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How do you measure the success of your international assignments in creating and growing value for your organisation?

In spite of the good intentions of most planning for international assignments, research shows that a number of assignments actually reduce rather than create organisational value.

Too often international assignments fail and evidence shows that:

  • Assignees leave after their assignment
  • Assignments end prematurely
  • Employees refuse international assignments
  • Assignees return to jobs that do not use their skills
  • The estimated cost of a failed assignment is 2.5 times the annual salary cost

Perhaps the greatest loss of business value occurs at the completion of an international assignment. This most commonly arises in one of two ways;

  • First from failure to sustain the impact that the executive made during the assignment, and
  • Second from the loss of know how and proprietary knowledge as a result of failing to retain the executive when they return home.

Even though assignments are often for business critical projects, in many instances organisations fail to:

  • Develop a robust value generating skills framework
  • Set clear key performance indicators for assignees and all stakeholders
  • Have a coherent strategy to measure the link between skills capability, assignment roles and compensation packages.

In our view, for key executives, it is frequently the traditional process and approach to international employee mobility that undermine the very objectives they are intended to support.

All too often, international assignment management is focused purely on policy, cost and logistics. In fact, given that the policies usually relate to costs and logistics, and logistics are simply one category of cost, international assignment management can easily become a cost control exercise. While cost control is clearly an important consideration, it ignores by far the most important component of international executive mobility which is about growth and value creation measured by assignee satisfaction and programme success.

By contrast, a value-centric approach views the international assignment as a critical value generating business initiative in which the assignee is the engine of value creation. With this approach the costs of the assignment are no longer viewed on a stand alone basis as a number to be reduced but instead treated as one important component of an overall investment business case.

Furthermore, identification of the value generating potential of the initiative that the assignee will be responsible for provides a clear framework for incentive components of the assignment package.

In constructing the value equation underpinning an international assignment business case it is also essential to consider the value contribution that the executive is currently making as well as how they will contribute value following the completion of the assignment.

As a key business executive, the prospective assignee will already be responsible for considerable value generating activities, such as management of a business unit or responsibility for key clients. In seeking to transfer them to new international responsibilities it is critical to ensure that the new value creation activities do not occur to the detriment of the existing value generating activities.

International assignment management must therefore involve local transition management to ensure that existing sources of value are sustained and grown. Transitional arrangements may need advance preparation or involve establishing means by which the executive can retain involvement in certain activities, for example by maintaining contact with certain key client relationships.

Both problems require careful advance planning, regular review and assessment with continued evaluation of the drivers of value and the executive’s role in coordinating and growing value.

Dissipation of value from the initiative following the return of the executive can be avoided by careful transition planning, perhaps by including some limited continuing role for the executive. In addition, linking the executive’s incentive package to sustained value growth will encourage the executive to focus on embedding skills, processes or other value drivers into the initiative, rather than on short term results.

Today an organisation’s proprietary knowledge is more essential than ever before. Loss of a key individual could result in lost value in many ways including lost know-how and the loss of clients and employees that choose to follow the executive elsewhere. Such losses may often represent gains to a competitor!

A key to improving the success of your assignments is that you understand the interaction between corporate strategy objectives for assignments and assignment management strategic and operational objectives.

Therefore, we recommend you undertake a strategic review of your assignment management to evaluate how you measure the impact on the return on your investment in your programme in terms of:

  • Bottom line impact for home and host operations
  • Organisational growth
  • Employee satisfaction & retention

A strategic review will focus on:

  • Assignment strategy, metrics and process plan
  • Stakeholder sign-off on assignment plan
  • Assignment growth plan proposals
  • Assignment value growth actions

The objectives of the review are to help you better manage the success of your international assignments in terms of value creation and growth, not just cost control and transactional management.

If you would like an initial consultation, please call or email Alison Asher

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