International assignments could cost the earth – but firms are in the dark

Employers are failing to comprehensively measure the costs and return on investment (ROI) for staff sent on international assignments, a report has warned.

Benefits consultancy Mercer’s International Assignments Survey 2008 collected data from more than 200 multinational firms. It found that companies have only a ‘fair estimation’ of the cost of their international assignments.

The majority cannot accurately measure their ROI, with seven in 10 stating that measuring the financial benefits of international assignments was a challenge. The primary reasons were the lack of appropriate measurement tools, decentralised data and time constraints.

Only 17% of respondents had reasonably accurate figures to calculate the cost of their international assignment programme, and one in five said that they were not in a position to provide any figures.

Matthew Hunt, principal in Mercer’s international benefits team, said: “Expatriate assignments cost between 1.5 and four times what a local employee would cost. They represent a major investment, particularly those that include family, so measurement is vital.”

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