Alan Freeman and I both had the pleasure recently to attend the Houston International HR Conference sponsored by the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC). This is the second in a series of posts summarizing the proceedings of the conference. We hope this will allow our readers to benefit from the learnings of the conference, even if you were not there personally.
Here are some highlights of some presentations at the conference that touched on various aspects of Expatriate Program Management.
Reducing Expatriate Program Costs
Expatriate program costs are an important topic for discussion whenever international HR folks get together. A presentation by Morgan Crosby and Harry Gram of Airinc focused on two areas that have a big impact on program costs – Housing and Alternative Policies.
Housing is one of the most costly elements included in an expatriate package. It’s not uncommon for rental amounts to reach $4,000 to $5,000 per month, or more, and that’s not including the associated tax gross-up costs. In assignment locations with a broad range of acceptable housing for expatriates, the reason for such high costs is often the standard used. By standard, we mean the size and quality of the property, and most importantly, the neighborhood.
Morgan gave an example for London, where a company could save about 15% per year by substituting high quality housing in the London suburbs for apartments in the most prestigious locations such as Belgravia and Knightsbridge. This usually means that expats will have to commute a bit longer to work, and occassionally, it may mean they will be further away from international schools. But the housing in the alternative locations is perfectly acceptable and compares favorably to many different home country housing standards.
Another opportunity for cost savings is the use of reduced or modified policies in certain situations. Many companies are introducing development programs to offer staff the opportunity to gain international experience early in their careers. These employees are often very willing to take assignments with fewer of the ‘bells and whistles” associated with full expatriate packages.
Companies can respond to this by offering “reduced” expatriate packages. For example, a lower housing standard; reduced relocation assistance; and efficient purchaser COLAs. And, since the target population for these development programs are frequently young people, they often do not have school-age children, and some may be single, reducing the cost for spousal benefits and education assistance to nil.
There is an ever-increasing effort to reduce the cost of expatriate programs. These suggestions are just two of the alternatives companies may consider when looking to generate savings.
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