Is it time for HR to start building global assignments and international resourcing strategies that make full use of millennials in the workforce?
If the findings from Deloitte’s Managing the Talent Crisis in Global Manufacturing report are anything to go by, the answer is definitely “yes”.
The report revealed that younger generations of the workforce will account for 40% to 60% of international assignments by 2026. With the number of international assignments also set to surge over the next 10 years, millennials will change from being a minority in the workforce, to becoming the main generation group.
In order for businesses to maintain their global operations and ambitions, they must begin to develop global mobility strategies that incorporate the millennial generation.
At present, around one in 10 of today’s international assignees is a millennial.
Most of these younger assignees are from companies that align the role of mobility to the company’s talent management practices.
In fact, 22% of these firms doubled the percentage of international assignees between the ages of 20 and 29 years old last year.
For millennials, a global assignment is a career move that they typically don’t want to let slip.
A recent survey entitled, Millennials at Work: Reshaping the Workplace, discovered that this generational group has a strong appetite for working overseas.
Seventy-one percent of respondents said they expected and wanted to undertake an international assignment during their career.
This should be great news for many employers looking for global growth.
However, millennials placed fully-developed-economies like the US (58%), UK (48%) and Australia (39%) at the top of their destination wish list.
Only 11% said they were willing to work in India, 22% in Hong Kong and just two percent in mainland China.
Over half said they would be willing to work in a less developed country, without specifying which, in order to develop their career further.
Breaking the trend
According to the Tomorrow’s Traveller Millennials and the Future of Business Travel Survey, millennials are more likely to have travelled for business in the past two years, as compared to those aged 35 and above.
Twenty-four percent of millennial respondents stated they had done so, as opposed to 15% of the older age group.
This was especially evident with the fact that relocation packages are now being customised to the needs of the younger generation, James Foo, Head of Group HR at ABR Holdings, notes.
“In the past, relocation packages were typically offered to middle or senior level executives with their spouse and children,” he explains.
“As mobility assignments continue to rise, millennial employees – including those who are single, young and childless – are mobile and eager to relocate at any time.”
Ilja Rijnen, Regional HR Director, Asia-Pacific at The Edrington Group, echoes this sentiment.
“Millennials have fewer responsibilities for trailing families and spouses, so are easier to relocate. But they are easier to alienate as well (as their home base is less stable),” he explains.
“Both factors should be taken into consideration when defining a package.”
Mobility patterns are becoming increasingly complex.
Organisations are also recognising the importance of regional roles in Asia-Pacific business, a survey by PwC has found.
It suggests this is the direct result of a relative shortage of experienced and skilled talents at senior levels, as well as the pressure on firms to have footprints in several countries to ensure organisational success.
With millennials slowly forming the bulk of international assignees, Foo says HR should take into account several considerations.
One of the pointers is to allow flexible working conditions such as working off-site where reporting to an office may not be necessary and where staff are able to deliver their work on time.
He also advises HR to offer flexible relocation packages to entice the younger group.
“Flexible packages are increasingly popular to the millennial workforce, as they allow the organisation to tailor to the real needs, compared to the traditional relocation package,” he shares.
“Traditionally, the relocation package will list the individual allowance such as shipment, air-passage, housing, and transportation. Flexi-relocation packages classify just one or two lump sum amounts and allow assignees to customise and manage their own living.”
Due to their age, HR often leaves out spousal or family packages for millennials.
As such, Rijnen suggests there ought to be more focus on personal experience, instead of a total family package.
This could be in the form of membership to local sports clubs, or other leisure activities.
“Most millennials have limited life and work experience. Both pose a risk of rapid alienation or work ineffectiveness in a new culture as there is no stable home base or experience to fall back on,” he explains.
In addition, Foo says HR should aim to understand the demographics of their workforces and their respective needs before making any relocation offers. A one-size-fits-all approach will rarely work.
One strategy he stresses upon is to design a feedback platform where employees can voice out their concerns, contents and potential areas of improvement.
“This group of employees requires guidance and we need to give them the information and resources they need so that they can quickly fit into their new environment and focus on the job,” Foo explains.
Rijnen also emphasises the importance of understanding what drives the employee’s individual purpose and career motivation, so as to establish a true partnership with the organisation.
He adds that HR can conduct regular follow ups to ensure that mutual expectations and objectives are aligned.
A growing industry
Nowadays, fully-equipped serviced apartments are considered useful for relocation and extended stays.
