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RISMEDIA, June 17, 2009-Cartus Corporation, a premier provider of global mobility management and workforce development solutions, recently surveyed approximately 60 of the world’s largest global organizations on the role of international assignments in developing future leaders. The survey, “Emerging Trends in Global Mobility: Talent Management,” explored the degree to which companies factor talent management into their international assignment processes and how successfully they achieve employee development goals as a result of those international assignments.

Best Practices

“Given the level of investment in assignments, the need for companies to be successful is critical in a challenging economic environment,” said John Arcario, Cartus executive vice president. “That’s why we’re now seeing them implement initiatives that tangibly link international assignments and talent management systems.” Referring to the Cartus survey, he added that several companies discussed successful best practices initiatives they have undertaken in this area, such as tracking a repatriate’s continued success and career duration within the organization and establishing a formal committee to oversee the expat population.

Preparing for an Assignment

The survey found that many employers are challenged when it comes to preparing assignees to work effectively in a foreign business and cultural environment, reflecting a growing awareness that more than technical skills are required for assignment success. In addition, because of the related time, cost, and productivity pressures, the success of those who are being sent on assignment becomes even more critical. A key finding from the survey is that addressing any gaps in cultural and language training is crucial to ensure assignment success.

– 56% of responding companies said their assignees were not sufficiently knowledgeable about their host country’s business environment. Only 20% of those companies, however, offer their transferees any training in international business management.

– Nearly two-thirds of respondents agreed that although “cultural adaptability” was an important attribute in selecting employees for international assignments, they consider assignees least well prepared in an intercultural environment. Two-thirds also reported that although they offer formal training in two crucial areas-intercultural and language training on a personal level-they leave a gap when it comes to equivalent training in doing business in a new and different culture.

Michael Brannan, senior vice president of Cartus’ global performance solutions group, said, “Now more than ever, global organizations require a broad segment of their mobile employee populations to have a standard level of global competency. Flexible and customized training options, in areas such as country-specific business methods, communicating across cultures, and advanced business communication skills, can be as valuable as language training in helping prepare employees and ensure successful assignments.”

The Cartus Talent Management survey also revealed a key gap between attributes considered necessary for employees to have, and attributes that those employees actually brought to the assignment. In selecting candidates for international assignments, companies considered technical competencies (76%) and job experience (65%) to be most important. Conversely, the survey found that 58% of employers believe their assignees are least well prepared in the area of “knowledge of host country cultures.”

Monitoring and Valuing Assignments

In the area of on-assignment communication, 85% of respondents agreed that their employees enter international assignments with clearly stated goals and undergo performance evaluations while on assignment. However, 35% of those surveyed disagreed with the statements “Home location managers know how successfully assignees are adjusting and performing,” and “assignees meet frequently with their managers or HR to discuss assignment objectives, goals, and career planning.” Regarding interactions with home office managers, 50% of respondents stated that such interactions are encouraged, but there is no formal process for them; one-third of respondents replied that such interactions occur only at the discretion of the assignee or his/her manager.

Asked to measure the degree to which returning employees and their employers profit long-term from international assignments, slightly more than half (52%) of respondents agreed that the general impact of an international assignment is a positive one. Nearly 60% agreed that companies value the skills acquired during an international assignment. The survey points out, however, that companies often do not have a clear picture of how talent management actually works and do not have formal retention processes. Indeed, when asked to respond to the statement, “Global mobility/HR monitors and tracks the retention and/or career progression of the returned assignee for a designated period after the assignment ends,” only 11% agreed.

When companies were asked what future challenges they anticipate, a number of them mentioned highly strategic issues that point to a need to integrate global mobility into a higher level approach to managing the organization’s human resources. Overall, companies that clearly described a gap between their future goals and the current reality of linking assignment-related experiences with managing talent are nevertheless moving in the direction of establishing imperatives that recognize the challenges inherent in promoting talent management through mobility.

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