For many organizations, their growth and survival is dependent on hiring and retaining the right type of staff. This sometimes means expanding their search of high caliber candidates outside of their home country. International assignments have increased by over 25% in the past decade, and it is expected to grow by another 50% by 2020. With such increases, you would expect that companies have invested abundantly in their global mobility programs. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes getting assignees to their host country is the easy part, actually retaining them in this location for a period of two years or more is far and few in-between.

So, exactly how are global mobility programs missing the mark?  

Simply put - not keeping up with the trend. Surprisingly, some companies are still handling their global mobility programs in similar ways they operated over a decade ago. With global mobility on the increase, companies that adopt a one-size-fits-all-approach will undeniably get left behind. International assignments are not cheap, and ultimately they should be viewed as an investment, and like any investment, you expect a return on your asset.

Global mobility programs should be tailored individually to each candidate so that you are able to offer them the best and most meaningful packages. Without being competitive with assignment benefits and after-care, do not expect to retain any assignee longer than their initial contracting period - this equates to less than two years after repatriation! It is expected that 50% of expatriates will leave their employer within this time. In order to minimize this risk, and combat any costs associated with hiring and then failing to keep talented staff employed, is to develop strategies that are geared towards treating your asset like it is an asset. Adopt techniques that will allow your global mobility program to be innovative, staying ahead of the curve and think outside of the typical global mobility box.

One of the three top reasons that international assignments fail are:

  • Not considering any other external reasons that could limit the performance of the candidate  Many organizations are blinded by the functional knowledge of the selected candidate, and do not consider other external factors that may lead to failure. Other factors that are also important relates to cultural aptitude and/or readiness to move and be able to perform at the level they have been hired to do so.
  • Lack of or little ongoing support to assignees
    Your work is not done when you have successfully moved the assignee to their host location. Expect that any type of moving homes is a stressful experience. Increase this tress ten-fold when you consider moving homes abroad and sometimes with a spouse or family. In addition, some assignments need to be filled fairly quickly, and candidates will often have to leave loved ones at the drop of a hat. Therefore, it is important that global mobility support starts in the home country and continues and is easily available once the assignee has moved to their final destination.  
  • Not managing career development
    There should be formal strategies in place that will help with career management once the global assignee has completed or is close to completing their assignment. Like any job, after two to three years, individuals will become antsy and will want to further develop their skills and experiences. Many assignees feel abandoned once they have been hired and are not fully aware how career development may differ in the new host country. So instead of retaining talent, organizations may find that talents leave the company altogether.  

Is there any way in which we can combat these assignment failures? How can we ensure that going forward the global mobility programs in place, will not only hire, but retain top talent that exists past the two year gestation period?

1)      How are you assessing your pool of candidates?

Global mobility calls for additional candidate assessment programs that go over and beyond your typical local pool for criteria purposes. It is not simply hiring an individual because they know that they can succeed at the job advertised. Try to consider if the candidate has relocated for work before. How successful were they with that assignment? What were their reasons for leaving? Is this something that could be an issue going forward?

2)      Assess the needs of the candidate

Where possible employ a global mobility specialist that can assess the needs of the candidate. In the event that your company does not have one, this is the stage within the hiring process that you try to understand what motivates the candidate and how best could offered benefits fill any of their needs. Will schooling for children be a priority or will they just be content with travel and apartment search help etc. You will also take this time to assess if there are any red flags that could interrupt a potential assignment, should you decide to move forward with this particular candidate.

3)      Cultural awareness

No matter the destination of the assignment, cultural awareness assessments or interviews should always be completed. Many would presume that a move from London to New York will have cultural similarities; however, culture shock can happen to anyone at any destination. Irrespective if there are similarities in play between home and host country. This ensures that the candidate is as prepared as they can be.

4)      Visa Services

Getting a visa in place, at sometimes short notice can be stressful, especially; if there are family members involved. It is important that candidate is kept abreast of the visa process and they are prepared to provide you with the correct requirements to ensure that the process can be as hassle-free as possible.

5)      Invest if possible in a pre-decision trip

These are a great way to allow the candidate and/or their family to visit the host location, and get a proper feel for the move and what it may entail. This can help to ease fears, as well as to check-out housing, schooling etc. 

6)      Ongoing support

As mentioned above, ongoing and meaningful repatriation support is important. The assignee should feel that they can come to you at any time should a problem arise. If this is done successfully, all parties (candidate and company) are in a better position to contribute to a effective assignment.