Short-term or long-term assignments?

We all know how expensive long-term assignments can be, not to mention the fact they are potentially disruptive to families and dual career couples. So, are short-term assignments a more attractive option, that will continue to gain popularity? According to Santa Fe’s 2019 Global Mobility Survey, 70% of businesses initiated short-term assignments in 2018 compared to 63% initiating long-term assignments. This is the first time we have seen short-term assignments overtake long-term (and all other assignment types).

Short-term assignments as an option: When we talk about short-term assignments, we mean less than 12 months, and usually more than one month. In the past, short-term assignments have primarily been used by employers to resource specific projects or to fill a short-term skills gap. This was often quite reactive. But, more and more, as employers recognise the value of global experience, short-term assignments are being used in a more pro-active and considered way. A short-term assignment is a fantastic tool to develop talent and at the same time enrich the global experience within the organisation. It also can be a great alternative for employees unable right now, perhaps for family reasons, to take a long-term assignment but would still like, and would benefit from the opportunity to work elsewhere. Win-Win for the employee and for the company – the employee get’s the development experience, the company fills a business need, and there is less disruption to the home country who may have needed to back fill a longer assignment.

Is this the end of the long-term assignment? Not at all! In fact, our survey shows that there will be increased use of long-term assignments in the next 24 months as compared to last year. There will always be a business need for long-term assignments, but having more flexibility in the types of assignments that can be offered (not all need to be long-term) means that employers can be more discerning about when to use them, and who to send. Having a pool of talent who are willing and able to take longer-term assignments will address business needs, give employees global experience, and will reduce the need for expensive negotiations that can take place when it’s the only option. And, in many cases, long-term assignments can be less disruptive for employees who’s circumstances would benefit from time to settle in to a location, rather than move too regularly.

In summary, short-term assignments are on the rise as a great way to address both business and employee needs. This enables long-term assignments to be used more thoughtfully which can achieve better outcomes for all.

Source: Santa Fe Relocation GMS 2019: Revision, Mobility through the looking glass.

Download and read the full report: 2019 Global Mobility Survey ‘REVISION: Mobility through the looking glass’.

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