Then, the brightest and best employees were moved around the world to do the company’s bidding – this is the origins of the ethnocentric approach to international HR.
Interestingly, most companies retained this mindset until the late ‘90s. Then, it was common to hear phrases like, “we need to inject some company culture.” Transparent shorthand for large global corporations to insert some parent company natives into the local market. Typically, men.
Thankfully, the last 15 years or so have seen a move towards inclusion and the assignee pool is more diverse than ever.
The case for mobility
On the other hand, the case for mobility – moving the best people to where they’re needed most – has remained largely static since the 1850s. Interestingly, so have the benefits and packages associated with going on assignment.
The East India Company executives moving to India could expect free travel for themselves and their families. They could also expect housing befitting their status, private schooling for their children at home or in the host country, and an uplift in salary. Even then, written policies dealt with employees moving abroad. So it has continued ever since, with relatively little change in the detail. Except for the percentages and the titles (mobility premium, cost of living adjustment, hardship allowance, etc).
What has changed, however, is how the company views their employees. Until very recently, assignments were very much designed to serve the needs of the business. Employees would jump to the tune of the employer and put their own and their family’s needs second. Of course, in return they received a generous package – essentially buying their compliance.
Most of these policies were designed with a one size fits all mentality. One of the largest oil companies in the world would famously insist on providing the entire package to assignees even where they had no use for a large proportion of the benefits. There was no opportunity to trade these benefits or select a better fit for their situation, even when it would be cheaper to do so.
This approach, which had been the accepted wisdom since the mid-19th Century, came at a huge price to the organisation. Hence why, roughly ten years ago, companies started looking more at the return on investment (ROI) that assignments delivered. They also began asking assignees about their experience. It soon became clear that assignments were underdelivering in both value and employee experience.
Employee experience becomes important
In response to this, the industry started designing more flexible policies. This new approach could address assignee wants and needs, while saving money for the business.
Meanwhile, assignee surveys became a staple of every move. Now, they’ve expanded to examine all parts of the process. One of the biggest tech companies in the world recently surveyed their assignees and permanent transfers looking at 10 factors:
- Assignment documentation
- Assignment remuneration
- Assignment benefit
- Visa/work permit
- Relocation provider
- Home finding process
- Home off boarding
- Host on boarding
- Travel arrangements to new location
Each of these is scored from 1-5, as well as an overall satisfaction score from 1-5.
Results are analysed heavily and any employee that scores the process three or less is interviewed to understand why. Importantly so: the results of the surveys and interviews drive future policy decisions, effectively handing mobility policy direction and vendor selection to the employee for the first time.
An ongoing balance in global mobility
It’s no coincidence that the rise of ROI pre-empted the increased focus on employee experience. Yet, at a time where companies face increased demand for mobility on top of pressure to reduce costs, improve results and deliver a better overall experience, ROI might seem a necessary casualty.
How the needs of the employee balance against the needs of the business will, for many, become the new battleground of global mobility. We’ve seen that ROI can be a direct beneficiary of a better employee experience – the challenge is to deliver the employee experience that provides the optimum return on the assignment.
AGS is on hand to help you find that balance for your organisation. Get in touch with us for a no-strings attached assessment of your global mobility needs.