If you’re someone who travels regularly and flies economy, you’re probably familiar with the shrinking airline seats. Snacks are now for sale and free meals are of the past.

Flying economy today is about getting what you paid for – not more, and sometimes less, and it doesn’t always feel fair. However, when you are motivated to travel, as are most assignees of a mobility project, the lack of amenities and tight squeeze can be worth the wait.

In a new whitepaper, Lisa Johnson of Crown World Mobility’s consulting group explores four of the latest shifts in talent mobility, and identifies scenarios for companies to adopt them.

1. Long-term assignments (LTA) 

For decades, the LTA approach has been used for the majority of international assignments, but there's a lot more dissatisfaction from the business leaders paying the bills nowadays.

LTAs continue to cost between three and eight times an employee’s annual salary – depending on the home and host locations, the level of employee and their family size.

In the near future, LTAs will be used more selectively for VIP moves, strategic assignments, executives or highly specialised talent moving to a challenging location.

2. Non-assignment moves

A bi-product of the Millennial globe-trotting attitude is the emergence of employees finding jobs that they want regardless of location, driven by an 'I want adventure' attitude.

As a result, Crown has seen a rise in self-initiated moves and permanent transfers.

2a. Self-initiated moves

Self-initiated moves have been around for many years – but the drivers behind their recent popularity are new.

Originally, they were used for the rare employee who, for personal reasons such as a spouse's new job or an ageing parent, required a move to another office within the same company.

What’s different today, is that self-initiated moves are driven by a Millennial desire to seek rapid career changes. Companies are too flat to move up quickly – but move around? Now, that seems possible.

However, the immigration part of the equation has to be possible to even start the discussion. Basic self-initiated support is not about household goods shipments or housing allowances – but an airplane ticket, excess baggage and maybe a lump sum allowance. And the occasional tax and policy orientation.

This type of move really serves both the employee’s and the company’s needs. But what justifies the cost to the company is its value in retaining the employee.

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2b. Permanent transfers

A number of companies are tapping into permanent transfer policies over the traditional LTA, given that the employee receives very basic relocation support, and their status in the new location is that of a local employee.

The reasons include: less interest in equitability; managers saying: 'I want you to work for me if you’ll come'; the company might offer a few extras, such as Local Plus; and the company assumes the employee doesn’t need extra perks because of the career experience being offered.

3. Consecutive assignments

Employees are less likely to leave their home country for a temporary location and repatriate home again. They’ll often find there are no positions waiting for them in their home country.

As a result, they’re more likely to look for another position, in other parts of the organisation, giving rise to consecutive assignments.

Considerations for companies include:

  • The employee’s home-country support, such as maintaining a home or social security, needs to be discussed up front with expectations set.
  • Repatriation needs to be described accurately and reassessed with each new move. Eg, what will the home location be for 'home leave' and other such benefits?
  • Often, decentralised global companies offer benefits to certain employees moving to new countries at the end of each temporary assignment.
  • The families of employees on consecutive assignments are frequently considered expert expats or 'global nomads.' Often their children are highly sought after by universities – and for future international career opportunities.
It’s easy to see the benefits of this programme in companies with smaller, less visible, offices in geographically dispersed locations.

For example, an employee in an office in London or Hong Kong might gain a lot of cultural insight, having spent time in a smaller office in Vietnam, Italy or Costa Rica.

4. Talent swaps/ Chair swaps/ Seat moves 

An increasingly popular, lower cost, short-term solution, where employees are moved around using an approach that feels like an extended business trip.

For some companies, a chair swap is when two employees, from different parts of the organisation, temporarily switch roles for the short-term. Ideally, they should have a similar skill level and pay structure.

A variation of this is the temporary seat move. While still a new concept, and often unstructured, some companies have a formal, yet simple, programme – where an employee can be nominated, or nominate themselves, to spend anywhere from three to eight weeks in another country.

To do so, the employee must fill out a nomination form that outlines the assignment objectives, such as spending time with a certain team, working closer to the client HQ, shadowing a more experienced colleague.

At the end of their experience, employees must present the outcome, including how they met their assignment objectives, to the selection committee.

Adding an objective and formal nomination process ensures that the ROI is more than just an extended international holiday.

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