Since 2017, there has been a notable change in the rationale for sending employees to work abroad, explains AXA. In 2017, it was to improve business operations (51 per cent), but in 2020, the priority changed to be about a global way of working and approach to business. In a positive change for the employee, the number of businesses prioritising sending employees abroad to meet lifestyle ambitions of the workforce had increased to 37 per cent in 2020’s research, from 23 per cent in 2017, AXA added.
More comprehensive benefits packages
According to AXA’s research, developing benefit packages that are consistent across different employee types and geographies was among the biggest challenges facing organisations in 2020 (at 52 per cent) compared with 2017 (when it sat at 45 per cent); as was meeting demands for a wide range of healthcare and wellbeing services (51 per cent, up from 34 per cent). However, HR decision-makers also noted that managing the costs of a comprehensive package was actually less challenging than in previous years.
Commenting on this change, Andy Edwards, Global Head of International Healthcare, AXA Global Healthcare, said: “We were particularly pleased to see a change in the challenges in developing healthcare packages. Emphasis is now less on managing cost and more on developing a package that meets a wider range of employee demand. This can only be of benefit for employees, as they look for more support from their employer. The concept of offering more specific benefits for individuals with different needs, while challenging for the manager to deliver, will support the specific needs of the employee wherever they are in the world.”
Shorter-term assignments to become more prevalent
What’s also interesting, as Edwards identifies, is that the desire to work abroad has not entirely dissipated over the last year: “The need for international working has not gone away since our initial report in 2017. If anything, the appetite for it has grown. Undoubtedly, the Covid-19 pandemic, which began as this research was being undertaken, will bring a new perspective to international assignments. But of those Global Mobility Managers we interviewed some weeks into the pandemic, many suggested that it wouldn’t necessarily change their business need for international assignments to take place.”
He continued: “Instead, it appeared to be the nature of the assignments that might evolve, with shorter-term assignments and focus on choosing the right person to send becoming even more prevalent. We might even see this evolution unfold differently in individual sectors, depending on their ability to deploy skills and resources when needed.”
Indeed, AXA’s study also revealed that over half of Mobility Managers now see international assignments as a route to career progression, with an assignment often ending in a promotion for the employee (up to 53 per cent from 42 per cent in 2017).
Overseas benefits needs to evolve as time goes on
“International working has no doubt been hit hard by the pandemic, creating huge uncertainty for those on assignment and those managing the process,” Edwards said. “As we move forward into 2021, and a new normal is established, we expect more focus to be upon who takes assignments and an increase in specific support to maximise the likelihood of the placement’s success.”