Aligning international assignments to your business goals

Written by
Gavin Blackman

22 Sep 2015

22 Sep 2015 • by Gavin Blackman

Integrate, dont isolate

Fred: "Gavin, its Fred here from the corporate tax team.  Can you help one of my targets who sent some employees to work in South Africa?"

Me: "Sure, when did they leave?"

Fred: "Nine months ago!!"

I come across this scenario and iterations of it very regularly and so it no longer surprises me.  What continues to surprise me is the fact that companies continue to send employees cross-border to work on a very ad-hoc basis and in isolation to the business as a whole. 

I absolutely accept that the responsibility for organising the moves usually falls between different functions eg HR, Tax, Finance in a company that does not have a dedicated Global Mobility Team. This I find is the main reason for the isolation.

Given however that employees working cross-border continues to increase I would have expected companies by now to have woken up and "smelt the coffee" and realised it makes business sense for any international assignments to be joined-up with the business as a whole.



So what's the downside of non-alignment?

There are a number but just highlighting some of the main manifestations:

  •   The business working against itself so it takes longer to achieve its goals
  •    De-motivated assignees who are unaware of their role and therefore their contribution to the business as a whole
  •   Additional unnecessary costs and demands on internal administration
  • And the upside of alignment?
  • There are many upsides, not least being ahead of the competition as the majority of companies/organisations do not have the international assignment programme aligned to any business strategies.  Some of the obvious upsides are:
  •  A clear understanding of the purpose of the assignment for the business as a whole
  •  Motivated assignees who take what they have learned from the assignment for their own personal development and also for their colleagues
  • Greater efficiencies for the business such that its goals are achieved and usually quicker

The new real world

Some people reading this may be thinking "get real."   In the real world people are too busy to think about alignment with business goals – they are tasked with moving someone cross-border so they just get on and do it – job done!

I accept this…..but in the new real world,  with:

  • Incredible advances in the technological tools available to support international assignment programmes, whatever the population size
  • New generations of employees expecting and wanting to work overseas at some point in their careers
  • The continual global "war For talent" where coherent international assignment programmes play a major part
  • Increasing competition in the international marketplace

…… companies and organisations need to take time out and reflect on their international assignment programmes and make the necessary up-front investments to ensure the programme is aligned to the overall business strategies and to ensure it is fit for purpose in this new real world.

As A A Milne said, probably for Tigger's benefit:

"Organising is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up."