Trends in global mobility

A look at changes to policies, demographics, definitions, compensation
By Steven Nurney
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 05/30/2016

A lot has changed since the formative days of corporate expatriate assignments. The roots of traditional assignments go back several decades to the oil and gas industry. These companies knew they’d have to export talent to these new lands and it would take some effort to encourage people to uproot themselves and their families — sometimes for several years — for the good of the company.

Soon, other industries began to expand internationally, and nearly all adopted a one-policy-fits-all, out-and-back, home-based compensation approach. The so-called home-based balance sheet — which links most or all elements of compensation and benefits to the home country while providing certain income equalizers to account for differences in cost of living, housing and income taxes — has endured and is still the most common approach used, according to Mercer’s 2015 Worldwide Survey of International Assignment Policies and Practices (WIAPPS). 

At the same time, nearly two-thirds of the 831 global companies surveyed indicate they use multiple policy types and these extend beyond the typical differentiation between short-term, long-term and permanent assignments.