Companies are getting more innovative in the way they plan — and pay for — mobility assignments, but they still struggle to prove whether these assignments add real value to the business.
Global relocation assignments can be a useful tool to prepare high-performing workers for leadership roles, but there is a troubling gap in the way these assignments are tied to broader talent management strategies. Only 10 percent of mobility professionals say their role is strategically aligned with the wider talent agenda in their organization and actively engaged in workforce planning and people effectiveness, according to a 2016 relocation trends report from Brookfield Global Relocation Services. “That’s a surprisingly small number,” said Diane Douiyssi, director of consulting services for Brookfield in Chicago. “A lot of companies aspire to have great alignment between global mobility and talent management, but it’s just not there.”
The disconnect between mobility and talent management often results in poor oversight of these assignments — candidates are chosen and sent with little effort invested in monitoring their development or determining whether the investment being made in this candidate is benefiting the business. According to the report, while virtually every mobility professional (96 percent) faces pressure to reduce costs, almost half (49 percent) say they don’t consistently track the total costs of international assignments, 39 percent don’t prepare cost estimates for all assignments, and only 26 percent require a cost benefit analysis, suggesting that mobility professionals are failing to deliver critical financial metrics that stakeholders clearly want. Beyond managing costs, most companies also have few strategies in place to track the business impact of these assignments. Nearly half (48 percent), for example, can’t even say whether their international assignee attrition rate is greater than that of their overall employee population.
That should be a big concern as repatriated employees are often at a high risk of leaving — especially when their employers fail to support them in the next phase of their career, said Steve Nurney, leader in the global mobility practice for Mercer. With relocation assignments, there is generally a lot of thought put into sending that person abroad to fill a specific role, but when the assignment is over, there is often no plan in place for what they will do next, he said.