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Relocation programmes remain small, focused and consistent

Effective cost management and small but focused mobility departments are paving the way for relocation assignments that are short term and well-packaged amongst businesses worldwide. And things don’t seem to be changing.

The 2011 results are out for the second Global Mobility Survey Report – an online survey backed by international relocation company Interdean, conducted and monitored by Circle Research.

Over 1,000 unique human resource and mobility professionals across 44 countries took part in what the survey presents as the "largest and most robust" mobility report within an industry active in sending employees abroad on assignment.

Compared to last year’s introductory survey, conducted on a pan-European level with a smaller pool of 137 participants, this year revealed a dramatic leap in contribution.

Results were grouped under business core priorities, their relocation activity, the makeup of assignments and mobility departments, and general focus on both cost management and use of technology.

Mike Brazier, Interdean group marketing manager and a key figure involved in the survey, says the results will help businesses benchmark policies and measure activity in relation to their peers: 

"In all truth it wasn’t developed for Interdean, not for our benefit. It was for HR people out there to use the results from this, and use them with their clients, policymakers, and people based in their industry."

Respondents were collected from a large range of occupational demographics, with 24 industry sectors represented (14 percent as "other") and leading businesses involved in financial services (ten percent), technology and communications (seven percent) and manufacturing (seven percent).

The aim, Brazier says, was to measure mobility departments within companies responsible for hundreds of thousands of expats around the world.

Selection remains small; packages vary

Over 60 percent of respondents organised one to 25 employee relocations in the past year – the smallest option listed. Even so, 61 percent of these respondents made no plans for change, or they will decrease the ir numbers even further. The majority of respondents blamed the low relocation numbers on downsizing, lack of business growth, or reluctance to pay relocation costs.

Of those on assignment abroad, 60 percent have been relocated for one to three years. Assignment packages vary: one third offer tailored packages "based on seniority, location, etc.," one third offer a fixed package, and approximately another third offer a mixture of other packages.

Regardless of what type is offered, most packages include a basket of services, from visas and healthcare to moving goods, housing and tax calculations. Home sale, property management and tenancy management were the least common offered services.

Less focus, more stability

One of the more notable findings was the steep drop in the number of companies that measure mobility costs. Approximately 51 percent noted measuring quite accurately, and 53 percent reported cost management as a high priority for mobility cost, compared to the 82 percent from last year.

Brazier points towards an overall satisfaction in managing the costs that go into mobility..

"This says to me last year companies spent time on finding where those costs were going, and they already had this in place for this year. So they’re pretty satisfied with it now," says Brazier.

Most other respondents (45 percent) said "getting a better grip on tax and compliance" was also a high priority, while 36 percent said they were more interested in "adopting a more international approach to workforce planning".

Structure is small and central

A total of 65 percent of companies stated that mobility management was supported by teams of one to four employees, 44 percent being centrally located from one office.

Although centralisation offers office characteristics like standardisation, consolidation and increased buying power as a single entity, Brazier notes that, over time, there is a tendency to cycle from centralisation to decentralisation.

"Once quarter of respondents said they wanted to centralise, but they’re big enough to operate regionally," said Brazier.

Technology still stagnant

One of the more notable results is the obvious lack of interest, investment and use of up-to-date technology available for mobility departments worldwide.

A staggering 82 percent of respondents said they do not use software packages to help manage mobility programmes; 66 percent replying they either are not very likely or not at all likely to begin such software over the next year.

"Technology was an area people wanted to know about, so we were pretty surprised when we saw the lack of technology use, even in major global companies and hi-tech companies," says Brazier.

A mere 18 percent of companies were reported to use IT solutions. The survey itself listed 18 different software packages designed for mobility departments; Mercer and PWC being most common (eight percent).

"This is a tiny amount. Or, they’re using Excel; the amount [of companies] who use Excel to manage global mobility is quite scary," says Brazier.

"The ramifications of tax issues can be quite dramatic if you get it wrong. My feeling is that technology is becoming a lot more important as we go along," says Brazier.

Feedback from the latest survey shows participants wanting more knowledge about cost, talent management and outsourcing for next year’s survey. Plans for Interdean to explore more areas of the global mobility field are certain for the following annual results.

A. Sykes / Editor / Expatica

Visit Interdean.com for more information about the results of the 2011 Global Mobility Survey