Usually cheaper and more flexible, for both the employee and company, short-term assignments can be used to quickly transfer skills to a new location, train a local workforce, and complete special projects. A recent Worldwide ERC survey indicates that “60 percent of the HR/Mobility professionals…anticipate an increase in short-term assignments within Europe in the next year”. As short-term assignments increase in your organization however, keep the following in mind:
- Time Crunches: It will take time for assignees to acquaint themselves with new cultures and office environments. This adaptation process could take months or even years. Does prospective assignee adapt quickly to change?
- Policy and Benefits: The needs of short-term assignments, though similar, do not mirror those of long-term assignments (e.g. housing, shipment of personal effects, and frequency of return trips).
- Compliance: Short-term assignments may receive beneficial tax treatment, but they also involve complex immigration, labor and tax rules. In the U.S. for example, the IRS ties an assignment’s taxability to its expected duration.
What to do?
Determine if the intended goal of the assignment can actually be accomplished within the short timeframe. Use actionable steps and goals to determine if the candidate is the right fit for the location and the assignment.
Develop a standard, short-term assignment policy with customizable benefits, based on local needs. Focus on logistical elements such as air shipment, travel expenses, furnished accommodations (hotel or temporary living facility), meals and/or per diems. Though not always used, cross cultural or language training may be integral in getting assignees up to speed quickly.
Carefully monitor all short-term assignments. Any deviation in the assignment’s expected or actual duration could result in significant compliance issues. Consultations with tax and immigration professionals must be a part of the initial planning process.
The economic downturn will move many companies to utilize more short-term assignments. Taking these items into consideration should lead to a more successful assignment program.