roi on foreign talents

The Global Mobility Holy Grail:  Measuring the ROI of Your Foreign Assignees

CEOs and other decision-makers in the C-suite can be forgiven for having a love-hate relationship with global mobility, specifically its precious task of finding, sourcing, and relocating talents. They admit seeing the value that this program adds to their bottom line; however, they do not have the specific numbers showing in hard dollars and cents the actual return on investment (ROI) of this years-long process that recruits, develops, and trains assignees originally based from other countries.

In one recent survey of 600 international organizations, 85 percent of the leaders who responded acknowledged that global mobility was integral to their future business growth. Another 89 percent added that their programs of relocating and sourcing assignees will continue in the foreseeable future. And yet, only 42 percent could confidently state that they were getting a healthy return on their investments.

In its own story on the same survey, Shield Geo adds that only 9 percent of the CEOs made an effort to track down ROI. Only 8 percent can pinpoint the cost of the entire lifecycle of an assignee, from recruitment to deployment.

It is imperative that, regardless of whether or not management asks for an ROI, global mobility specialists must be able to come up with their own ROI. Though it will take time, they will eventually be asked for an accounting later on. Having documented proof of ROI will also help them get management on their good side once annual budgets are being drawn up.

Cathy Heyne, managing director of Living Abroad, says that global mobility specialists can start building cases for their ROIs by focusing on three factors: cost savings, increased revenues, and improved employee retention.

Cost savings can be effected through a wise use of resources. Global mobility specialists can point out that assignees use their own mail-forwarding service instead of passing the burden to the company. Some millennial assignees prefer to take a lower compensation package if it means garnering work experience in preferred destinations overseas. They also prefer to handle their own relocation movements and directly deal with partner institutions like us at California Corporate Housing, as we provide furnished apartments and housing accommodations to assignees and expatriates. This flexibility boosts the assignee’s sense of ownership about his assignment, while freeing up the global mobility specialist, who would have handled the transfer, to concentrate on his core requirements like strategic hiring.

Increased revenues can be measured by creating a direct link between the assignee’s performance, the productivity of his department or project, and their correlation with sales, revenues, and profitability. Assignees who have helped close deals with markets belonging to ethnic communities similar to their home country are a valuable asset.

Global mobility specialists can also show how companies can save up by retaining productive, performing employees for the long haul. Too many resignations and a dearth of qualified people can result in continuous spending for greater recruitment efforts and added training simply designed to enhance retention rates. Assignees who stay with the company for years and accomplish their objectives actually save the company unnecessary expenses on hiring and personnel development.

Jose Segade, Prudential global mobility manager, adds that talents who have worked overseas on international assignments grow in their career at twice the speed of their colleagues who have always remained homeward bound. More precise measurements that can actually track career progression would be more convincing and show concrete results of what global exposure and immersion can accomplish, both for the talent and his company.

This so-called holy grail of the global mobility profession is not difficult to locate. It just needs more deliberate analysis, an acute look at the numbers, and measuring the value of every element in the talent sourcing process to come up with the right numbers. The process may take an inordinate amount of patience, but it is more than worth it, especially if it means management’s continual support for global mobility efforts.