The duration of long-term assignments is on a downward trend
70% of companies to increase short-term work trips: Mercer report on assignment policies and practices
Over 70 per cent of companies are expected to increase short-term assignments in 2013, while 55 per cent of the participating companies expect a spurt in long-term assignments with China, United States, Brazil, United Kingdom and Australia as priority destinations in their respective regions for expatriates.
Consultancy firm Mercer reported these findings in its Worldwide International Assignments Policies and Practices report, which presents the latest trends in international assignments programme management, policies and practices data. Family-related issues, career management and package attractiveness are big obstacles to employee mobility, according to Mercer. The report also found that more than half the companies reported an increase of long-term (52 per cent) and short-term assignments (53 per cent) in 2011 and 2010.
Host countries where companies expect highest increase in assignments
|Country||% of changes|
|United States of America||55%|
|United Arab Emirates||23%|
The top five reasons cited for international assignment programmes are: To provide specific technical skills not available locally (47 per cent), to provide career management/leadership development (43 per cent), to ensure knowledge transfer (41 per cent), to fulfil specific project needs (39 per cent), and to provide specific managerial skills not available locally (38per cent). Close to half of North American (45 per cent) and European (46 per cent) companies indicate career management and leadership development as one of the main reasons they have international assignments. In the future, 62 per cent of participants anticipate an increase in the number of technical-related short-term assignments, 55 per cent anticipate an increase in talent development assignments, and 50 per cent anticipate an increase in key strategic assignments.
Assignment origins, durations, obstacles and demographics: According to the report, the duration of long-term assignments is on a downward trend. The average duration of a long-term assignment is now slightly less than three years (2 years and 10 months). The average minimum duration is 1 year and 5 months and the average maximum duration is 5 years and 4 months. The average age of long-term assignees is between 35 and 55 years.
Global average percentage of long-term and short-term assignees by age
For short-term assignments, the minimum and maximum average durations worldwide, stand at respectively four, eight and 13 months. The average age of short-term assignees tends to be younger, with a similar proportion of companies in the below 35-years old bracket and in the 35-to-55-years old bracket.
The likelihood of expatriates being female has marginally increased, with the average percentage of female assignees standing at 13 per cent, three per cent higher than two years ago. Latin American and Asia Pacific companies show female average percentages lower than those of North American and European companies. Family-related issues, such as concerns over children’s education in a new location, remain a major obstacle to employee mobility.
Partners and spouses of employees asked to work abroad may also have successful careers in their own right that they may not want to compromise. “Career management” ranks as the next most important issue, except for European and Asia Pacific companies, which rate lack of “package attractiveness” as the second-biggest obstacle to mobility.
Multinational companies continue to source most (57 per cent) of their international assignees from the country in which they are headquartered and assign them to foreign subsidiaries. However, there has been an increase in the percentage of subsidiary company transfers (51 per cent) indicating that subsidiary-to-subsidiary transfers, as opposed to HQ-to-subsidiary transfers, have increased since 2010. This evolution is most significant among European companies, with six in 10 (61 per cent) reporting an increase of this pattern of assignments, indicating the growing competencies of staff in other parts of the world.