Posts belonging to Category relocation

Measuring the Value of Int’l Assignments

There’s little doubt an international assignment should be more than just a nice-to-have in today’s increasingly global marketplace. So it’s somewhat surprising to come across a just-released study suggesting that U.S. and Canadian employers put much less stock in the value of those assignments than their European and Asian counterparts.

GlobalThe research comes from The Conference Board and Right Management, which surveyed HR executives at 600 organizations worldwide and found that just 15 percent of the North American HR executives identified international assignments as a practice that has a significant impact on accelerating leadership development at their respective organizations. That compares to 48 percent among those from Europe and 44 percent among those from Asia.

Though it might not come as a huge surprise that such a gap exists, the size of the disparity is definitely noteworthy, especially as multinational employers continue to look to foreign markets to grow their businesses.

Ric Roi, head of the Global Center of Excellence for Talent Management at Right Management, points out that “North American respondents seem to concede that international postings play a relatively minor role in their global leadership development programs.”

If true, it’s fair to wonder if North American employers might someday find themselves at a significant disadvantage on the global stage.

Mobility’s 10-Year Journey

A PricewaterhouseCoopers study, the 2012 Survey of Global Mobility Policies, recently confirmed a trend experts have long been telling us: Global companies have been replacing longer-term assignments with non-traditional workforce mobility programs, such as commuter and short-term assignments.Perhaps even to a greater extent than some previously might have thought.

The PwC report (exploring developments over the past 10 years and echoing some of the findings of a Cartus study I reported on earlier this year) also found that these programs tend to be much broader in reach, affecting more than 10 percent of employees, compared to traditional short- and long-term programs that impact only 1 percent.

Often, companies will launch an HR program and then forget about it. But for one of every two respondents in this PwC study, that hasn’t been the case for mobility.  Exactly 50 percent reported they’re focused on refining their policies. (Of course, the word focused is open to interpretation.)

No doubt cost is a key driver here. “Two or three years ago, there was huge pressure to take out costs,” says William Sheridan, vice president at the National Foreign Trade Council in New York. Because of this, he adds, employers have paid a lot closer attention to selecting the right people to send and the length of their assignments.

I suspect this greater scrutiny is also behind some of the study’s other findings:

  • Forty-six percent offered permanent transfer policies, compared with 29 percent in 2002;
  • Thirty-seven percent had localization policies, compared with 20 percent in 2002
  • Twenty-one percent offered commuter policies, compared with 8 percent in 2002; and
  • Seventy-one percent had extended business travel policies, compared with 30 percent in 2002.

At the end of the day, says PwC Principal Eileen Mullaney, it’s all about choice. Choice for both the employer and the employee. “Mobility packages,” she says, “should offer multiple options so business leaders as well as the employees can choose what works best for their specific situations or interests.”

In the coming years, that advice could certainly prove useful for those expanding into growing markets facing talent shortages. As examples, Sheridan points to the energy sector in Africa. Or perhaps slightly a bit closer to home (for me, that is): remote areas like North Dakota, where energy exploration is booming today.

World’s Most Expensive City Is . . .

. . . Zurich, Switzerland, at least according to the experts at the Economist Intelligence Unit:

For the first time in at least two decades of reporting the worldwide cost of living survey Zurich sits atop the ranking as the world’s most expensive city. An index swing of 34 percentage points pushed the Swiss city up 4 places compared to last year to overtake Tokyo which remains in 2nd place. Geneva, the other Swiss city surveyed, saw a 30 percentage point rise in the cost of living to move up six places into joint third alongside Osaka.

You can download a full copy of the survey – which is conducted twice a year and compares hundreds of prices across 160 products and services, including food, household supplies, transport, utilities, and schooling — through the link above, but CNN’s Business 360 web site broke out the top and bottom ten cities, seen below:

Top 10

Rank                City                 Country                       WCOL index (New York= 100)

1                     Zurich              Switzerland                 170

2                     Tokyo              Japan                           166

3                     Geneva           Switzerland                 157

3                     Osaka             Japan                            157

5                     Oslo                Norway                         156

6                     Paris               France                           150

7                     Sydney           Australia                       147

8                     Melbourne    Australia                       145

9                     Singapore       Singapore                  142

10                   Frankfurt        Germany                     137

Bottom 10

Rank                City                 Country                       WCOL index (New York= 100)

120                 Muscat            Oman                            63

123                  Dhaka             Bangladesh               61

124                 Algiers            Algeria                          59

125                Kathmandu    Nepal                            58

125                 Panama City   Panama                     58

127                 Jeddah            Saudi Arabia              57

128                 New Delhi       India                            56

129                 Tehran            Iran                              54

130                  Mumbai          India                            52

131                 Karachi           Pakistan                     46





Economy Taking a Toll on Benefits, Still

Late Sunday afternoon, SHRM invited members of the press to a briefing on the results of its annual employee benefit survey.

The survey of 600 HR professionals didn’t reveal too many surprises. As might be expected, the economy continued to take its toll on benefit plans, with about 77 percent of those surveyed saying the economy has negatively affected benefits, up from 72 percent in 2010.

What areas were hit the hardest?

Mark Schmit, director of research at SHRM, cited healthcare (including the amounts companies are spending on healthcare, the coverages they are providing and the individuals they are providing them to), relocation benefits and pension plans.

In particular, Schmit said, the relocation data suggests a “structural problem” in the employment market. 

In the past five years, the survey found, housing and relocation benefits experienced significant declines, including temporary relocation benefits (25 percent in 2011 vs. 42 percent in 2007) and location visit assistance (18 percent in 2011, compared to 40 percent in 2007).

Despite 9 percent unemployment, Schmit said, HR professionals report they don’t have skilled workers for certain markets. Nonetheless, he added, employers are cutting back on their relocation support, even though 30 percent of families are now underwater in their homes.

Schmit predicted that the convergence of these factors and the nonmobility of the current workforce could have a significant economic impact in the next 12 months.

Workplace flexibility was one of the few benefit areas that experienced an increase in the 2011 report. More than half of those surveyed (53 percent) in 2011 said their organizations currently provide flextime as a benefit, up from 49 percent in 2010; and 20 percent now offer telecommuting on a full-time basis, up from 17 percent a year earlier.

Schmit surmised that companies were using workplace flexibility “to offset the benefit losses.”