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Compliance, long-term assignments and outsourcing are the top priorities and trends for mobility managers, according to Cartus Corporation’s Trends in Global Relocation: Global Mobility Policy and Practices, sponsored by the National Foreign Trade Council—findings that reflect challenges in global relocation in the after-effect of the recession.

“These areas of concern have been growing since the most recent recession,” says Matt Spinolo, executive vice president of Global Client Services for Cartus, “and IT-driven mass customization came onto the scene at about the same time.”

Seventy-nine percent of the more than 170 managers surveyed reported their organization has ramped up its focus on immigration, legal and tax compliance in the last two years, a majority that underscores industry-wide concern.

“Rounding out our top three challenges, compliance is again in the spotlight,” says Spinolo. “While continuing deployment of IT resources and methods has helped employers understand more of what is going on, and has helped employees deal with new and novel experiences, it has also helped tax and immigration authorities to know who is where, when, and for how long. More data means more information, more guidance and more compliance reporting.”

Seventy-six percent of those surveyed reported a need for more flexible mobility programs, including permanent (as opposed to long-term) assignments abroad, as generational preferences and cost-cutting initiatives demand. Eighty-one percent of those surveyed, however, reported a continuing trend toward long-term assignments.

“The high prevalence of permanent (one-way) global transfers among companies potentially indicates a growing recognition of the importance of global work experience, especially among millennials, who appear willing to get the experience in other ways than the traditional long-term ‘expat’ package,” says Spinolo.

“It’s interesting to note that, despite the fact that they are the most costly assignment type, long-term assignments are still of major importance, especially as enterprises expand into new markets in Africa, Southeast Asia and other wide-ranging locations,” says Bill Sheridan, vice president of IHR Services, National Foreign Trade Council.

Seventy-one percent, in addition, reported a “new normal” in terms of cost control through outsourcing, which was the most common way to save among those surveyed. Twenty-nine percent are considering outsourcing—according to the survey’s findings, outsourcing relocation is beneficial in that it gives managers the ability to better direct their efforts.

“The continued focus on managing costs, regardless of industry, is a theme we constantly hear from our members,” says Sheridan. “The focus on cost makes it even more important for companies to pay attention to return on investment, including preventing employees from leaving companies once they repatriate. Companies need to see assignments as an investment for the enterprise, as well as for the expatriate.”

View more highlights from Cartus’ survey here, or request the full report here.

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