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Emerging Patterns In Global Assignment.

Emerging Patterns In Global Assignment.
By Victor T. Madubuko, SPHR, GPHR.



Employee mobility is inevitable for companies competing in global markets. How companies are deploying their global workforces, however, is changing, with the introduction of new assignment forms. Driving this trend are employers who are looking at containing costs of international assignments, employees and their families who have become more reluctant to take on long-term assignments abroad, and tightened regulatory environments that are making it increasingly difficult to obtain visas and work permits.

Top level company executives, international human resource and other involved practitioners, and assignees need useful information that allows stakeholders to make informed and strategic decisions regarding the options available when staffing a globally mobile workforce. According to a study conducted by Cendant Mobility, in conjunction with Willamette University’s Atkinson Graduate School of Management, HR practitioners quantified the percentage use of each type of assignment, as defined and indicated below.

  • 44%: Traditional long-term expatriation. Relocation from one country to another for the length of the assignment – more than one year
  • 20% Extended business travel. Employee does not relocate, but travels regularly 20 to the assignment location
  • 16% Short-term assignment. Relocation from one country to another for the 16 length of the assignment – six months to one year
  • 11 % Localized transfer. Cross-border move in which employee is ultimately 11 moved to permanent local status
  • 9% International commuting. Employee works in one country of assignment and commutes frequently to the home country

To a significant degree, the nature of an organization’s business strategy determines its approach to global assignments. Organizations that have a more multi-domestic or international strategy may chose average and good performers as assignees or send their assignees to another country to manage a project or get a particular job done. In contrast, organizations with a global strategy or transnational enterprise use a wide variety of global assignment types, choose high potential managers and top executives as assignees and typically view assignments as leadership, career, and organizational development opportunities. Furthermore, transnational enterprises make assignments for many reasons other than situational project management or remedial intervention to fix a problem.

Survey finding indicate that one’s experience is just as likely as world events to influence someone’s ability to turn down another assignment. Both reasons are cited, in equal proportion, for employees being less likely to accept another assignment. Long-term assignees are more likely to accept future assignments, while assignees on alternative types of assignment are less or only equally likely to accept another assignment as a result of their assignment experience.  International assignees feel that, even beyond assessment and risk management planning, companies can help assignees cope with hazardous situations through a well-established program that focuses on training, information and communication, support in crisis situations, and empowerment. These findings provide current information to enable companies, involved practitioners, and assignees to make better-informed decisions about global assignments.

Victor T. Madubuko, SPHR, GPHR is Managing Partner and Lead Consultant at CareerNation a New York, a global human resources consulting firm. www.CareerNation.com


Christopher Bartlett and sumantra Ghoshal’s terminology

Atkinson Graduate School of Management, Willamette University

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