‘Is this the end of the traditional long-term international assignment?’ That was the question posed most regularly at Friday’s European Global Mobility Summit in London.

While data from traditional surveys still points to a prevalent use of traditional assignment policy and the balance-sheet approach (54% of all assignments, according to the 2012 Forum for Expatriate Management Survey), conference discussions and widespread empirical research points to a more fundamental shift.

Panelists at the European Global Mobility Summit, such as Ian Cloke at Unilever and Shauna Page at Cisco, mentioned a decline in traditional assignments at their companies. In numerous meetings, global mobility directors mentioned policy reviews and a shift toward the use of different relocation policies for junior and mid-level staff. And in discussions with some of the world’s fastest growing tech companies at the Dublin Web Summit earlier in the week, no one mentioned a traditional international assignment for staff moving abroad.

In most cases, traditional assignments are being replaced with a combination of short-term project work or extended travel and permanent relocation or local / local plus packages. For larger companies with established mobility programs, the impetus for this change is cost containment and a younger generation of employees moving abroad without families or expectations of large support packages. For high-growth tech companies with lean business models and ambitious young professionals, there is rarely discussion of paying 3-5x salary to send an employee abroad (I’d love to see that discussion with a VC!).

We are entering a new paradigm of global mobility, one characterized by more frequent moves, continuing cost pressures and changing employee demographics. This is introducing policy segmentation across many large organizations and an increasing interest in lump sum employee relocation allowances and self-service relocation solutions.

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Brynne Herbert

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Brynne Herbert

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By Brynne Herbert

Oct 20, 2012

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