SaxophoneThe Global employee orchestra – ROI and the saxophone.  

Over the 21 years of working with and developing global workforces I have had many debates with clients on how one measures the return on investment (ROI) of global employee assignments. Executives are demanding HR to give them a worth or a measure of these assignments and some sophisticated models have been dabbled with.

All good and well measuring it but I get frustrated with the top brass (excuse the pun) as they try to do this valuation game but then come up short by just sending their assignees on the assignments without a stitch of training to aid or support the ROI. It’s akin to giving someone a saxophone with no training and telling them you require them to be a good sax player. They are further told that you will be measuring their eventual performance as well.

It’s crazy and it makes a mockery of all the time and effort taken to design all these ROI models executives are demanding. The assignees have no real clue as to what they are being measured on nor have they been given a fighting chance to perform well. Just leave it up to luck is what it amounts to so why bother with your sophisticated ROI measurements. Operating internationally takes a global skill set and finesse.

Actually, if you gave a person a saxophone and spent some time showing them how it works, how to play it and possibly to read some sheet music you would find that they would most definitely be a better player and would progress a lot faster, be less frustrated would possibly have less of a chance of giving up. There is a huge analogy here for the international assignee. The sax looks like a difficult instrument to play and not that easy but having learnt to play one myself it is not that difficult but I had a few good grounding lessons in the basics and then plenty of practice alone using these guidelines. It’s an instrument that allows great versatility in style and sound. Pretty much like an international assignee needs to be. The ROI on my sax has been great.

There is absolutely no difference in the way we should be looking at the development of our global workforce.  At present we have a cacophony of players in our global workforce orchestra with poor playing ability, poor skills levels and all out of tune. It’s our conductors of this orchestra that need to take a good hard look at their approach and strategy.