Companies Risk Wasting Considerable Money Sending Wrong People to Wrong Places

Businesses are investing millions of dollars each year sending employees on global assignments without being able to quantify the cost or measure the value from their investment, according to a new report from PwC. This is leading to nearly six in ten organizations saying their global mobility programmes currently do not deliver value for money.

PwC’s new Modern Mobility report predicts that the number of people going on global assignments will increase by 50% by 2020, with nine in ten organisations saying they are looking to increase the amount of globally mobile people over the next two years.

However, despite this anticipated rise in global assignments, worryingly only 8% of global organizations are able to accurately put a cost on their mobility programmes and just 9% measure their return on investment from mobility.

The report, based on an in-depth survey of nearly 200 global executives, warns that too many HR teams lack the information, investment and infrastructure to meet the evolving business demands and manage the growing number of internationally mobile employees.

The research reveals that three in ten organizations aren’t even sure how many of their employees work overseas each year.

“For some businesses, international experience is now a must-have for anyone taking on a leadership position," says Peter Clarke, global network leader for Global Employee Mobility services at PwC. “But organizations’ failure to measure the cost and value of their programmes will cost them dearly in the long run."

Clarke notes that many businesses risk wasting considerable money sending the wrong people to the wrong places, overpaying for expats when local talent is available in-country or offering large financial packages when people are more motivated by the development opportunity.

Many businesses are also losing valuable talent at the end of their assignment, as they have no plan for their returning role.

“Businesses need to have a clear global mobility strategy which is based on growth priorities and what skills they are going to need and where, backed up by plans on how they are going to source, deploy, manage and motivate employees who work internationally,” says Clarke.

As well as a likely increase in the number of people who are on a global assignment, the nature of these assignments is also going to change, according to PwC’s research.

The biggest change will be the number of people going on short-term assignments, with the survey participants expecting a net doubling (58%) in their use. This type of assignment (up to one year) is increasingly being used by businesses to get the right people on the ground quickly to deliver set projects and as a way to develop high-potential employees.

The number of business travellers is also expected to increase by similar levels (net 57%), but this also brings risks as it is the most challenging type of mobility to manage.

Just 17% of organizations said they have robust policies, processes and controls in place to manage the tax, immigration and regulatory compliance around business travellers.

The report also predicts the rise of new types of mobility, such as talent swaps between two different countries. More than one in five organizations plan to introduce talent swaps in the next two years. 

"Companies are going to need to invest in resources, technology and infrastructure, and re-evaluate how they manage talent mobility, to be able to protect the company brand, satisfy increasingly complex regulations and provide a great experience for their people,” says Clarke.

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