create destination excitement to accelerate international talent mobility

March 28, 2016

Quality of life is critical to employees moving abroad

We recently reported in the Randstad Sourceright 2016 Talent Trends Report that employers are increasingly promoting the non-monetary benefits their companies offer to attract high-quality talent, and two of the strongest desires among workers, especially younger ones, are career progression, international opportunities and a healthy work-life balance. That’s why it’s critically important for organizations to create opportunities for cross-border assignments that are both rewarding and in desirable locations. 

Companies often fail to stress these opportunities as part of their employer brand messaging. However, mobility is an essential part of the employee value proposition, especially for workers who want to both advance their careers and create excitement in their personal lives. Offered the right opportunities, many workers would forego competing offers with larger financial incentives for a chance to see the world.

When deciding on assignments abroad, it’s not surprising that quality of life is one of the most important considerations for many workers. I know it was for me having relocated from Sydney to Singapore and now to Amsterdam over the past five years. On both occasions, moving for a new and exciting position was the easy decision. Deciding to relocate and preparing myself for new cities, cultures and where to live was often the deciding factor.

In a recent study conducted by benefits consulting firm Mercer on cities offering the best living standards, the firm concluded that the comfort of workers and their family remains a cornerstone of recruitment and retention strategies. It noted that a key component of quality of living is personal safety, which is a priority for most expats.

Mercer’s 18th annual Quality of Living survey provides a benchmark for relocation programs by ranking 230 cities around the world based on a number of factors including safety, available health services, costs and others. It enables companies to assess the cost of relocation such as premiums associated with attracting talent to less desirable areas. More importantly, it helps employers determine whether the location of their operations helps or hinders their local employer brand strategy.

For instance, if you were trying to fill positions in Vienna, you should celebrate because Mercer ranks it No. 1 in living standards in the world — the seventh consecutive year for the Austrian capitol. On the other hand, interest in vacancies in Baghdad probably won’t overwhelm hiring managers with internal applicants as it is ranked at the very bottom at 230.

Rounding out the top 10 are Zurich (2), Auckland (3), Munich (4), Vancouver (5), Dusseldorf (6), Frankfurt (7), Geneva (8), Copenhagen (9) and Sydney (10) – with my current hometown of Amsterdam coming in at number 11. With so many of its cities in the top 20, Europe remains one of the most desirable regions for expats. Citing political turmoil, Mercer said the bottom 10 were mostly located in Africa and the Middle East.

Big cities such as New York, London and Singapore may have wide name recognition but they don’t rank near the top for living standards. Having lived in Singapore myself, I know cost of living in the big financial capitals can potentially be prohibitive for some. Rather, smaller metro areas such as Auckland, New Zealand and Canadian cities Vancouver and Toronto were all ranked within the top 20.

Solidifying your employee value proposition (EVP)

As talent scarcity increases, your organization must become more innovative in nurturing and deploying talent. Companies around the globe are stepping up their leadership development programs by undertaking talent mapping exercises to identify high-potential individuals with executive potential. For you to retain this talent, the lure of exciting overseas assignments is one way to satisfy both their professional and personal requirements.

To optimize results of your mobility program, you must clearly communicate its benefits as part of your EVP. This will help differentiate your employer brand from those of competitors for both internal and external talent audiences. By letting employees and prospective talent know they have many choices in a career within your organization, you strengthen your EVP and your ability to recruit and retain talent, while at the same time building your company’s global mindset and knowledge.

For your operations in high living standards locations, this benefit should be clearly woven into your EVP messaging. The allure of relocation to Vienna or Munich — cities offering a high level of personal safety, many conveniences, cultural attractions and other personal amenities — holds a powerful appeal. Even when a position is located in a less desirable location, employers should stress the professional experience to be gained through the assignment.

Your EVP is a blend of many factors, including the highly important work-life balance that today’s talent prizes. By promoting that their career path with you could include stops at some great locations around the world and the long-term benefits of cross-cultural professional learning experiences, you will succeed what compensation cannot: creating a sense of adventure in your workers’ daily lives.

Top 5 tips for preparing your talent for international mobility

Provide local support

Provide a good support network for your employee’s relocation

Manage expectation

Ensure you have a strong orientation program pre- and post-move

Leverage your local EVP

Clearly communicate how the assignment is beneficial for the employee’s careers

Emphasize financial incentives

A generous compensation package can provide motivation

Create career clarity

Provide clarity on career progression beyond the initial assignment

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