For decades, long-term mobility assignments have been used for the majority of international relocations. However, there’s a lot more dissatisfaction from the business leaders paying the bills nowadays. 

Barbara Lam, manager of enterprise mobility for Asia Pacific, Avery Dennison talks about evolving the employee expatriation policy in accordance with business needs.

Before 2014, Avery Dennison, a worldwide packaging material supplier, had a mobility policy with a standard set of components for each assignee. Feedback from the business, however, pointed to changing needs – not all components were necessary for each assignee, given the need to balance individual needs with cost pressures.

With that feedback started the process of developing a new global policy matrix by Avery Dennison’s mobility team of three, headquartered in California with two members, one to support mobility for the EMEA region and one for Asia Pacific.

In charge of the latter is Barbara Lam, manager of enterprise mobility for Asia Pacific, who recalls the first step was to talk to the top global management and get buy-in before implementing it regionally. “I explained to my key HR leaders in the region what we were doing, how and why this was going to help us move in a more cost-efficient way,” she says.

What ensued was the development of a new mobility strategy comprising three types of policies – long-term (more than 12 months), short-term (three to 12 months), permanent relocation and rotational for trainee programmes; and three types of compensation packages – full, basic and light.

“These are tailored based on the seniority and specific needs of the assignee, and the business needs. This approach has helped us lower the cost for the business, and accommodate the individual needs. We will continue to review the policy based on the feedback we receive,” she says.

Barbara Lam, Avery Dennison


Implementation of this policy required close collaboration with business unit HR representatives and the business units, especially some countries within the 16 covered under Asia Pacific, for which it was the first time handling mobility cases. “We spent a lot of time explaining and handholding them, which is worth it because then they know exactly what they need to do.”

Two years down, with more than 30 assignees being managed in the region, the real test of effectiveness of the policy is “repeat customers”, Lam explains. “The volume of assignees hasn’t decreased, and the business keeps coming back to us, and has welcomed our programme.”

In addition, Avery Dennison conducts regular business reviews with its global service provider TheMIGroup to not only stay on top of costs, but also assignee satisfaction. Lam and her team also organise regular catch-ups with HR leaders, as well as speak to the assignees both before and after a relocation to gauge their happiness.

“If they are not happy about something, they will say it diplomatically,” she quips.

Lead photo / iStock