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What’s Your Global Mobility Plan for 2012? This May Get You Started

When it comes to workforce mobility, every year seems to bring a new buzz word, phrase, or hot topic that everyone latches on to (or thinks they should because everyone else does). Sometimes that worries me, because in our Consulting practice, we always want to make certain that organizations carefully consider all factors before they decide to follow the pack. Just because something is right for one organization doesn’t mean it will fly in another. 

One of this year’s hot topics revolves around “tiering.” Although it is true that every organization is different, this particular concept can actually deliver results, as long as it’s properly structured and is the right thing for the company. Most companies require a customized approach for everything, from recruiting and retaining key talent, mentorship and career development, and creating a proper mobility framework that’s consistent with the business objectives and corporate culture. This is where tiering comes into play.

Companies still administer the traditional global mobility policies (e.g., long-term, short-term, and permanent transfers), but more and more organizations, both large and small, are closely examining their current global population and programs. This examination is not simply a response to cost control, although that is always on the corporate radar! The key driver in re-evaluating policies for many organizations is now to better align their programs/policies to meet their business and mobility objectives. 

More recently, companies have begun dissecting their mobility programs and are delineating their policies by more clearly defined eligibility criteria. The objectives of the assignment, the employee’s role, employee level, or band level as well as overall rationale for the global transfer are being used to determine which tier or policy level will apply to each individual. Better defining the eligibility associated with each policy level simplifies the policy selection process for recruiters, global mobility and HR business partners, and policy “choice” becomes a thing of the past.  

Another consideration that may impact this trend is the unique generational differences that now exist in the workforce. I’m referring specifically to Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers and Millennials (also called Gen Y’ers). Companies are certainly not tiering their policies solely to address the various generations, but I’ll bet if you look at your company, you may see that your globally mobile population spans each generation, and companies need to be aware of the obvious generational nuances—and often less obvious characteristics—that in turn add another layer of complexity to global mobility.

I have had many conversations with companies who have one global long-term policy and have been applying the same benefits to their entire long-term population. Given that they have varying business or mobility objectives and employees at different levels who are now accepting long-term assignments, they are finding that many of the benefits are far too rich. On the other hand, there is still the ”traditional” expatriate—likely a senior manager—who has a long-standing history with the company, possesses substantial HQ knowledge, and is usually the best fit for the position. This is typically a good example of someone who would be eligible for a full expatriate benefit package. There is likely a family to consider, and in order to secure the best person for the role, the organization will need to ensure that the employee and family are well taken care of.

As companies evaluate their remaining populations, which may consist of IT/mid-level managers, sales, or project managers, these employees may have less tenure with the organization, can be several band levels lower, and may even self-select in an effort to further their careers. In these instances, companies are finding that employees do not need the full expatriate package. This may also be due to their generation, their marital status, or even because they believe that obtaining more global experience will advance their careers at a more rapid pace.

When you begin to add in some of the generational differences, particularly with Gen Y, companies need to factor in the ”entitlement philosophy” that goes along with it. I wouldn’t want to lump all Gen Y’ers into the same bucket, but the perception is that many have been told they can do just about anything. Unfortunately, that has probably made them less loyal to an organization as opposed to Baby Boomers, which also gives companies less motivation to provide full expatriate packages. That said, while companies may not be offering a full suite of benefits to this generation, they should be prepared to negotiate. Millennials may not need all of the bells and whistles that go along with a traditional expatriate package because they would prefer the financial assistance instead. This provides them with more flexibility to use the money as they see fit and do what works best for their lifestyle.

So although one of the latest hot topics revolves around tiering, you may not want to jump on that bandwagon just yet. However, if your company has various business objectives surrounding global mobility and your mobile population is expansive, it might just be a concept worth exploring. Furthermore, if one of your company’s initiatives for 2012 happens to be cost containment, it may just be the reason to give tiering a second thought.

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Crystal Abbey
Posted by
Crystal Abbey
December 7, 2011

Crystal Abbey

Crystal is with Consulting Services. She has more than 25 years of global mobility experience, specializing in global mobility program and policy redesign consulting, group move management, and thought leadership.

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