Globalised, mobile workforce exacerbates HR/IT problems

21 Sep 2010

The needs of global, mobile and flexible workers are exacerbating the challenge of providing a right-sized workplace infrastructure for a reasonable cost, a new Economist Intelligence Unit study has found.

International companies are expecting to post many more executives abroad in the next five years, according to a new research report, “Up or Out: Next Moves for the Modern Expatriate”, from the Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by Regus.

Regus, one of the world’s largest providers of workplace solutions, has four offices in Ireland and more than 1,000 Irish customers.

With demand stagnating in western markets, the pressure to expand into China, India and other major emerging markets is intensifying. Almost four out of 10 (39pc) companies plan to increase their expatriate staff over the next five years, according to the survey of 418 senior executives with responsibility for overseas offices.

“Expatriate strategies provide an insight into broader trends in globalisation, whether it’s the regions companies are investing in or the daily operational challenges involved in setting up an office,” says Paul Lewis, managing editor of Executive Briefing at the Economic Intelligence Unit and editor of the report.

New ways of working

Getting the right talent in the right place for the right length of time involves an array of decisions and experimentation around the design of expatriate assignments, and the location and nature of these roles.

“This survey shows that globalisation is forcing companies to review their approach to where they locate their operations, and how they manage human resources and property,” said Mark Dixon, Global CEO of Regus plc.

“The needs of global, mobile and flexible workers are exacerbating the challenge of providing a right-sized workplace infrastructure for a reasonable cost. By using this survey to explore the pressures faced by businesses and their expatriate staff, we can help them deal with the challenges,” Dixon added.

Other key findings of the Up or Out: Next Moves for the Modern Expatriate report include:

  • Executives are keen to be part of the global and mobile working trend. Four in five executives believe that an assignment in a “major emerging market” aids career progression.
  • Companies are far more likely to send expatriate staff to China, India and other Asian countries than to any other emerging market region. The Middle East, Russia and Eastern Europe combined are the next most common destinations.
  • Around three in five expatriates believe that their corporate HQ does not sufficiently grasp the nature of the local business environment. One in three complains of excessive interference.
  • More than half of expatriates are sent to a particular destination for a period of between two and five years. But there has been a rise in flexible working practices such as short-term and “commuter” assignments.
  • Nearly three-quarters of survey respondents believe that “cultural sensitivity” is the most important attribute of an expatriate.
John Kennedy
By John Kennedy

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist. He joined Silicon Republic in 2002 to become the fulcrum of the company’s news service He was recipient of the Irish Internet Association’s NetVisionary Technology Journalist Award 2005 and Siliconrepublic.com has been awarded ‘Best Technology Site’ at the Irish Web Awards seven times. In 2011 he received the David Manley Award commending him for his dedication to covering entrepreneurs. His interests include all things technological, music, movies, reading, history, gaming and losing the occasional game of poker.

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