to demonstrate that they’re fully up to the task.