Whether it’s a job relocation to the United States, the United Kingdom, or China, employees embarking on an international assignment likely have several things in common: namely, long wait times to obtain work visas, problems with payroll, and issues with housing, according to Cartus Corporation’s just-released Trends in Global Relocation: 2015 Biggest Challenges survey.
In the survey of 148 worldwide relocation managers, the top three challenges for relocation managers were cost control, compliance, and compensation issues. Waiting times for visas were named by 63 percent of respondents as the top issue relative to compliance with laws and regulations. Last year, the number-one immigration area in which companies were seeing an increase was the need for upfront planning, due to the length of time it takes to obtain visas.
Depending on the destination country, the overall processing time for international work visas can take anywhere from three weeks to six months, according to Cartus executives.
“Senior management of multinational firms typically find that processes such as obtaining a work permit can be complex and lengthy, which can be challenging to the business, and often very frustrating for the assignee,” says Matt Spinolo, executive vice president of Cartus.
Payroll Problems, Housing Issues Also Prevalent
One of the top challenges facing companies and their assignees is in the area of payroll. A key issue, named by just over half of respondents (51 percent), is currency fluctuation, which can affect employees’ paychecks if mitigating steps are not taken. Other payroll issues noted by respondents included complications with payroll inflexibility in some countries, and differing home and host pay approaches within regions or countries.
When it comes to housing, 64 percent of relocation managers named high costs the biggest challenge for companies, by far.
Housing that is different or of lower quality than assignees expect ranked second (52 percent), while inadequate inventory (50 percent) ranked as the third-highest housing challenge.
Spinolo says, “These challenges highlight the need for multinational companies to set assignees’ expectations up front, not only in the area of housing quality, but also in the need to be decisive because competition for limited expatriate-style housing inventory can be stiff.”
Millennial vs. Generation X – Who’s Getting the Job Transfer?
When it comes to who is being transferred, the number of millennials on global assignment has increased 3 percentage points in just two years (27 percent this year compared to 24 percent in 2013). The Cartus survey found fewer Generation X employees (those between 35 and 49 years of age) are going on global assignment, down five percentage points in 2015 (51 percent) versus 2013 (56 percent).
Finances over Families?
Respondents indicated that finances outweighed family issues by a greater than 5-to-1 ratio. Although family issues remain important, cost control continues to be top of mind within most organizations.
HR managers pointed to the top three areas of concern:
- Finances – rising costs are the top concern for HR managers and/or business partners.
- Family issues – expats dealing with family issues that ultimately impact their productivity.
- Failure of assignments – which cost the company time, money, and missed opportunities.