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The need to review global mobility policies

Global mobility (GM) is no longer expected to act as merely a support function. Instead, there is an increasing expectation for GM teams to act as advisors and partners to the business to help manage their international workforce. 

A key focus area for every business is to maintain its competitive advantage and GM is no different, especially as four-fifths of participating companies in ECA’s GM Organisation survey believe international assignments are critical for their company’s growth. 

Therefore, adopting a proactive approach in reviewing policies to ensure they are competitive and fit for purpose is a key priority for global mobility. Doing so can also help the GM function address some key mobility challenges, ranging from controlling costs and managing exceptions to ensuring compliance.

Policy reviews can help GM to:

  • Ensure assignment policies are competitive in attracting, mobilising and retaining talent.
  • Make assignments cost-effective and commercially viable.
  • Ensure legal and fiscal compliance.

Staying competitive in attracting and retaining talent 

The fight for talent continues to be a key issue for HR in today’s economic and political climate. Companies worldwide are considering a variety of initiatives to attract and retain talent - ranging from offering best-in-market compensation to providing ongoing career development programmes. 

Consequently, talent management functions have started working closely with GM functions to proactively leverage international assignments as a pathway to develop employee careers. Policy reviews routinely comprise of policy benchmarks to not only compare the policy with the market to stay competitive, but to also identify best practices followed across the assignment lifecycle to attract and retain talent.

Companies have realised that merely providing a role to return to will not help retain talent, as this only offers job security rather than career development to the returning assignee. Hence, to retain talent and maximise return on investment (ROI), policy reviews focus on ways of enhancing the partnership between GM and talent management functions to identify roles for assignees at the end of their assignment which are in line with the knowledge and experience gained whilst on assignment. 

Strategic business partnering - aligning policies to evolving business needs

GM functions should periodically review their mobility policies to ensure they align with changes in the company’s business needs. When businesses need change, perhaps due to mergers and acquisitions or expansion into new countries, leading to frequent international or cross border travel, the need to consider alternative assignment types may arise. 

In such cases, continuing with a ‘one-size-fits-all’ policy approach, such as only using the traditional long-term policy for all business needs, will not offer the best fit and it may be necessary to introduce new policy types linked to business purpose, such as project-based, rotational or commuter assignments. 

Segmenting policies and expanding the policy suite based on business needs helps build credibility as it sends out a clear message within the company that the GM function is a strategic business partner and is fully aligned to business objectives. Doing so helps create a policy framework which is fit for purpose and strategically caters to business needs, whilst continuing to attract and retain talent.  

Controlling costs

GM functions are increasingly being tasked with identifying ways to control assignment costs. Policy reviews can help deliver cost savings to the business by: 

  • segmenting policies based on business drivers and the employee’s personal development needs. This provides companies with the opportunity to vary benefit entitlements based on their strategic or developmental importance;
  • reviewing traditional approaches to remunerating assignees and mapping alternative reward and recognition practices against business drivers;
  • identifying common exceptions and formalising them in the policy, instead of having to review and manage them on a case-by-case basis;
  • optimising the delivery of assignment benefits and weighing any administrative savings resulting from changing the method of delivering them (e.g. cash vs benefit in kind) against possible increases in tax costs.

Ensure compliance

The increased scrutiny on compliance is triggering the need for GM professionals to review their mobility programmes for potential risks. 

Policy reviews afford GM the opportunity to make their policies more robust to cope with the ever-changing business landscape. For example, changes in immigration legislation, such as increases in the minimum salary thresholds, may give rise to more companies having to rethink their compensation approach for workers originating from low-wage countries if they are to successfully secure work permits for them. Likewise, changes in fiscal legislation (for instance, the UK’s Short-term Business Visitor, or STBV, directive) have forced many GM functions to include extended business visitor policies in their policy frameworks to ensure such travel is properly monitored for compliance. Political gamechangers such as Brexit may impact commuting arrangements between the EU and the UK and affect business continuity.

The review process 

The process of reviewing a policy suite can go through various phases. ECA partners with GM by offering a modular policy review process that can be fully customised to suit business needs.