The Global Serviced Apartment Report revealed that employees who have been relocated or assigned short-term projects form the bulk of corporate business for serviced residence.
In the UK alone, 77% of British business travellers noted that they have stayed in service apartments for up to five times a year for trips that last for seven nights.
Interestingly, 79% of these respondents prefer serviced residences to hotels.
The rise in demand has also been proven by the number of serviced apartments that has been popping up in major cities globally.
A survey conducted by the Association of Serviced Apartment Providers discovered that 48 serviced apartment operators have expansion targets around the world.
This is alongside an anticipated global increase in supply of 145,000 serviced apartment units through to 2018.
The core market for business travel is growing at a robust pace within Asia as foreign direct investments continue to stream in and companies continue to expand their footprint in the region, the report showed.
China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia are the main source of markets for serviced apartments in the Asia-Pacific region.
Closer to home, Singapore is witnessing an increase in competition with more players entering into the market.
In 2017, the Ascott will open its eighth property in the premier shopping and lifestyle district of Orchard Road.
Besides catering to expatriates, the new serviced residence will appeal to business travellers in the medical line as it is near local prominent medical centres.
Following the launch of its pilot project entitled, “Mercedes Benz Living @ Fraser apartments” at Fraser Suites Kensington London, Frasers Hospitality has now brought the experience across the globe and into Asia.
Business travellers will be able to leverage on a range of Mercedes-Benz themed lifestyle offerings.
This includes a chauffeur-driven airport pick up in a Mercedes-Benz S or E class as well as the use of the Mercedes-Benz Trek bicycles to explore Singapore’s East Coast.
Working with serviced apartments
Foo says HR has a vital role to play in liaising with serviced apartments for relocation packages.
“HR needs to work with the selected serviced apartment to ensure it provides not only accommodation with basic facilities and amenities, but also, accessibility and environment safety,” he says.
“We will make recommendations with detailed information and website addresses for the employees to consider, as well as the services that the apartment provides to help them assimilate into their new location.”
In the constant war for talent today, where millennials are moving from job to job at a quicker rate compared to other generations, Foo adds that offering relocation assignments is part of a strategic retention move.
He notes that attracting and retaining the millennial workforce in the global mobility will play an important role, both today and in the near future.
Millennials are not primarily swayed by luxuries such as fine dining and exclusive comfort when they are on the move around the world.
Almost two-thirds (62%) of them that have travelled for business in the last two years place a huge importance on high-speed internet connections, according to a survey by YouGov.
Of this group, 51% stated that they valued a high-speed broadband connection, as compared to 39% of older travellers.
Interestingly, another 46% of the younger generation was more enthusiastic about future innovations, with an appetite for access to technology in their rooms.
Ben Harper, Sales Director of The Serviced Apartment Company (SACO) said, “Our new research findings serve to underpin the travel behaviours of millennials and consequently what we foresee for the future of business travel.”
“SACO knows that by 2020, millennials will represent over half the workforce, and therefore their insights into technological innovations and what they want from a serviced apartment is gold dust.”
Top three relocation barriers
Organisations may face several challenges when relocating their employees overseas, regardless of the generational group involved.
According to the Trends in Global Relocation: Biggest Challenges Survey, some challenges relocation managers faced are:
A seasoned millennial business traveller
Despite the fact that she is just a few years into her role, Sophie Kwok, Transition Manager, HR Strategic Change Programs – Small and Midsized Countries, UBS, has travelled to several countries for work purposes.
More recently, she has been to Beijing and Shanghai to facilitate the set-up of a new business university as well as to kick start a number of flagship training programmes.
Along with the organisation’s expansion and numerous initiatives, Kwok was tasked to run the programmes in China and to serve as a bridge between the regional team and the local team.
In this role, she also liaised with external training vendors and sourced for new partnerships.
Thus far in 2016, Kwok notes she has visited these countries for nine weeks over the two trips and foresees herself returning there for at least another two or three times this year.
One platform she notes that has helped her to prepare for her stay overseas is the UBS travel portal which has made it more convenient to book an appropriate accommodation.
For more complex trips where visas are required, she receives support from the HR department and from external agencies.
However, Kwok would often opt to stay in a serviced apartment if her stay exceeds a certain number of days.
When narrowing her choices of serviced residences, Kwok would often take into consideration the proximity of the location.
“Proximity to the office is the most important factor,” she says.
“I tend to work long hours during business trips. It would be even more exhausting if more time is wasted on my commute to work.”