How to Understand the Lifecycle of an International Assignment — in Home Country

Part 1 of 2 pieces

How much do you really know about global mobility? How does a company decide to send an employee to work in another country? How does one coordinate the lifecycle of an international assignment? In an age of increasing global mobility with different approaches, honing in on one company’s approach can help everyone put two and two together. Enter ECA International.

Since 1971, ECA has been helping inform, guide, and support managers handling compensation and benefits for international workers moving around the world on a short-term, long-term or permanent basis. It reportedly tackles all portfolio of data, calculation aids, salary management software, reports, guides and surveys to help them structure and manage international reward programs.

It’s not as simple as one thinks. The illustrated guide here shows what needs to happen when a company needs to send an employee from country A to country B. This guide is a great example for global mobility managers to follow.

Let’s follow ECA’s example: “Anna Signee,” a Canadian employee and her family (husband Ian and their two children) who are being sent to China; it could be the United States, given that it is a common lifecycle for ECA. It shows the process that the organization would normally have in place, from recruitment and selection of the individual through to pre-assignment preparation and relocation.

It’s essential for the global mobility team to be involved from the very beginning as the organization makes the selection based not only on an assignee’s technical competencies but on their “softer” skills such as adaptability, cultural awareness, interpersonal skills, and actual willingness to work abroad. The success or failure of an assignment depends heavily on these factors. In many cases in the US, some expats get homesick within six months, assuming they’re coming alone.

It’s important to talk about money early in the process. After all, Anna is going to be uprooting herself from Canada to an Asian country, which would require serious adjustment. There has to be a policy in place that will enable them to easily determine the type of remuneration package its assignee will receive.

Said policies will take into account the assignment duration and location. No matter what remuneration approach the company decides, they will be aiming for the salary packages to be competitive.

Of course, the terms are different if Anna was assigned to the US. Still, she would be briefed about taxes and cost of living conditions. At this stage the terms and conditions of the assignment can be discussed with Anna. Even if she is not to return yet, it is crucial to talk to her about what will happen at the end of the assignment. Will Anna have a job upon her return or will she be sent on another assignment?

If Anna is ok with the terms and conditions, she will receive her assignment letter or contract and visit the assigned location to look at corporate apartments and schools, often with the help of a destination service provider. If her next assignment takes her to Northern California, California Corporate Housing can make her transition easier.

If Anna has concerns about accepting the assignment following her visit, the company may, either at its discretion or by following its policy exception system, add an incentive so she can finally sign on the dotted line; the rest of the relocation preparations kick in.

Then things get busy for the global mobility team. A host of specialists, providers, and consultants are called upon for their services and expertise in immigration compliance, medical checks, security, language, culture, and tax.

Relocation agents will then handle shipping arrangements and other physical aspects of the move while Anna waits for work permits and visa applications to be approved. When Anna and her family finally arrive in her designated location, another global mobility team will make sure that their move will go smoothly as planned. What happens in the new location will be tackled in the next blog piece–again, using an illustrated guide.