Gap-year managers on the rise

International assignments being turned into “adventure moves” to attract young talent

Spending time working abroad used to be the preserve of middle-aged business managers, who were often handed lucrative incentive packages to spend time away from home. Now, however, in a more globally-connected world and with young people more used to traveling, things are changing.

Businesses are turning old-school international assignments into something resembling a gap year in a bid to attract young talent and reduce costs.

Lisa Johnson, Global Practice Leader of Crown World Mobility’s Consulting Services, says: “All the evidence is that many younger employees see traveling abroad as a blessing, not a curse, and international assignments are increasingly in demand.”

As a result of this, lower cost alternatives to the traditional Long Term Assignment are becoming more common.

“Branding the assignments as ‘Adventure moves’ or ‘Backpack moves’ gives assignees a clear indication of what they’re embarking on,” adds Lisa.

And some businesses are already tweaking incentive packages to make moves more attractive to younger assignees.Gap-year managers on the rise

Lisa adds, “One way of making the younger employee feel valued, even on a low-cost move, is to provide extras that, while cheap for the company, feel like a real bonus to the employee.

“This could be as simple as language lessons, cultural training, flying in a friend to visit, or even just an organized trip to local landmarks. These extras make the employee feel valued, but crucially don’t cost businesses too much money.”

Younger assignees are looking for something fun and exciting and don’t necessarily expect the luxury that their predecessors took for granted. In fact, the challenge for businesses in future years may not be how to persuade young talent to work abroad, but how to ensure they don’t do too much for themselves.

“Businesses are finding that young assignees are quite happy to organize much of their trip themselves – they are very used to traveling abroad and using low-cost tools such as Airbnb,” says Lisa.

According to recent research, millennials are very open to a move abroad. It is estimated that more than 80 percent are willing to relocate as long as they think the position is worth the move. A separate study found 71 percent want, and expect, an overseas assignment during their career.

“Turning that move into a backpack adventure can be good for everyone involved. However, an employer still has a duty of care to protect and look after staff during that time.

“Young assignees may not realize how important cultural training is to adjusting professionally and socially in a new environment, and they may not be prepared for all the challenges they face. Working abroad is very different from going on holiday and they will still need significant support,” adds Lisa.