2016 Global Mobility Trends for the Healthcare and Pharmaceutical Industry

2016 Global Mobility Trends for the Healthcare and Pharmaceutical Industry

How global mobility leaders respond to talent mobility challenges in today’s business environment is, in significant part, related to the economic and market realities of their specific industry segment. This article focuses on companies in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry, and is part of a series highlighting key global mobility trends within certain industry segments.

Healthcare and pharmaceutical companies represent the sixth largest percentage of respondents (10%) to BGRS’s 2016 Global Mobility Trends Survey, and they average just over 51,500 employees worldwide.

Companies in the healthcare and pharmaceutical sector continue to experience the twin forces of growth coupled with pressure to keep costs down. According to a 2016 industry report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, spending in the healthcare and pharmaceutical sector continues to trend upward due to population aging and growth, expanding access, and the development of new technologies and promising drugs. At the same time, cost pressures are mounting in certain regions as national budgets are spread thin to accommodate pressures to expand coverage or support universal healthcare systems. These market level trends are to be considered against the overall slowdown of the global economy and local economic realities, such as currency volatility in certain South American countries.

We expect that these business realities, combined with the challenges inherent in moving employees across borders, will ultimately play into the mobility trends we are seeing in this industry segment.

Specifically for the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry, the survey reveals:

Assignment volumes expected to increase or stabilize and cost pressures remain steady

  • 41% expect the number of international assignments to increase next year; this compares to 36% of the overall survey participants
  • 47% expect the number of international assignments to stay the same next year; this compares to 39% of the overall survey participants
  • A clear majority, 65%, state they were required to reduce international assignment costs last year; however, this is lower than the overall survey participants (69%)
  • Nearly three-quarters (71%) report that the pressure to reduce costs has remained the same compared to the prior year; this is higher compared to 57% of the overall survey participants

Mobility more fully leveraging policies to meet diverse business needs

  • Recruiting: 53% of healthcare and pharmaceutical companies report using their mobility policies externally to recruit talent
  • Flexibility: 48% of companies indicate they have a flexible policy structure (either core optional or segmented policies) versus only 26% of overall respondents
  • Cost control: The top two most successful initiatives to control mobility costs are utilizing alternatives to long-term international assignments and revamping the mobility policy structure to increase flexibility and reduce total cost

Enabling employees’ careers makes the connection to talent management

  • 59% of healthcare and pharmaceutical companies have formally communicated that international assignments are important to optimizing employees’ careers
  • 76% of companies have a process for employees to formally designate themselves as interested in going on an international assignment, which compares to 67% of overall survey respondents
  • Over one third of companies (35%) indicate they use self-assessment tools with candidates for international assignments; this is higher than the overall survey respondents (29%) and the highest of any industry segment
  • Over one third (35%) have a specific process that incorporates formal career planning from the point of time an employee accepts an international assignment; this is significantly higher than overall survey respondents (23%) and the highest of any industry segment

Assignment objectives drive assignment impact

  • Healthcare and pharmaceutical companies are more focused on using assignments to build global leadership skills and to develop employees, reporting the highest industry percentage in these two categories. The top three primary objectives for sending employees on international assignment are, in ranked order:
    • Fill a managerial skills gap in certain markets/facilities
    • Build international management experience within the company
    • Develop individual employee careers
  • By far, the top impact companies report of an international assignment on employees’ careers is gaining leadership consideration
  • 71% say that employees who have gone on an international assignment are more likely to be considered part of the future leadership pool / succession planning process; this is nearly 30 percentage points higher than that of the overall survey respondents (43%)

Despite greater numbers of female assignees, concerns on the impact to gender balanced diversity

  • Healthcare and pharmaceutical companies report 30% of international assignees are female, compared to only 25% of overall respondents
  • 59% believe that females face greater obstacles to accepting international assignments than males, which is the same for overall respondents
  • And nearly half (47%) believe that the acceptance rates of international assignments among female candidates is having an adverse impact on creating a gender balanced senior management team in their companies; this is 10 percentage points higher than the overall respondents (37%)

After recent years of intense cost pressure, mobility programs in many healthcare and pharmaceutical companies have stabilized. Although a majority are still experiencing cost reduction efforts to their assignment programs, it is less than the overall respondents. Assignment volumes are remaining steady, with a fair amount of companies expecting increases next year.  Perhaps because they’ve already weathered some of the initial cost cutting efforts, companies are using their policies in innovative ways, especially in terms of cost control.  Engaging alternatives to long-term assignments and revamping their policy structure to drive flexibility up and costs down are two such examples.

Despite the continued focus on cost, companies in this industry are forging a connection between talent and mobility. They are using their policies to recruit externally and promoting assignments internally. They are enabling employees to formally nominate themselves for assignments and offering self-assessment tools as part of that process. And, more important, more of them have incorporated career management into the overall international assignment lifecycle. In addition, companies in this sector are more focused on using assignments as a developmental tool.

Finally, companies in this sector have more female assignees on average than companies in several other industry segments. However, there is a clear recognition that despite this higher percentage,  females often face greater obstacles than males in accepting assignments and that this disparity can have a real impact on the company’s overall diversity objectives.

Global mobility leaders in this industry segment will need to continue to support their business partners in meeting their company’s business and talent agendas.  Balancing the need to continue to manage mobility costs in a variable market against driving company objectives on employee development and gender diversity will continue to require a strategic approach to healthcare and pharmaceutical companies’ mobility plans and programs.