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Mobility Program Evaluation Checklist: Success Through Strategic Planning and Resource Allocation



In our globalized business landscape, international assignments remain a cornerstone of talent management strategies. And the responsibility for HR and mobility program professionals to orchestrate seamless transitions for employees stepping into roles on foreign soil is pivotal. The success of these endeavors hinges on a multitude of factors, including strategic planning, resource allocation, and policy implementation.

Enter the Mobility Program Evaluation Checklist: Assessing the Need for External Vendors. This resource has been crafted to provide visibility into the intricacies of setting up and executing a robust global mobility program. Whether you're a seasoned mobility professional or navigating a mobility program for the first time, this checklist promises to be your compass—helping you ascertain when external vendors might be the key to unlocking the full potential of your global workforce along with tasks to consider at each stage of a global assignment.

Planning a strategic resource assessment

Before you consider the involvement of external vendors, you first need to examine your organization's internal capabilities. Are your internal resources armed with the expertise, tools, and experience to handle the intricate tasks that international assignments require? More importantly, do they have the bandwidth to manage the workload?

The financial impact is also a critical factor in this assessment. Consider undertaking a detailed cost analysis, comparing the expense of external vendors with the expenses tied to hiring, training, and maintaining additional internal resources. Think about whether certain activities are of such strategic importance that their management should remain in-house. It’s not just about cost savings but about safeguarding the core of your operations. Ideally, you should find a balance that ensures cost-effectiveness without compromising quality.

While financial implications are crucial, there's another dimension to consider—the impact on your employees and company culture. Deploying external vendors may bring undeniable benefits, yet it's imperative to assess whether this move aligns with your company's culture. Will outsourcing certain tasks influence employee morale?

Download the full checklist here.

Initial assessment: Laying the groundwork for an international assignment

Every successful international assignment begins with a critical first step, the initial assessment. This stage lays the groundwork for the journey ahead, ensuring that every subsequent decision is informed, strategic, and seamlessly executed. At this point, the mobility program manager is meticulously assembling the key components that will shape the assignment's success.

Before you decide to send an employee on an international assignment, there are several tasks that should be completed, such as

  • Identifying and selecting the candidate along with their applicable salary, benefits, and current company policies
  • Creating necessary documentation to support the assignment structure
  • Establishing processes for delivery of pay and settlement of tax liabilities in the Home and/or Host locations

Additionally, you’ll want to do an initial assessment to flag areas of compliance risk. These risk areas could include tax, immigration, employment law, and corporate security. Achieving compliance involves administrative costs and practical challenges for organizations. Failing to comply with these obligations can have serious legal and financial consequences for companies, as well as create talent management and duty of care challenges. Additionally, it can damage a company's reputation, which can have far-reaching implications for its long-term success.

The initial assessment will be the compass that guides the mobility program manager through the intricacies of global assignments. With each task completed, the stage is set for the assignment to unfold seamlessly and for the assignee to embark on their new journey fully equipped and informed.

Here are some of the initial assignment tasks we recommend: 

Checklist - Outsourcing Your Mobility Program - Initial Assessment

Assignment start-up: Turning plans into actions

The next phase of any international assignment is the assignment start-up. This phase represents the juncture where planning and coordination become actionable.

Tasks that are typically completed during this phase include:

  • Providing mobility tax (Home and Host) and policy orientation sessions for mobile employees
  • Securing immigration, visa, and work permits
  • Implementing hypothetical tax withholding, as applicable
  • Reviewing company and employee tax considerations and requirements for deferred compensation plans such as pensions and equity

Additionally, many companies coordinate location assistance during this phase of the assignment. For example, this phase might include cultural and language training, managing housing in the Home location, coordinating vehicle disposition, assistance in finding a home in the Host location, and enrolling dependents in international schools.

The assignment start-up tasks we recommend include: 

Checklist - Outsourcing Your Mobility Program - Assignment Start-Up

During assignment: Bridging strategy and execution

As the assignee continues their journey across international borders, the during assignment phase ensures continuous navigation through the complexities of global mobility. This phase ties the strategic decisions made earlier to the ongoing realities of the assignment.

This phase entails tasks such as the compilation of income for both Home and Host country reporting, ongoing payroll reporting, and updating compensation balance sheets ensuring the assignee's financial situation adapts to changes in pay or circumstances.

Additionally, visa and work permit extensions are maintained, and Home and Host country tax services are coordinated including the preparation of tax returns and tax equalization settlement calculations. This phase also involves updating hypothetical tax withholding calculations.

The during assignment phase maintains the continuity of the assignment, ensuring the assignee remains legally compliant and financially balanced.

The during assignment tasks we recommend include: 

Checklist - Outsourcing Your Mobility Program - During Assignment

Repatriation: Ensuring a smooth return home

As the assignment draws to a close, the repatriation phase empowers mobility managers to assist their assignees in returning to their home base.

The first step of repatriation involves formal notifications. The assignee is informed of the assignment's conclusion, and vendors are apprised of the imminent repatriation. Simultaneously, the organization undertakes the strategic task of identifying an appropriate role for the returning assignee. This decision-making process aligns the assignee's acquired skills with the company's evolving needs, marking the transition from global assignment to seamless Home country reintegration.

Additional tasks such as the coordination of Home and Host country tax counseling sessions readies the assignee for the financial implications of their repatriation. The preparation of final tax returns and the final tax equalization settlement calculation ensures the assignment's financial cycle draws to a timely close. A discussion with your tax provider will be essential during this phase to consider not only what went well during the assignment but to also determine if tax filings for additional years are needed to address any ongoing complexity from the assignment.

Here are some of the repatriation tasks we recommend: 

Checklist - Outsourcing Your Mobility Program - Repatriation

Program level projects: Contributing to the strategic goals of the organization

Additional mobility program level projects should also be considered during the international assignment. While the phases above form the cornerstone of the international assignment, a comprehensive mobility program delves deeper to ensure continued excellence. International assignments contribute to the organization's strategic goals where program level projects encompass a much broader perspective.

Some of the tasks that should be considered at the program level include designing cost-effective expatriate policies and manuals, creating training programs for employees and management to work with international assignees, and establishing processes for assessing and selecting candidates for your cross-border employment pool.

Program-level projects set the stage for a sustained, strategic, and transformative approach to international assignments.

Here are some program level projects we recommend: 

Checklist - Outsourcing Your Mobility Program - Program Level Projects

Download the full checklist here.

Unlocking the full potential of your global workforce

Embarking on an international assignment is a transformative journey, not only for the assignee but also for the organization. Each step demands careful planning, a thorough understanding of the landscape, and the right resources to ensure a successful expedition. And as these opportunities continue to play a crucial role in talent management, through strategic planning, execution, and commitment, mobility managers can ensure each international assignment is a success story.

While there's no one-size-fits-all answer to whether your mobility program needs external assistance, what's certain is that the decision should be based on a holistic assessment of your organization's capabilities, requirements, and strategic objectives. If you're seeking guidance on navigating the Mobility Program Evaluation Checklist or unraveling the complexities of your international assignment policies, we're here as your compass. Schedule a call with our dedicated team—we're eager to dive into your unique situation, provide insights, and address any questions you may have.

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Author: Jennifer Stein

Jen has over 25 years of experience in expatriate and foreign national tax preparation and consulting. She joined GTN in 2011 and serves as Managing Director. While clients' projects may look similar on paper, she understands that every employee situation is unique. She coaches clients to understand the complexities of sending employees overseas and helps them work through the many requirements of Home and Host reporting. | +1.312.698.9864
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