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HR doesn't measure international ROI: Updated

Although companies invest heavily in international HR assignments, they are failing to measure return on investment (ROI).

Research from Mercer shows just 17% of employers have figures to calculate the cost of their international assignments and 21% say they cannot provide any figures.

Matthew Hunt, principal in Mercer's international benefits team, said: "Expatriate assignments cost between 1.5 and 4 times what a local employee would cost. They represent a major investment, particularly those that include family. Measurement is vital."

Furthermore, research from GMAC Global Relocation Services and Lancaster University Management School reveals that 84% of employers in the financial sector that are expanding their presence in merging markets do not measure ROI; for the technology sector the figure is 85%; and only two out of 17 HR professionals in the pharmaceutical sector implement any type of ROI measurement.

Scott Sullivan, senior vice president of CMAC Global Relocation Services, said: "There's an ongoing debate regarding the merits of using short-term measures that might look at the success of a particular assignment, or long-term measures that assess whether mobility in general has assisted in developing the capabilities of an emerging market."

The survey also shows employers find it difficult to decide whether to dispatch experienced staff internationally, or to employ local talent to run the operation. But Paul Sparrow, director for Performance-Led HR at Lancaster University Management School, believes employers need to establish an international mobility function and connect this to overall talent management.

He said: "Expatriates are only one brand of international manager. Today's choices require co-ordinated management of various expatriate packages, but also include the management of building up skills for the future, passive recruitment of self-initiated movers and immigrants, use of teams and networks, virtual or physical centres of excellence and various sourcing and shoring options."