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Job Security Top Incentive for Expatriate Employees

Wouldn’t you like to know your employees’ motivations for and reservations about international assignments before designing expatriate-assignment packages?

Mobilizing Talent: The Global Mobility Challenge Survey, conducted by global market researcher Ipsos and jointly sponsored by accounting and consulting network BDO, uncovered employees’ fears and desires around international relocation.

“In a world of scarce resources, pressures to keep budgets low and fear of rejection from candidates for relocation, having the right policies for the right employees is essential,” the report stated. “Flexibility is crucial to this exercise, and while some incentives matter to everyone, some stand out for particular groups.”

The survey revealed that although compensation is clearly a strong motivator for professionals who accept international assignments, the current global economic environment makes that approach more challenging than before.

“While favorable compensation increases can often entice an employee to move abroad, there are a number of other incentives that employers can offer that will reduce the cost of international relocation to the company and make for a happier and more productive employee,” said Donna Chamberlain, managing principal in the expatriate tax practice at BDO USA. “However, the only way for an employer to effectively determine what those alternative incentives may be is to know what drives employee behavior.”

Finding the Right Incentives

Participants in the survey were asked to assess 18 possible incentives to determine which would motivate people the most to accept an international assignment.

Job security turned out to be the single biggest determinant when accepting an international job offer. Nearly half (45 percent) of all employees surveyed selected repatriation assistance as the No. 1 incentive their employer could offer them. A guarantee that expats could move back to their current role after two years with relocation assistance would make them “much more likely” to take the job, the report found.

This safety net is followed closely by incentives that directly address two themes: family and fear of the unknown. Tied for second place are the options of round-trip airfare to return home for family visits (43 percent) and a paid trip to visit the country before agreeing to move there (43 percent).

In many cases the relocation of an employee must be viewed as the relocation of the family unit, as 43 percent indicated they would want their company to provide immigration assistance so that their spouse could relocate and continue their career in the new country.

One in six respondents (16 percent) strongly agreed that he or she “can’t move abroad for any period of time because family in my home country rely on me.”

Senior executives also favor the guarantee to return to a similar role after two years (45 percent) and are keen to visit the country before the assignment (44 percent), to have immigration assistance for their spouse to find employment (44 percent) and to take education courses to upgrade their skills (44 percent).

Eagerness to Work Abroad

Certain demographic segments were most likely to display eagerness to accept international assignments. These groups include senior executives (30 percent), those under the age of 35 (28 percent), men (27 percent), those with a low income (27 percent) and those who are not married (27 percent).

Regionally, professionals from Latin America (34 percent) and the Middle East and Africa (32 percent each) are the most likely to say they would be very likely to take an assignment in another country, while this was true for only about 2 in 10 of those from Asia Pacific (24 percent), Europe (21 percent) and North America (20 percent).

The survey revealed that many employees are afraid of moving to a country with a language they cannot speak or to one that is too different from their home country.

According to the Canadian Employee Relocation Council’s 2011 Employee Relocation Policy Survey, which polled 500 Canadian companies, the top international destinations that organizations are sending staff to are (in order of popularity) the United States, the European Union, China, Australia and South America.

“Employees appear ready and willing to travel to traditionally industrialized, wealthy nations but are less ready to name the emerging markets as their top pick and would likely need more convincing for these destinations,” the report said.

Respondents from every geographic region other than North America selected the United States as the premier destination to work. North Americans would most prefer to move to Australia (33 percent) or the U.K. (28 percent). Those from Latin America would most prefer to go to the United States (42 percent), Canada (25 percent) or Spain (24 percent). Employees from the Middle East and Africa would most likely choose the United States (43 percent), the United Kingdom (29 percent) or the United Arab Emirates (23 percent). Europeans would most prefer the U.S. (29 percent), the U.K. (20 percent), Australia (20 percent) or Switzerland (20 percent). And those from Asia-Pacific would opt to move to the U.S. (37 percent), the U.K. (24 percent) or Singapore (22 percent) for work.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him at @SHRMRoy

Related Articles:

Tokyo No Longer World’s Most Expensive City for Expats, SHRM Online Global HR, June 2013

International Assignments Expected to Increase in 2013, SHRM Online Global HR, May 2013

New York Maintains Rank as Lowest-Risk City for Business Worldwide, SHRM Online Global HR, April 2013

Be Careful When Drawing Up Expatriate Agreements, SHRM Online Global HR, March 2013

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