10 December 2018

Why International Assignments Are Vital for Talent Attraction and Retention

Global Mobility
culture of learning


Katie Smith

Transferring an employee to an overseas host country can be high-risk, costly and time-consuming, however, international assignments are vital for talent attraction and retention. People are the greatest asset to any business; a company’s workforce determines the ruin or triumph of any given organization.

To remain competitive, many organizations have moved their talent focus onto employee engagement to hire high achieving employees and increase retention. International assignments are an excellent way to nurture employee engagement, attract new talent, increase diversity and inclusion and share knowledge across your organization.

Here are four reasons why.

1.   Talent attraction

Professionals are keen to gain international work experience to enhance their career prospects in the long-term.

In a survey by the Korn Ferry Institute, the top reasons for employees wanting to take on international assignments included:

  • Exposure to a new work environment
  • Nurturing and improving business and networking skills
  • Forging a sturdier, career-boosting relationship with senior management
Why Global Mobility Needs to Help Shape an Organization's Talent
Why Global Mobility Needs to Help Shape an Organization's Talent

These employee desires need to be explored and met in order to build an effective talent attraction and retention strategy. In these modern days of global accessibility and agility, many employees have ambitions to utilize mobile working in order to see the world and spend time living overseas, experiencing new cultures.

Ignoring this need may prove to be a fundamental mistake for a company’s enduring prospects.

2.   Future planning & high potential talent

According to a survey by PwC, 60% of leading global mobility practitioners said that employees are moved to develop a succession pipeline of future leaders. Enticing and retaining high potential talent, in conjunction with future planning, are integral aspects of global mobility.

In a recent blog, Alchemy has explored how to attract future innovators by ‘millennial proofing’ a global mobility policy.

Millennials are the first generation to see bargain package holidays and truly affordable air travel. This group are internationally and culturally aware with research abilities that have been enhanced by their tech skills.

Millenials are not intimidated by the idea of living and working abroad – in fact they actively seek it.

In Wakefield and Topia’s topical white paper, it is expressed that 54% of U.S. and 61% of U.K. Millennials (as well as 43% of U.S. and 52% of U.K Centennials) have already been relocated to other offices at a more frequent rate than Baby Boomers (38% of U.S. and 43% of U.K.).

This ‘internet age’ demographic is bombarded by accounts and images of peers with fast-paced international careers; glass skyscrapers with sparkling city views and evenings spent eating (and photographing) foreign cuisine against exotic backdrops.

They want a slice of the action; work hard and play hard is a key aspect of the Millennial/Centennial mindset and an international assignment is the perfect way to achieve this balance.

Further reading

Millennials are now aged in their 20s and 30s (and the Centennial generation hot on their heels), this demographic is a key part of your current workforce. For your organization to take the lead, your talent strategy needs to be attentive to the hopes of these rising stars; how you treat them now will pay dividends later.

Providing Y and Z with the international experience they clearly desire will go a long way to improving vitally important talent attraction and retention.

3.   Diversity & inclusion

There are obvious benefits to building a diverse and inclusive workforce:

  • Enhanced employee engagement
  • Generation of varied ideas
  • Improved company culture and customer services
  • Increased profitability

Alongside the moral implications, genuine diversity and inclusion are essential to building a positive brand, as well creating an attractive work environment for current and potential employees.

Diversity attracts talent, so how are international assignments key to achieving this?

Organizations can solve issues surrounding a lack of diversity by utilizing the global mobility process to build a diverse team inclusive of international assignees. International assignments can also be used to retain the best and most diverse range of employees by offering overseas working opportunities.

A study by PwC entitled ‘Modern Mobility: Moving Women with Purpose’ focuses on the importance of building a gender diverse organization:

  • 71% of millennial women said they have ambitions to work overseas at some point during their careers
  • 64% percent of women agreed that the opportunity to complete an international assignment was a key factor in attracting them to work for their current employer
  • 64% also agreed it was a key factor in their remaining with an employer

Considering that presently women only make up 20% of the international assignee population surveyed, it makes sense that offering assignments to this underrepresented group might give your organization the edge over the competition in the race to win (and keep) the best talent.

Why Global Mobility Needs to Help Shape an Organization's Talent
Why Global Mobility Needs to Help Shape an Organization's Talent

Deloitte’s blog regarding global talent trends explains that “data-driven insights from active business processes can inform better proactive decisions on talent, deployment, and future global workforce planning”.

This same principle could be applied to other underrepresented demographics in terms of international assignment participation, to boost cultural diversity for example. Organizations should look to encourage international assignments amongst a full range of age, gender, and ethnically diverse colleagues to enjoy all the benefits offered by a diverse working environment.

4.   Sharing of knowledge

As globalization steadily drives businesses forward, some companies are being left behind; scarcity of international talent is often quoted as a barrier to organizations aiming for growth – international assignments offer a solution.

Global mobility is not something that is ‘nice to have’…It is becoming increasingly integral to the way today’s organizations do business in an ever more global world (Mercer)

This vital point is highlighted by Mercer in a recent Executive Summary.

In some locations, human capital requirements are expansive to the extent that local talent pools cannot fulfill business needs. Beyond filling vacant roles, organizations need international assignments to transmit knowledge from home to host country (and back) in order to be successful in any global venture.

Likewise, the best talent requires international assignments to feel truly challenged and to have an opportunity to stretch their current skill set and abilities, allowing them to gain knowledge and progress further in new directions.

Think international or lose out to your competitors

International assignments are essential to any successful talent strategy; they allow for improved talent attraction, development of high potential staff and the creation of a diverse and inclusive culture. International assignments also promote the practical facilitation of knowledge sharing on an individual scale, as well as the wider international business. The fact is, that to be an employer of choice on the world-stage and excel at talent attraction and retention, international assignments are essential for sustainable, on-going growth and success.

Share this article

Latest Insights

Ready to start?

Take your business on the first step to transformative learning today. We look forward to being part of your journey.