“What Would You Say…the ROI for This Move Is?” 09.1.2021 | Ellie Sullivan

The pandemic may have changed workforce mobility by adding more assignment types, remote work arrangements and employee-initiated moves into the mix. But the age-old question of how to measure mobility’s return on investment (ROI) remains the same.

In our experience, ROI is not a mathematical formula but rather a function of looking holistically at both employee and business outcomes.

Employee outcomes include changes in individuals and the workforce at large, such as expansion of skill sets, deeper commitment to the company that moved them, or a more positive attitude toward their careers. Yes, these metrics are more difficult to mine and reflect a wide range of factors, but they’re essential to measuring the value of mobility.

Business outcomes, on the other hand, reflect changes in the performance of the enterprise–things like profitability, revenue growth and market share, all of which, by comparison, are more easily measured and analyzed.

We developed this model to demonstrate the holistic alignment process that drives mobility ROI. It illustrates the forces impacting the company and its strategy, including economic and demographic shifts as well as competitive pressures. The ideal mobile workforce plan will use a wide variety of relocation and assignment types to attract, develop, engage and retain talent to advance the business plan. The outer ring of the model demonstrates how workforce mobility can support the entire talent management cycle and the tools we use to drive program and business outcomes.

Some of the more common metrics used to assess ROI include:

  • Improved/faster recruiting
  • Improved diversity in senior ranks (resulting from assignments)
  • More completed assignments
  • Specific assignment objectives and/or performance goals achieved (i.e., skills acquired, training complete, start up new region, etc.)
  • Engagement and retention rates (tenure, career progression/promotion rates, etc.)
  • Companywide “mobility” rates
  • Better operational performance

Certainly one of the most effective ways to improve outcomes is to make sure you select the right candidates for the right roles, locations, goals and reasons. The best way to evaluate employees and accompanying family members is with both self-assessment and independent intercultural assessment programs. These tools can assess technical suitability, situational readiness, cross cultural competency, open mindedness, flexibility and a host of other factors. Ideally, the assessment process itself improves cross-cultural competencies while helping at-risk candidates to voluntarily opt out.

From a talent strategy perspective, this means the organization and hiring managers must embrace a “mobility” mindset: willing to unconditionally and equitably recommend candidates, support their “readiness” decisions, mentor them throughout the assignment and proactively engage in career pathing and repatriation planning. Furthermore, the organization must provide the kind of benefits and services (including cross cultural training, language training and a competitive, robust relocation benefits package) that will support successful assignments, overcome reluctance issues (i.e., childcare, eldercare) and encourage more diverse talent to step up.

Lastly, your organization should promote the value of mobility to the organization, managers, employees and new hires. This will let candidates know that you support experiential learning and encourage developmental opportunities that lead to rewarding careers (and research indicates that despite the pandemic, employees are anxious to pursue such developmental opportunities in the form of global assignments).

This will also fuel improved and faster recruiting and in full circle, these best practices will improve ROI by producing better business outcomes.

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Written by Ellie Sullivan


Ellie Sullivan, SCRP, SGMS-T, has over 30 years of experience overseeing critical mobility advisory initiatives, including policy benchmarking, proprietary research and tracking global trends and best practices. She is also the creator of our proprietary Optimization Lab format, which brings together Weichert SMEs and client stakeholders for day-long workshops to analyze current program challenges, identify solutions and create a road map to the ideal future state.

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