How Jobs Transition from Virtual Assignments to Permanent Moves 

What does repatriation feel like? Going back to one’s country of origin after years of being elsewhere is a bit like — someone joked — atmospheric re-entry. It’s never easy for anyone coming from thousands of miles. It feels like coming from outer space.

Virtual assignments may probably cushion the blow (or landing), but what works in other countries, may not necessarily work in Silicon Valley where assignees nevertheless end up being offered permanent assignments to protect their products. Think how Apple puts in place many security checkpoints before releasing a product. Virtual assignments are good when it’s convenient but not when a product leak can happen anytime. 

So where one does begin and end? It’s a question posed here because virtual assignments are common in the age of remote work. Virtual assignees use powerful internet-enabled tools. For meetings online, video-conferencing tools like Zoom or Skype suffice. Collaboration platforms like Slack, Trello and Zoho are ubiquitous.

And yet the most technologically savvy companies in Silicon Valley still hire people to work in their offices, comforted by the fact that someone close by is easier to monitor or manage than someone a thousand miles away; an employee’s proximity can make companies think their business is secure or more efficient; also true in a sense. 

Still, one has to factor in the fact that something is still lost in between the waiting times — the different time zones — when one is productive and the other person is fast asleep. Virtual assignments rely on time-keeping, combined with a flexible attitude, according to FIDI

The long-distance relocation to Silicon Valley is not hard if the point is to offer them a permanent assignment instead of offering them only a job for one to two years. These assignees may face different working practice and unfamiliar cultural norms but in most cases, assignees have always found the experience of working in another country a great opportunity, if they can stay longer, if not permanently, especially if they have had some experience working with a team in northern California.  

Yes, going virtual means huge savings for the company, but it takes some work out of the loop. This may be why permanent transfers are up 40 percent compared to four years ago when it was 22 percent. 

One way of looking at how someone goes from virtual to permanent is through the projected growth of an industry. It’s not unusual to get permanent hires from the finance and tech sectors. 

A survey by Crown World Mobility,  targeted businesses across a wide range of industries including aerospace, retail, pharma, oil and gas, professional services, manufacturing, finance, telecommunications and automotive. 

It provided a fascinating insight into the way global mobility is changing, with close to half of businesses saying they now use permanent transfers more often than old-school long-term agreements (LTAs). Additionally, a third of companies expect to see the number of permanent transfers increase this year.

Why are they cheaper than traditional LTAs? They come with fewer associated costs and benefits. For instance, the assumption is that the employee will sell their home (or end their rental lease), sell their car, ship their belongings and prepare for a new life abroad before they make the transfer.

This change is coming both from businesses and employees. Its survey showed 91 percent of companies had company-initiated transfer schemes – but 52 percent also had employee-initiated schemes. This supports the notion that employees want greater flexibility to move around an organization – and that companies want to support that. One of the companies in the survey even revealed they have set up a “Lifestyle Assignment” for employee-initiated moves where California Corporate Housing makes itself aware of, in case these assignees need the ideal transition home.

But are permanent moves the right thing to do?  As always it depends on putting the right employee in the right role – and providing them with the right support.