Expats a thing of the past

Multinational
employers have begun using “virtual” assignments, with managers using new
technology to handle overseas projects, a study of multinational companies has
found.

One-fifth
of respondents to a survey of global firms by HR consultancy ECA International
have managers running a project without being based in the country.
Video-conferencing is used in 60 per cent of these cases, though frequent
visits are also employed.

The
development reflects difficulties in persuading people to take up expatriate
placements, particularly in unattractive locations and where the spouse has a
career.

So-called
commuter assignments, with the employee working abroad on a Monday-to-Friday
basis, are also on the rise. They can involve huge distances, involving
Europeans working in China or Japan, and can last for years, said Barry Rodin
chief economist at ECA. “The air fares must be very high but nevertheless they
do it,” he told a London conference last week.

Nearly
three-quarters of failures of expatriate placements are due to personal
reasons, and less than a third because of pay, a PwC survey in 2000 found.

Cable
& Wireless has calculated that if a senior management expatriate placement
goes wrong, it costs the company £1m, David Appleby, international employment
policy manager at the telecoms firm, told the conference.

www.eca-international.com

By Philip Whiteley

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