Thursday 2nd August 2012

Global nomads and increasing numbers of expatriates

The number of employees who relocate from country to country on company-based assignments has increased significantly over the last three years according to recent research.

“Global nomads” as these employees are often termed, are individuals who are regularly posted to different countries in order to fulfill their employer’s strategic intentions. According to human resource consultancy firm Mercer, although the number of short-term expatriate assignments of one year or less have fallen from 17 to 11 percent, long-term expatriates as a percentage of the total assignees have increased from 21 to 40 percent between 2008-2009 and 2011-2012. The rise in the number of long-term expatriates in recent years has caused challenges for employers when it comes to designing suitable relocation benefits.

Mercer’s 2011/2012 Benefits Survey for Expatriates and Internationally Mobile Employees, which provides an overview of expatriate policies within large multinational companies, found that, in an attempt to address the issues companies are facing when it comes to employee mobility, 85% of multinational companies have implemented procedures that are aimed at monitoring the success of their relocation benefits packages.

However, despite their keenness to track the effectiveness of the benefits offered to relocating employees, companies are still failing to provide international retirement plans, with only 12% of those surveyed doing so.

One benefit that seems to be consistent across the board is healthcare, with 98 percent of those surveyed revealing that they do offer private medical insurance to their globally mobile workforce. According to Mercer this is a dramatic improvement on the 57% that did so in 2005. However, although the healthcare protection is available, companies are struggling to provide expatriates with a uniformly equitable system of healthcare and many organizations have found that the quality and standard of the care that is available to their nomads varies from country to country. Furthermore, 53 percent of companies have seen international medical plan premium increases of 6 per cent or more over: “An international medical plan provides equality among expatriates and reduces administration effort and time resource constraints. But challenges remain, particularly around costs,” Mercer’s Asia Pacific Global Mobility COE Leader for Information Product Solutions Phil Stanley said.

Although the challenges remain, companies appear as keen as ever to base talented employees abroad and recognize the value that overseas experience can have:

“We are seeing that multinationals are expecting their talent pool to have varied geographical experience as a prerequisite to climbing the top rungs of the career ladder,” said Stanley. “Seasoned professionals who can bring solid international experience and a depth of knowledge across a number of operating environments are vital to companies looking to create or expand new ventures abroad and gain a competitive advantage.”

The report said that 20 percent of companies saw their premium increasing between 11-15 percent.

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