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Case study: Inside Infineon's mobility assignments for junior employees

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After suspending its centralised global management trainee programme during the financial crisis in 2009, Infineon has recently overhauled the structures and gave its mobility programmes a more uniformed focus and a common name and identity. 

Stefan Piranty, director of HR and international assignments at Infineon Technologies, talks to Jerene Ang.

Being a global semiconductor company, employee mobility is an integral part of talent management for Infineon’s functionally driven business in the various business group divisions and operations clusters worldwide. However, employee mobility has many facets and an international assignment can serve many different purposes, says Stefan Piranty, director of human resources and international assignments at Infineon Technologies.

“The question whether to send an employee from one location to another is discussed on a case-by-case basis and must always fulfil business and/or developmental needs,” he says.

“At Infineon, we define short-term assignments as three to 12 months and long-term assignments as more than 12 to usually up to 36 months.”

While the company does not see an imminent and broadly perceived business need for potentially more cost-efficient alternatives to classical assignment types, it will be implementing a more cost-effective new training assignment policy which aims to offer an attractive and fair benefits package to predominantly more junior employees going on a three to 12-month assignment with a focus on receiving training.

“After we suspended our centralised global management trainee programme during the financial crisis in 2009, new decentralised trainee programmes serving local, regional or functional needs were started with only little guidance from HQ.”

Infineon, therefore, recently overhauled the structures and gave those existing – and any new programmes – a more uniformed focus and a common name and identity.

With international assignments having always been an integral part of such trainee programmes, the firm’s HR international assignments team used the opportunity to also review the terms and conditions of the trainees’ assignments – so far treated as regular short-term assignments.

“We jumped onto the trainee programme revision project and will implement a new training assignment policy with effect from October 1, 2016,” he says.

As the new training assignment policy is global and will predominantly be used for newly recruited graduates to become trainee programme participants, the company encountered very different perceptions of what such an international stint during a trainee programme may cost.

“For example, HQ managers in R&D and central functions were not as much concerned about the overall cost of the assignment as managers in some of our very competitive and more cost-conscious operations sites in Asia,” he says.

“The trade-off between ‘we want to get the best talent from the best universities for our trainee programmes’ versus ‘cost for an assignment abroad shall be low’ is not an easy one to overcome and the new training assignment policy is definitely a compromise.”

Under the ownership of the HR international assignments team, buy-in of the project from business stakeholders was ensured through the global HR business partner organisation.

“We involved our global HR business partner colleagues early and relied on their close contacts to the managers. We also shared project results with certain smaller sounding groups and tried to consider their feedback.”

While it is still too early to tell if there is actual cost savings with the new policy, he says cost projections based on a couple of real-life scenarios have shown that cost savings of between 20% to 25% compared with a classical short-term assignment is possible.

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