RISMEDIA, May 15, 2008-Employers in the U.S. are increasingly looking to short-term and rotational assignments to accomplish their business objectives, according to a new survey by Worldwide ERC®, the association for workforce mobility, and Cartus, a premier provider of global relocation and workforce development solutions. The 2008 Pulse Survey, “New Trends in Employee Mobility: Short-term and Rotational Assignments within the U.S. on the Rise,” which captures responses from 208 U.S.-based human resources practitioners in more than 15 industries, includes information on key forces driving the trend, and identifies challenges for organizations and their employees.
The survey defines short-term assignments as single, short-duration transfers in which the employee moves from home to work location and back at the end of the assignment. Rotational assignments refer to a series of assignments in which an employee cycles through a number of locations, sometimes on a back-to-back basis, and does not always return to the original destination. Of the 80% of survey respondents who used short-term assignments, 57% expect to see an increase in the next three years, while 38% expect their short-term assignment volume to remain the same. Rotational assignments, which are used by nearly 50% of respondents, are expected to grow, according to 43% of respondents, while 54% predict they will remain the same.
“Organizations frequently use short-term assignments for much of their international business activity,” says Worldwide ERC CEO, Cris Collie. “In the U.S., where the typical pattern of relocation has involved moving employees permanently, this pulse survey confirms what we’ve been seeing: temporary assignments are on the rise, and with that trend come new opportunities and obstacles for companies and their employees.”
According to the respondents, the two main reasons short-term assignments are increasing are to provide greater flexibility for employees (39%), and cost control for organizations (33%). Among the most significant challenges were family and personal (66%) issues and higher-than-expected costs (41%). Other challenges most commonly cited were: accurate tracking of employee moves and management of the associated tax issues, as well as difficulties in providing adequate housing.
John Arcario, executive vice president, Cartus, says that companies can avoid some of these challenges by developing formal policies for both assignment types. Surprisingly, of the companies surveyed, only 19% with rotational assignments and 45% with short-term assignments had policies in place.
“Assignments are driven by business needs, said Arcario. “Responding to the need for variability, while controlling potentially costly exceptions, is driving a dramatic increase in requests for policy development.”
Collie agrees that responding to these challenges is a next step for organizations. “These assignment types offer additional mobility solutions in an increasingly complex environment. By implementing formal policies for these temporary moves, companies can alleviate many of the accompanying issues.”
Other key survey findings include:
Use of different assignment types for different purposes. While companies use both short-term and rotational assignments to meet demands for project work, in general, short-term assignments are more frequently used for project work (73%) and knowledge transfer needs (64%), while rotational assignments are more likely to be used for career development (67%).
Varied duration of assignments. While most companies (86%) reported that their short-term assignments had durations of less than one year, 12% reported that durations lasted more than 12 months. Both Worldwide ERC and Cartus warn that assignments in excess of one year can result in tax ramifications, causing complications for companies and employees on assignments.
“Organizations are facing new pressures for talent management – the need to recruit, retain, and develop key personnel and leadership – and these assignments offer new hope to companies seeking to maximize the effectiveness of their workforces and control costs, while meeting the needs of new demographic populations,” said Arcario.