Future Ex-Pats May 'Commute'

August 29, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - An overseas assignment in coming years may well look more like an extended business trip than a relocation.

That was the conclusion of a new study by Cendant Mobility, the Society for Human Resource Management Global Forum, and the National Foreign Trade Council.

Generally, 45% of those surveyed worldwide expect a decrease in long-term assignments and significant increases in less traditional transfers, such as short-term assignments and frequent international business travel. Long-term assignments currently account for about half of all transfers.

Future global executives may live in a new country for less than a year and may travel back and forth more often than now, according to the survey

Different “Strokes”

Survey respondents said future trends could depend on the country of assignment. For example:

  • in the Americas, 67% of respondents expect the use of short-term assignments of less than one year to increase
  • In Europe, the Middle East and African regions, 63% predicted an increase in international commutation, where employees work in the assigned nation and frequently commute to their home country.
  • Half of respondents from the Asian region feel that localized transfers, a cross-border move in which employees are ultimately moved to permanent local status, will increase.

Few Cost Analyses

The study also found that while there are benefits created by these changes, they also present new challenges:

  • Respondents indicated that short-term assignments and other new forms seem to offer cost savings, yet 58% of respondents fail to conduct cost analysis for short-term assignments and only a handful 10% track costs for international commutation and business travel.
  • While the new forms of assignment promise increased flexibility and improve work/life balance – a potential lure in attracting global workforces with a myriad of needs – a top challenge for these new forms centers on assignee burnout.
  • Companies strongly prefer to utilize executive leadership and general management/administrative job roles in the form of a long-term assignment instead of new alternatives. IT/technical accounting jobs, however, tend to become short-term assignments and HR professionals use extended business travel more than any other form.

More than 180 human resource executives responsible for upwards of 200,000 globally mobile employees in a dozen industries in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Asia Pacific region were surveyed.