Bay Area Companies Find Hiring Permanent Transfers as Key to their Success

Expatriate long-term assignments may be going out of style with permanent transfers now on top of minds of business owners and global mobility managers alike. Why?

Some companies in the San Francisco Bay Area find that — in the long run —  a permanent transfer would be less expensive for them and may require less adjustment for both the employer and the assignee in terms of having the latter adapt to its overall operations, system and corporate vision.

Even more crucial, these permanent transfers could help grow the business and increase the market share of a company in the way that a long-term assignment cannot, because it’d be comforting for them to know they are part of a company; a temporary hire is always less invested in the big picture, and is simply content with finishing tasks.

What is a permanent transfer and what makes them compelling than a long-term assignment?

To answer this question, let’s take a good hard and retrospective look at the long-term assignment. The LTA, as they were usually called, was a high-paid executive sourced or recruited from the home country of the home office.

They were like a combination of an ambassador and a military commander who embodied the corporate values and personalities of their company, while taking great courageous strides to increase its dominion and demolish the competition.

Locals looked up to them and rising managers and executives valued their guidance and leadership. LTAs stayed in their countries of employment for three to five years on average and were paid very competitive compensation packages which can include a posh home, international education for their kids, travel perks, and expensive medical care.

Permanent transfer assignees, on the other hand, are usually employees who are assigned by the company to make a more long-term years-long move to the new country of employment.

While they do have management and leadership positions, these assignees are expected to live like the locals and in a sense mingle closely with them. They are paid the current salaries of local managers and are subjected to the same taxes.

As described by TRC Global Mobility, their benefits are patterned after those prescribed by the rules of the host country.

All these show that a company does save a lot by using permanent transfers instead of a long-term assignment. Another benefit of having a permanent assignee is that which might be called having their courageous loyalty.

As described by The HR Director, there is one reason why permanent transfers are termed that way: the assignee is expected to adapt and not return to the home country.

Many of them sell their homes and properties, immerse themselves in the culture and language of the new country as a local, and have prepared themselves emotionally, intellectually, and socially to stay for the long haul.

They soon consider themselves domestic employees and not “imported” assignees. Some of them are more than open to the idea of  rooting themselves in the host country and perhaps immigrating.

Not all permanent transfer assignees do make the transition successfully though. As in all overseas assignments, loneliness, a difficulty in adjustment, and cultural pressures can wrap what were once strong resolves.

As reported by The HR Director, many permanent transfer assignees did not make the cut and asked to be repatriated back to the home country.

Still, this is a development that global mobility managers must study and be prepared to implement in the future. In one survey, 45 percent of companies said they were shifting from LTAs to permanent transfers, and another 32 percent said they will be increasing their deployment of the latter.

Not all host countries will be as welcoming, easy to adjust to, or have the same kind of cultural openness as the cities in Northern California, for example. It behooves the global mobility manager to spot these potential assignees these early, mentor and train them, and make sure they have the right fortitude to begin a new life.