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Consider the logistics of working aboard

Construction companies need to manage the growing impact of international mobility. By Jonathan Hook

A recent PwC survey found that over 90 per cent of construction companies rank “international mobility” – moving employees around the world for business needs – as important to their company’s success.

All indications are that this trend is set to increase significantly, as companies in developed markets look to wherever work is available.

The emerging markets are not immune to the slowdown but substantial oil revenues, countries with 5 to 10 per cent GDP growth and infrastructure backlogs still represent great opportunity.

Competing in an international market and winning contracts means moving people around the globe – whether it be for a few weeks overseas to win a contract or for many years in order to deliver work.

But moving just one assignee from one location to another can be costly and risky. The survey has highlighted that in planning international assignments there is insufficient understanding of the true cost and a lack of a systematic approach and link up with the talent management agenda.

There is seldom a sufficient level of experience or capability within companies to identify the breadth and complexity of issues that arise.

Most firms surveyed cover the cost of home leave travel, living allowances, medical benefits and a relocation allowance for overseas workers but many respondents did not see cost as one of their top priorities.

It is important to deal with the human issues around resettling by encouraging and recognising employees working in a new environment.

But only half of companies surveyed said they offer support for employees around cultural integration.

Worryingly 32 per cent of companies said they thought that an international assignment significantly increases the chances of an individual leaving the company.

Companies need to ensure that out of sight does not mean out of mind. And the task of managing an expanding global mobile workforce is not easy, risk free or cheap.

Jonathan Hook is UK construction and house building leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers