Relocation opportunities are rising and companies around the world are becoming more adept at filling positions by drawing from a global workforce, according to new research by relocation consulting firms.
Motivated by a need to cut costs, fill temporary shortages and make expat lifestyles more appealing to employees, companies have reduced the traditional overseas tour of duty to less than a year. The average used to be between three and five years.
Such changes are in part aimed at nurturing talented female managers. Shorter stints that take less of a toll on the family allow women in particular to gain international experience they would otherwise have passed up, says Sue Evens, a director at Cartus Consulting.
“If half your workforce is women,” Evens says, “that is the talent base you will need to grow your people from.”
Cartus’ “Emerging Trends in Global Mobility” report showed a changing dynamic in the types of overseas assignments since the survey was last conducted three years ago. As of 2007, 56 per- cent of the overseas workforce is under age 40, and the expats are increasingly single (43 percent) and female (21 percent). That last figure is up from around 15 percent in 2004, according to Cartus.
In China, where talent shortages have given women more overseas opportunities, 28 percent are female.
“The face of the transferee has changed,” says Brenda H. Fender, director of global initiatives for Washington-based Worldwide ERC, a relocation consulting firm. “It’s not just Anglo and male. It’s all people from all countries—lower-level professionals and not just top-level people. Companies are going after specific skill sets.”
Today, the U.S. is the most common destination to send employees; within the next three years, China will become the top relocation destination, Evens says. Likewise, India is also emerging as a relocation destination.
Earlier this year, David Hickman, a solutions and alliances manager at Infosys, temporarily moved with his wife and two young children from Dallas to Bangalore, where the outsourcing company is based.
The three-month move was voluntary, and Hickman believes it will help him better understand the way Infosys operates. He also thinks the move endeared him to his Indian colleagues.
“I got a real feel for company culture and a great appreciation for how our company has grown up,” he says.
Perhaps most striking, both Evens and Fender say, is that global relocation activity has picked up everywhere. It’s not just U.S. companies sending Americans abroad. Companies surveyed by Cartus reported sending employees to 51 destinations, a 71 percent increase from just three years ago.
“There is just an increase in [relocation] activity globally,” Fender says. “And I think it’s due in part to the global competition for talent.”