The realm of corporate relocation services has transformed in recent years, giving rise to new threats and opportunities.
One major shift: "Relocation" has been rebranded "mobility." Another change: Traditional three-year "expatriate" assignments have been joined by several alternative options that help companies get the talent they need where they need it in a quick and effective manner.
Regarding threats, some new locations have moved to the top of the "highest-risk" destination list maintained by International SOS, a global firm that provides local expertise, preventative advice and emergency assistance to clients with employees abroad. The highest-risk countries include: Nigeria, Pakistan, India, Mexico and Russia.
The nature of international business risks is changing, as is the male/female ratio of international business travelers. A recent International SOS survey indicates that European-based international business travelers reported a higher occurrence of threats related to travel-related infections and road accidents during the past three years. (Global business features more germs and more aggressive driving, perhaps.)
The portion of global mobile female business professionals is also rising: Women now comprise 45 percent of the corporate travel market, and International SOS reports a 20 percent increase in the number of female travellers calling one of its assistance centers for medical and travel-security advice from 2011 to 2012.
Managing mobility risk represents a growing concern for more companies as the number of organizations (of all sizes) with global operations continues its steady rise. A 2012 KPMG survey of 1,150 senior leaders in mid-sized companies based in the U.S., Canada, Brazil and Mexico finds that:
- 75 percent of mid-market executives believe that global expansion is integral to their company's growth strategy (up from 53 percent in 2009 and 37 percent in 2007 in previous KPMG surveys on the topic);
- 80 percent of U.S. mid-market executives think their global expansion plans have been successful in the last two years (up from 50 percent in 2009 and 43 percent in 2007);
- 78 percent of U.S. executives say they plan to increase non-domestic revenues from foreign operations and customers (up significantly from 66 percent in 2009).
The allure of global operations is boosting the frequency of international assignments: 57 percent of the 122 international mobility managers who responded to Cartus' 2012 Trends in Global Relocation study said they expected to increase relocation volumes during the next two years, and 74 percent of these respondents reported that relocation volumes had increased in the past two years.
The structure of assignments companies rely on to get their professionals overseas is also evolving, according to Weichert Relocation Resources Inc. (WRR), which earlier this year published a report highlighting several alternative assignments (to traditional two- to three-year expat assignments), including among others:
Commuter Assignments: An international assignment involving travel between the home and destination countries for a specified number of work days per month, with a set maximum of return trips home.
Extended Business Travel (EBT): an international assignment of one to three weeks in duration.
Rotational Assignments: A series of two or more international assignments, which last one to three months; in between assignments, the employee may return home for a brief stint.
Given the rapidly changing nature of global business –and the risks within various locations – it behooves mobility, risk management and security professionals to develop formal mobility risk management programs and to actively manage these efforts. The following International SOS best-practices recommendations from the "Duty of Care and Travel Risk Management Global Benchmarking Study" are a good place to begin:
- Increase awareness
- Plan with key stakeholders
- Expand policies and procedures
- Conduct due diligence
- Communicate, educate and train
- Assess risk prior to every employee trip
- Track traveling employees at all times
- Implement an employee emergency response system
- Implement additional management controls
- Ensure vendors are aligned.