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  • The Past, Present and Future of International Relocation

The Past, Present and Future of International Relocation

Mobile employees comprised 38.8% of the global workforce in 2016 and will grow to 42.5% by 2022, according to Strategy Analytics. With increasing mobility, the ability to deploy talent where they are needed will increase as well, making international relocation a key industry moving forward. Plan Your Journey Now! 

Changing reasons for overseas assignments

Traditionally, overseas assignments were allocated to senior employees for growth and exposure in managing local operations. However, with changing employer and employee priorities, the reasons for sending employees overseas are evolving too.

Millennials are set to make up 75% of the global workforce by 2030 and will have a huge influence over mobility trends. In particular, this generation has a strong desire to take up overseas assignments, with many seeing this as a rite of passage. Higher salaries are not a key concern for them and instead, they are willing to work overseas simply for career development opportunities.

Employer priorities have also shifted, with business leaders ranking “developing future leaders”, “attracting and retaining top talent” and “developing a global mind-set” as the top reasons for global mobility in a recent Deloitte survey.

Marrying the needs of both employers and employees, there is a growing trend of overseas assignments for the purpose of employee career development. The more countries employees are sent to, the more exposure they get.

To groom future leaders, mobility programmes are now designed to send employees to as many countries as possible, even if the duration of the assignment is short.

Shorter and more frequent overseas assignments

According to an ECA International report, most overseas assignments in the last century were one-off 3-year assignments. Today, the trend has shifted and more expats are taking shorter-term, back-to-back assignments overseas.

Managed lump sum allowances

Given the shift in assignment duration and frequency, it is no longer practical for employers to manage employee moves. A solution to this is giving employees lump sum allowances and discretion to make the most out of the allowance. This enables employers to reduce resources needed for administering and managing employee moves, while containing costs. Employees also benefit from increased flexibility in planning their own relocation. However, this approach entails a high risk of employee error which may be costly to the company.

Striking a balance, managed lump sum payments are becoming more popular. With this approach, employees still have the discretion to spend their fixed allowances on their moves but must stay within policy boundaries set by employers.


Harnessing insights from data analytics, employers will be better able to set policies which create the most value for employees and the company.

For example, true assignment costs can be identified and processed along with other factors such as employee satisfaction scores and service providers’ cost data. By processing both cost and non-cost factors, employers will be able to set policies that achieve company objectives while meeting employees’ needs at the lowest cost.

Employees are also benefiting from technological advancements, since the growing comprehensiveness of online self-service options enable them to customise and manage their moves with ease.

As with seamlessly booking an accommodation on Airbnb, employees can now book international relocation services, survey their homes and receive quotes using just a smart device on a single aggregated platform. In addition, online self-service is available 24/7; a relief for busy expat professionals who rather not disrupt their schedules to arrange for surveyors on-site to measure the items in their home.

With dynamism in the global political, economic and demographic spheres, international relocation has to constantly innovate to enable moves that create value for both employers and employees.

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