How to Understand the Lifecycle of an International Assignment — In Host Country

Conclusion (Two of a series)

In a previous post, “How to Understand the Lifecycle of an International Assignment,” California Corporate Housing followed “Anna Signee” in her pre-assignment stage, from recruitment and selection to the preparation for Anna and her family’s relocation to China.

In this blog, ECA International continues its work in helping Anna and her family in the assigned location–with the assistance of a destination services provider. Work continues for the global mobility team.

On-assignment tasks carried are carried out as well as ongoing support, performance management and salary management for Anna.

Ongoing support

On assignment, the global mobility team may assist Anna with management and payment of rent and school fees, lease extensions and home leave trips, as well as ensuring the employee and company are compliant with immigration and tax regulations.

The company offers Anna a partner support program which allows her husband Ian to enrol in an MBA course. Some companies now provide such a benefit for accompanying partners, which serves as incentive for employees to accept and successfully complete international assignments. Providing partner support can also improve the company’s reputation, setting it apart from the competition in order to attract and retain the best talent.

Ongoing support may also involve addressing unforeseen circumstances related to medical issues or even security concerns. How should a company react to unexpected natural disasters or political conflicts, perhaps a more serious concern in the United States.

Global mobility managers will also need to monitor Anna’s performance in the host country, reviewing her focus on technical and organizational performance, while also likely assessing her intercultural and developmental performance. A smooth performance management system will play a key part in effective talent management and in measuring the return on investment (ROI) of international assignments.

Salary management

Salary management can be complex. In most cases, companies will carry out an annual salary review as they would for local employees, considering performance as well as inflation and to ensure the salary remains competitive.

For assignees like Anna, however, who are paid a home-based package, several additional elements will be reviewed which affect the net assignment salary.

The location allowance may change as well, either increasing or decreasing based on living conditions. The exchange rate will have an impact on the net assignment salary, although how exactly will depend on the currency in which the salary is delivered – that of the home country, the host country or a split between the two.

Exchange rates fluctuate continuously, in some locations more than others. How should companies respond if he host country’s currency experience sudden devaluation between salary reviews?

The company’s policy on managing currency fluctuations will depend to some extent on how assignee pay is arranged, but options include reconciling any losses to the assignee at the end of the year or recalculating the package based on a new exchange rate if the devaluation exceeds a certain point.

Aside from salary, the cost of certain benefits may also need annual review. Both accommodation and children’s education benefits can cost more than the assignment salary, so firms must keep an eye on how the values of these items are changing.

Clear communication between the global mobility team and the assignee is critical.

Even before accepting the assignment, of course, Anna will have been briefed not only on the company policies and the elements that comprise her salary package, but also on how external factors such as those mentioned above can and will impact her salary.

Six months before the end of the assignment, it is time to start preparations for repatriation. Discussions about what Anna can expect in terms of a role in the home country upon her return should have been discussed earlier.

There are ways for Anna to remain and extend her assignment in China or elsewhere. If she is assigned elsewhere, new terms and conditions will have to be agreed upon and a new contract and salary package issued.

If the decision is to send her back home, Anna and her family will return to Canada. An all too important post-assignment debrief will then be arranged for both company and assignee to discuss how they thought the assignment went, what could and should improve, what went well and what exceeded expectations.

Under ECA, these debriefs are invaluable for global mobility teams to help them build and improve their pre-, on- and post-assignment processes so they can deliver a smooth and satisfactory end-to-end experience for the valuable employees that undertake international assignments.

And yes, a global mobility team will again make sure a destination services provider is looking after them with relocation agents and tax specialists assisting with the logistics of closing down Anna’s affairs in China and moving home.