Our research suggests there are at least five key areas you need to think through as you review your reward system.

  1. The purpose of having globally mobile employees within your workforce.
  2. Your organisation's approach to localisation, and how feasible that is depending on your scope of work.
  3. The total reward package you offer your employees, beyond compensation and benefits, and including things like development opportunities, organisational reputation, and so on.
  4. Thinking about what organisations you are competing with to recruit the employees that you need.
  5. How centralised or decentralised the decision-making structure underpinning your organisation is.

Navigate through the following links to get more information on each of these topics.

Global mobility Localisation Total reward package Market comparison Decision-making structure

Thinking about the goal of mobility

Globally mobile staff can serve different functions for your organisation. Some examples include:

  • Being useful for filling (temporary) skills gaps
  • Assisting with communicating best practices between different offices
  • Helping to communicate to headquarters/secretariat what is happening in country offices
  • Ensuring consistency with how centralised policies and practices are delivered in different offices

Sometimes international staff are employed as a way to improve advocacy opportunities. It is important to think about the strategic reason for using international and globally mobile staff as this may impact the type of reward package you offer them. To help you think through the reasons for having these staff we have developed some scenarios, outlined below. Please note that these options are by no means conclusive, and you may decide an alternative approach is more appropriate for your organisation; they are included to stimulate your thinking about different approaches that can be used.

Goal Potential approach
We need international employees that can spend short periods of time in different country offices, for example:
  • cover temporary skills gaps
  • roll our new and existing organisational policies
  • have an overview of programmes in multiple contexts to facilitate strategic planning of the organisation
  • engage in capacity building/mentoring of HCN staff
Employ a small globally mobile cadre of employees who travel extensively within their roles. This group of employees receives a higher wage and more attractive benefits than other employees as compensation for the disrupted lifestyle.
We need international employees that can move to a country office on a more permanent basis, for example:
  • to take on specific roles where needed skills are scarce within the local market
  • to take on senior roles where being an 'outsider' is beneficial (e.g. for political reasons)
Consider employees who move internationally as a relocation rather than a temporary assignment. Where there is a need to bring someone international into a country they would be remunerated on a national package but provided temporary relocation allowances to facilitate international movement.
Use the structure of a traditional expatriate assignment, where an international employee is sent for an extended period of time (usually 3-5 years) after which their contract may be extended, or they may be moved elsewhere within the organisation.
As above for a traditional expatriate assignment, however at the end of the contract the employee is offered the opportunity to transition to a national package, or move elsewhere within the organisation.

Approaching localisation

Localisation refers to the process of hiring nationally where skills are available, and looking to fill roles with national staff rather than automatically assuming an international post will be filled by another internationally-recruited individual. Most INGOs now have a formal localisation strategy in place, in line with movements such as the Charter4Change and other global movements. It is important that you consider if this is an appropriate strategy for your organisation and for specific roles, and to do this in conjunction with your global mobility strategy.

In order to localise it is important to assess the availability of talent within lower-income country contexts. This can be done in two different (and complementary) ways. Firstly, by looking at a whole country’s talent market to make a broad assessment of skills available, and secondly by considering positions on a role-by-role basis as they become vacant, to see if they can be filled locally or if it is necessary to recruit internationally.

Other techniques for trying to prioritise recruiting nationally include:

  • excluding salary details from job adverts (thereby removing any indication of what group of worker is expected to apply)
  • trying to hire locally in the first instance, and then opening roles up internationally if they cannot be filled
  • capacity building and succession planning amongst existing national employees and in local communities, for example through leadership development

Considering your total reward package

It is crucial that you examine and recognise the total reward package being offered to potential (and current) employees. The total reward package (aka employee value proposition), refers to non-financial aspects of reward that attract employees to your organisation. This can include things like their own personal intrinsic motivation, the philosophy of the sector and the ‘cause’ the organisation works for, the brand, the work environment, and personal career development (and leadership) opportunities.

An easy way to assess what constitutes your total reward package is to talk to current employees about why they work at your organisation, and what attracted them to your organisation. Below are some potential questions that might be useful for this. It may also be useful to talk to staff who are leaving your organisation, to understand if there are some aspects of the package that could be strengthened.

Example questions

  • For you, what is the key thing that attracted you to work here?
  • Tell me about what keeps you working here rather than looking for other roles?
  • What do you tell people when they ask you what it is you like about your job?

Identifying market comparison groups

INGOs need to make a strategic decision about the market in which they want (or need) to compete for different roles. There is great value in understanding with whom the employees tend to compare their reward package, and from what market future employees can/will be recruited.

In terms of who employees compare with, we know from academic research that people have a tendency to form groups with similar others, and to compare their group of similar individuals with other groups. What we do not yet know clearly within the INGO sector is the conditions under which employees consider themselves to be similar to their colleagues from different country contexts, and thus engage in comparison with them, versus when they compare their situation with those from other organisations within their country. This may be connected with education or years of experience.

In our research with INGOs we learned that not only is it important to consider national vs international markets, but it is also important to consider the technical specifications of your organisation (e.g. for particular engineering roles, or highly skilled landmine clearance). In this context you may need to offer higher pay for roles which are technical in nature. You may also find that in this context you are required to compete with the private sector, which might also impact how your reward is structured.

Once you are aware of WHO you are competing with to recruit into your roles, it will be important to understand your competitors’ approach to reward and how your (total reward) package might differ from that. While you might be competing with the private sector for particular skills, you may find people are attracted to work with you for other, non-financial, reasons.

Decision-making structure

A key question is whether HR and reward decisions are made centrally and fed out to country offices, or whether country offices are provided autonomy to make their own reward decisions. The reasoning behind this decision should be clear, for example, whether it is because of the decision that a local perspective should be prioritised or because one overarching transparent approach for all offices is needed. The structure of your decision-making may impact the complexity of changing your approach to reward.