International experiences and cross-national exchanges are among the most wanted aspects in globally operating companies. Transferring these ideals to reality seems to be more difficult, as Ernst & Young’s sixth annual “Global Mobility Effectiveness Survey 2013” suggests. The study examines business practices and movements of expatriates and business travellers and gives detailed information about the practical relevance, successes and barriers of global mobility in organizations. More than 260 senior mobility executives participated in the survey and answered questions about how they channel talent and ensure internal mobility particularly to growth markets.
According to a huge majority (83%) of respondents, mobility generally has a positive impact on careers. Despite that, businesses fail to link mobility to talent management. A significant share of 42% do not have a global talent management agenda, mobility teams in 56% of the companies involved in the study were not involved in talent management at all. Ernst & Young concludes that companies only strive for filling up vacancies with incoming or outgoing expats, but do not ask themselves who might be strategically the best employee for a certain position. Even if companies are more aware of Diversity in international environments, only 6% of all companies actively encouraged minorities to go on assignments.
Family issues or private circumstances are the biggest obstacles for international assignments. 65% of respondents cited personal matters as insufficient schools or a lack of working opportunities for life partners as reasons for failed assignments and early repatriation. But even if international exchanges take place, most companies (78%) fail to measure the ROI of their mobility programmes. Very often employers also miss to track an employee once an assignment is finished, with bad consequences for employee retention and career progression: 16% of assignees leave the company after a period of two years after coming back, probably due to dissatisfying rewards for their international experiences.