Are you missing the boat on overseas workers?

Companies and employees differ widely in their views towards overseas assignments, with their views at odds regarding the decision to go, the reintegration process and the impact on careers, according to a worldwide study by PricewaterhouseCoopers and Cranfield School of Management in the UK. Only those companies that align the incentives they offer with how they motivate employees will realize a return on the investment they make on these assignments and retain key employees when they return.

“The cost of an international assignment is three times that of a local hire and yet there is minimum investment in candidate profiling,” said Robbie Wigley-Jones, partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers. “Companies need to understand the motivations of a candidate in order to create a suitable support package. Companies that strike a balance between candidate assessment and motivation are more likely to maximize the short- and long-term benefits from international assignments.”

There are significant differences in opinions between employees and companies regarding the decision to go on assignment. The report shows that employees are principally motivated by opportunities to build leadership and overall skills. Companies are overly focused on the financial package offered as incentive to go overseas, while employees are more concerned about compensation on the way back. Also, spousal financial support is less important to employees than companies realize.

Management attaches great importance to distance from home, and employees focus more on how they will culturally adapt. Providing effective support in this area is important both in supporting the decision to go as well as ensuring that individuals integrate quickly into new assignments.

Unless returning employees are effectively supported during the reintegration process, there is a great risk that they will leave the company. However, there is a major disconnect between employees and companies when it comes to reintegration. While 85% of companies say reintegration of employees is important, only 20% believe they do it well. Among expatriate employees, 75% say reintegration is managed poorly, citing a lack of clarity within the organisation about who is responsible for the reintegration process.

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