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RISMEDIA, June 30, 2010—A new report from Brookfield Global Relocation Services concludes that the coming decade will be a critical one for companies with international workforces, as they grapple with several key issues, including the changing nature of temporary assignments, so-called “cross-border” commuters and emerging markets.

Titled “Employee Mobility in the New Decade,” the research report was released at the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) annual conference in San Diego.

During the first quarter of this year, Brookfield Global Relocation Services surveyed senior mobility managers from multinational firms to determine their top concerns over the next five to 10 years.

“Our report is the first of its kind to take a detailed look at what challenges companies will be facing with their international mobility strategies during the next decade,” said Scott Sullivan, executive vice president of Brookfield Global Relocation Services. “This report validates research from our 2010 Global Relocation Trends Report, which found that emerging markets such as China, India and Russia, pose huge challenges to both expatriates and human resources executives.”

Specifically, mobility leaders point to challenges involving:

Linking Talent Management and Employee Mobility
Topping nearly every company’s list of challenges was linking talent management and employee mobility, in one form or another. The report points out that, as the nature of temporary assignments continues to evolve, it is causing companies and employees alike to take a measured look at the perceived benefits of the assignments. For their part, companies–faced with significant investments of money and time required for successful expatriate activities–are asking why, in fact, they are sending employees on international assignments and are increasingly attempting to quantify the returns on investment.

Their employees, meanwhile, often find themselves questioning the personal and professional value of an overseas assignment after the fact, since it so often seems to have little or no bearing on their ability to advance within their organization. Indeed, the Brookfield Global Relocation Services survey found that 38% of employees leave their company within just one year of repatriation–in line with industry estimates that range between 25-45%.

“This is a key issue for global organizations, since this is a population of employees that they have invested so heavily in,” Sullivan said. “Losing these employees represents a significant loss of experience and talent. Many of the companies we surveyed are beginning to see the integration of talent management and international assignment mobility as a strategy to turn this loss into a competitive gain.”

Cross-Border Commuters
North America, Europe and Asia have had so-called “cross-border” commuters for years–employees who regularly move back and forth between countries because it is geographically expedient to do so. In the last 10 years or so, commuter assignments as an alternative to short-term (and even long-term) assignments have begun to take a larger role, primarily in Europe.

In the next decade, the report concludes, more companies will see cross-border commuter assignments as a viable component of their mobility program. Companies interviewed acknowledge that there will be a significant focus on this assignment type over the next decade.

Emerging Markets
Perhaps even more so than talent management and commuter assignments, the arena of emerging markets is set to expand significantly in the coming decade.

The term “emerging market” has traditionally referred to the new destinations where companies are transferring their employees. Top destinations vary by industry, company business objectives and global reach. Brookfield GRS’ 2010 Global Relocation Trends survey notes that emerging locations run the spectrum of countries–from those that are long-time assignment destinations to those that are just this year appearing as locations for expatriate assignments. The latter category includes Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Hungary and Sweden, among others.

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