Internal audit

The effectiveness of a policy can be measured through satisfaction surveys aimed at identifying the internal factors impacting international assignments by using targeted feedback from both assignees and key stakeholders.

Assignee satisfaction survey

Satisfaction surveys are useful tools in providing an anonymous health-check of a policy. Feedback, either positive or negative, can help GM to make the necessary improvements in assignee support and bring policies in line with business needs.  

Stakeholder satisfaction survey

Incorporating feedback from stakeholders involved in the management and administration of international assignments early in the review process helps gain their buy-in on any policy changes being proposed. 

In addition to assessing stakeholder satisfaction levels, such surveys also measure the effectiveness of assignment processes and help define accountabilities of different stakeholders involved in the assignment lifecycle. Such surveys also help GM professionals to gauge if the policy framework provides the right mix of policies to support business growth and help identify any business risks that need to be addressed. 

External benchmark

A competitive benchmarking exercise can be a critical component of a mobility review initiative. Additionally, as companies increasingly aspire to align GM and talent management goals, it can be critical to uncovering practices followed by the market to attract and retain talent. 

Benchmarks provide valuable insights into how policies compare with the market and help identify areas which are above, below or in line with market practices. Coupled with expert commentary from ECA’s team of consultants, benchmarking empowers a GM function charged with developing new policies or determining opportunities to improve existing ones with the necessary knowledge and advice to execute policy changes based on defensible and competitive data.

Policy workshop 

Policy workshops provide the opportunity to effectively engage with stakeholders in the review process. Workshops can be used as a mechanism for not only communicating the results of benchmarks and satisfaction surveys with stakeholders but to also gain further insights from them on key challenges faced in the management and administration of the international assignment lifecycle. 

Cost modelling

With controlling costs being a key mobility challenge, cost modelling exercises are necessary to establish current and desired market positioning and competitiveness of an international remuneration model. It is critical for a company to know what its cost profile is and where it needs to be. 

Such exercises can help compare the cost impact of a variety of remuneration approaches, such as the home-based, or the host-based, or the local-plus approach. This can help the company decide on the remuneration approach it would like to use and to consider the option of varying their approach based on assignment type to make assignments cost-effective.

Policy framework

Policy frameworks provide a quick referral guide to stakeholders as they encapsulate core benefit entitlements based on each policy type. They help managers and GM functions to quickly compare benefit entitlements available under each policy type and can guide the development of policies and procedures to ensure those documents are consistent and user-friendly.


This often-ignored phase is critical to the success of the policy review process as it is important to manage the overall transition from the old to the new policy. To ensure effective implementation of the new policy, mobility teams need to build tools that:

  • Support effective communication: it is important to keep all stakeholders informed of the changes resulting from the review process, of how these will impact them and the various types of support tools, such as training, available to enable them to make this transition.
  • Promote governance: developing multiple policies can make it complex to map the right policy to the business driver for an assignment. Using a simple tool such as a policy decision tree allows GM teams to analyse a number of variables, including assignment duration, business purpose and number of dependants, in order to choose the most appropriate compensation package.
  • Ensure compliance: establishing roles and responsibilities is a helpful compliance management tool. These matrices are particularly useful to clarify ambiguities and establish clear roles, responsibility and accountability for each stakeholder in the assignment process.  

Impact of policy reviews

Before Review After Review
Policies not aligned to business needs Segmented policies aligned to business needs
Ensuring compliance is a constant worry Fully compliant GM policy suite
Difficulty in getting employees to go on assignment Ability to attract talent by addressing mobility barriers
Business complaining assignments are too costly Controlling costs by making policies cost-effective
Too many policy exceptions Stakeholder buy in resulting in reduced policy exceptions
Failed assignments / early repatriations Successful repatriations and talent retention
GM function not involved - lack of visibility in the business GM Function is a strategic business partner


Our Consultancy & Advisory team can help you design or review existing policies, run assignment cost projections, as well as calculate weekly or monthly allowances for your short-term international assignees.

  Please contact us to speak to a member of our team directly.

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