Hardship location

Selling the Undesirable Location: Sweetening the Pot for Not-So-Sweet Spots

When asked to take an assignment, some employees jump at the chance, but others do not, especially when it’s a hardship location. This white paper discusses how hardship locations are determined, the incentives that can persuade employees to accept assignments there (as well as in other undesirable locations), and the support that’s needed once they’re deployed to help ensure the assignment’s success.

Xi’an, a third-tier manufacturing city in China, is, by virtually any standards, a high hardship assignment location. Its air quality rivals that of Shanghai’s, where many must wear masks, traffic is congested, and, in some areas, the streets double as garbage dumps and toilets.

Vienna, on the other hand, has none of these issues and is consistently ranked as the world’s top city for expatriates due to its overall quality of living.1 It’s clean, green, safe and sophisticated, and also highly affordable. However, if one hates the cold and is asked to deploy here in January, Vienna may also hold little appeal.

When an employee is needed somewhere and doesn’t want to go, whether the place is unloved by many or just by him or her, the right incentives can change a no to a yes. And while incentives aren’t usually needed for spots like Vienna, they are, quite often, for places like Xi’an. As companies enter new markets or relocate to areas where labor and materials are less costly and/or the regulatory environment is less restrictive, the need to deploy people to these locations has grown. Although some companies may consider incentives too costly, the alternatives can be even more so: the right talent can’t be deployed where needed or the assignment fails.

In this paper, we will define hardship and discuss what makes a location a hardship location, explain the various types of assignments that can improve the attractiveness of hardship postings, discuss the types of incentives that can be offered to entice an employee to accept a hardship location, and explain the various types of support that companies can offer to make the transition and the posting itself easier for the expatriate.