Category Archives: relocation

Talent Trends: The Year Ahead

What’s in store for recruiters and talent acquisition leaders in 2018? Well, artificial intelligence and automation, for one thing. But if further talk of that makes your eyes glaze over, fear not — there’s more. For example, Korn Ferry Futurestep’s 2018 Talent Trend Predictions includes a lot of focus on the importance of “home,” as in looking for fresh talent in the home office rather than at competitors’ locations. It also means letting new hires work from their homes rather than making them go through a burdensome relocation process.

The KFF report, based on insights from experts from the search and consulting firm’s network of global offices, finds that — thanks to the scarcity of tech professionals — more companies will be “reskilling” and promoting existing employees into new positions rather than searching for outside candidates. After all, the experts note, current employees are known quantities who already understand the firm’s processes and culture. Meanwhile, more candidates are “opting out of moving for a job,” the KFF experts note, with employers responding by letting new hires remain where they are and work remotely. More companies are also relying on the gig economy to fill certain roles, obviating the need for expensive relocation packages.

Companies are also responding to an emerging need among candidates to “keep it real” — that is, give a realistic preview of what it’s really like to work at the organization. Doing this, the KFF folks say, helps candidates best determine whether they’re a good fit before they get too far along in the process, potentially avoiding early turnover and other unnecessary costs.

Another trend that will stay hot in 2018 will be treating candidates like customers, mindful that word spreads fast about bad experiences. The KFF experts say one strategy is for talent acquisition and marketing departments to work closely together to “monetize the candidate conversation.” This can include giving all candidates a percentage-off coupon for applying and giving them progressive discounts the further they make it through the hiring funnel.

And then, of course, there’s AI and automation (what exactly distinguishes AI from automation is an ongoing source of debate within the talent acquisition community). AI and social technology tools, for example, let recruiters “communicate in a hyper-personal way” with candidates while freeing them from mundane tasks, says KFF. Recruiters can use these tools to, for example, set up a “wireless fence” around key locations so they can identify and segment qualified candidates in specific geographies and target them with mobile messages or advertising. This can be especially helpful when entering a specific market with hiring events, as the systems automatically collect data from users’ mobile phones so they can continue reaching them with advertising after they’ve left the geo-fenced area.

As in previous years, talent acquisition and recruiting will no doubt remain the hottest area for innovation and breakthroughs within the HR space in 2018, and we’ll continue bringing you in-depth coverage of what it means for your organization.

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.

Where’s the Best City to Live?

SFMercer has just released its latest annual Quality of Living rankings of the world’s cities based on their quality of life. As in prior lists, European cities — with their quaint downtowns and superb public transportation — dominate the top of this year’s rankings, joined by cities in Australia and New Zealand.

Coming in at No. 1 is Vienna, followed by Zurich, Auckland (N.Z.) and Munich. The highest-ranked city in North American is Vancouver, coming in at No. 5 and the region’s only city to make the top 10. San Francisco is the highest-ranked U.S. city, at No. 27, followed by Boston (34), Honolulu (36) and Chicago (43). New York City and Seattle are tied at 44.  Montevideo (Uruguay) is the highest-ranked South American city at 78, while Singapore (25) takes that honor for the Asia-Pacific region. Dubai, at 74, is the highest-ranked city for the Middle East-Africa.

And where’s the worst city to live, based on Mercer’s rankings? That would be Baghdad, coming in at 230. Joining the Iraqi capital in the bottom five are Port-au-Prince, Khartoum (Sudan), N’Djamena (Chad) and Bangui (Central African Republic).

Mercer conducts its annual rankings as a way to help multinational companies and other employers compensate their employees fairly when sending them on international assignments with respect to factors such as hardship premiums, etc.  The cities are ranked based on factors including political and social environment, crime rates, economic environment, medical and health considerations, public services and transportation, schools, recreation and housing.

Best to Shy Away from Ukraine Relocations or Trips

This report Friday from the BBC about the escalating crisis in the Ukraine certainly underscores alerts and cautions released days and weeks earlier about not doing business there right now. Though business travel doesn’t fall completely under the purview of human resources, this earlier alert  — which contains a link to this article — from the Incident Management Group Inc. is 177725008 -- ukraineworth a look. Relocation and expatriate considerations are tied in to this as well.

According to the alert, you’d better not only keep your employees and executive leaders out of the Ukraine and Moldova for the time being, you’d better keep a keen eye on Eastern Europe in general if your organization does business there.

The ousting of Ukraine’s pro-Russian prime minister in February, resulting in the annexation of the Crimea and continued Russian provocations, the alert says, “have caused alarm and unease in many countries in the region [and] many corporate travel managers are concerned that the security situation could deteriorate … .”

Some analysts, the IMG article says, “believe that Russian aggression could go even further [a prescient warning indeed], fearing that Russian forces massed along Ukraine’s eastern border could be preparing for an invasion.”

It goes on to offer this perspective for businesses doing business there:

Employee travel security in Eastern Europe is normally not a large safety concern. Ukraine and Moldova are at an elevated risk, but most of the countries in the region are roughly comparable to other EU nations in terms of security. For example, the countries of Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and the Baltic States are generally pretty safe. Visitors should be concerned about the potential for scams and petty theft, but violent crime directed against visitors is generally uncommon.

However, an escalation of Russian aggression could have negative implications for employee travel security [throughout] Eastern Europe. For example, increased tensions could lead to more cyber attacks on Western organizations based in the region. These attacks could be carried out by the Russian government or by rogue pro-Russian elements. One such organization, dubbed ‘Cyber Berkut,’ has already claimed credit for an attack against NATO’s website, and may seek out other pro-Western targets.

Additionally, an escalation of tensions could lead to a Russian energy embargo. After all, much of Europe is dependent on Russian oil and gas. An embargo could lead to shortages and civil disorder in the region, especially if such an embargo took place in winter when demand for natural gas is at its highest. Furthermore, an energy crisis could affect the operations of companies doing business in the region, especially those that rely on fuel to conduct their day-to-day operations.”

From the looks of things geopolitically, there’s no settling down going on, now or anytime soon. This report last Monday from ABC News notes 15 more Russian officials have been added to the European Union’s list of sanctions protesting Moscow’s meddling in the Ukraine — bringing the total number of EU sanctions to 48.

Best advice? According to IMG, get with a professional security consultant if you haven’t already and make sure your organization is developing or updating an evacuation plan. And if an employee or relocatee doesn’t have to be there, by all means don’t send him or her.


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.”