Amid worldwide turmoil, multinationals still say a global workforce is vital, according to research by AXA Healthcare, “Global Workforces Still Vital for Big Business Despite Economic Uncertainty and Rise in Political Populism.”
Virtually all (98 percent) of the 250 multinational firms surveyed see a globally mobile workforce as important to achieving their objectives, while a third (35 percent) believe it to be critical. More than half (51 percent) of the respondents say sending staff on global assignments has improved the performance of their international operations and 44 percent say it improved employees’ skill level.
However, ex-pat workers increasingly don’t want to move permanently to another country, according to the research. More than a third (38 percent) of firms say staff increasingly want to work abroad on short-term contracts and commute from their home country, with 27 percent saying that staff don’t want to relocate permanently.
The research, which also surveyed 372 ex-pat workers, found that the majority (51 percent) of staff working on international assignments say they took global placements to gain higher pay and benefits, with 47 percent saying they took roles to gain accelerated career development and improve their skills.
Forty-two percent of companies surveyed say they tend to promote staff at the end of their assignments and 40 percent say they work with staff to find a new role within the country they are working in which utilizes the local knowledge they have built up.
However, companies are having to work hard to get the right talent, with 46 percent of HR directors saying finding the right people is the key challenge they face.
“Our study highlights that taking a flexible approach to pay and benefits that allows staff to remain connected to family and home while also accelerating their careers and creating commercial value for their employers is vital if international assignments are to succeed,” says Tom Wilkinson, chief executive of AXA’s global health care team.
The need to get the right people for international assignments may partly explain why big businesses are willing to be more flexible with staff around how they structure international assignments and pay and benefits packages, but the survey reveals that these postings come at a price for employers.
On average, the firms surveyed say it cost them $50,267 over and above an employee’s base salary for each staff member they have working abroad, 61 percent of employers saying pressure to manage international assignment costs has increased in the past five years.
When it comes to pay and benefits, the survey reveals that staff most want to have accommodation paid for, followed by international health insurance (covering more than one country) and income protection.
Three-quarters of international workers questioned say they get health insurance paid for by their company, with more than two thirds (67 percent) of ex-pat workers saying they rely on health insurance to cover their health needs while they are abroad.