By Daniel Hunter

The complexities of operating a global workforce in 2013 pose a labyrinth of challenges to both employers and employees. Mobilising Talent: The Global Mobility Challenge Survey, conducted by Ipsos and jointly sponsored by the leading accounting and consulting network BDO, seeks to uncover employees’ desires and reservations around international relocation.

Historically, the main concern for the employer has been the cost of moving an employee abroad, with issues ranging from reconciling tax and payroll issues, to compensation incentives and assignment structuring. The survey reveals that understanding employee sentiment may help alleviate some employer concerns and encourage the right employee to make the move.

“While favourable compensation increases can often entice an employee to move abroad, there are a number of other incentives that employers can offer that will reduce the cost of international relocation to the company and make for a happier and more productive employee,” said Donna Chamberlain, managing principal in the Expatriate Tax practice at BDO USA. “However, the only way for an employer to effectively determine what those alternative incentives may be is to know what drives employee behaviour.”

The survey finds that employees from every geographic location overwhelmingly selected English speaking countries as their desired work relocation destination, with the United States (34 per cent) ranking first, followed by the United Kingdom (22 per cent), Canada (20 per cent) and Australia (20 per cent). The guarantee that they could move back to their current role/country after two years with further relocation assistance (45 per cent), was the number one incentive.

“Fear of the unknown is impacting employees’ willingness to work abroad, from language barriers to job security after taking an international assignment,” said Andrew Bailey, partner in the Expatriate Tax practice at BDO LLP in the UK.

“Despite industry or sector, companies need to be flexible in their approach to dealing with specific individuals, as well as put in place broad HR policies that address employee concerns.”

Willingness to take a foreign work assignment is not the same around the globe. There are certain geographic locations that have a concentration of employees who are eager to work abroad. The survey shows that employees from Latin America (34 per cent) and the Middle East and Africa (32 per cent) are the most likely to relocate internationally for work. However, employees who say they are very likely to take the assignment are significantly less in Asia Pacific (24 per cent), Europe (21 per cent) and North America (20 per cent).

Not all employees are resistant to an international work assignment. The survey finds that there is a group of people who are eager to take foreign work assignments. This demographic consists of a mixed group, which includes senior executives/decision makers (30 per cent), people under the age of thirty-five (28 per cent), men (27 per cent), low income earners (27 per cent) and those who are not married (27 per cent).

Employees in different industries show a varied amount of eagerness to work aboard. People working in telecommunications and information technology (28 per cent) and construction (28 percent) are most disposed to consider an international move for work, while only 25 per cent of employees in commercial/retail and 23 per cent of employees in education and medical sectors are very likely to consider international work relocation.

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