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How Edrington’s partnership with ECA transformed its global mobility programme

Prior to our project with ECA, we had seen exponential growth in the number of international assignments at Edrington. The global mobility landscape was changing and we had a growing need to accommodate different types of assignments instead of just traditional long-term ones. We also observed that projects were growing in complexity, in terms of the number of home and host countries involved, and the policy in place at the time could not facilitate such diversity and growth.

We identified a need to review how the global mobility programme at Edrington was structured. There was a clear vision, to create a policy framework that was aligned to our strategic priorities – to offer the necessary support to employees and their families when relocating abroad while providing all stakeholders with the information they required to manage international assignments effectively.

I had worked successfully with ECA in a previous job and, after such positive experiences, I wanted to involve them in the tender process. Their team of consultants were very receptive to our needs and requirements, giving us constructive feedback on how we could take our goal, of implementing a standardised policy that could support our international growth, and developing it into a well-defined action plan. After several consultations with ECA, we were confident they were the team to manage a major end-to-end review of the global mobility programme at Edrington.

Process flow chart

Reviewing Edrington’s global mobility programme – communication is key

From the outset, the level of day-to-day support and advice provided by the team at ECA was excellent – open and honest lines of communication were essential to the project’s success. Knowing that a trusted partner was in place to deliver our requirements allowed the team at Edrington to focus 100% on the efficient management and execution of our global mobility programme.

Critical to the success of the review was first seeking buy-in from the Chief Executive and Remuneration & Nominations Committee of the Board, as their agreement allowed for a cohesive communications approach to be applied throughout the organisation that would facilitate buy-in at all levels. Stakeholder engagement was a cornerstone throughout the project, as buy-in was needed from all stakeholders during the process, and ECA really helped us to deliver our message clearly and coherently.

We jointly embarked on the following activities at the outset of the review to undertake a ‘current-state assessment’ of global mobility at Edrington:

  • A review of all existing mobility policies, processes and documentation;
  • A benchmark study comparing Edrington’s GM programme with others;
  • One-to-one interviews to capture the Executive Board's perspectives as to what the GM programme was and needed to be;
  • A stakeholder questionnaire circulated to key individuals involved in the day-to-day management of the GM programme;
  • An opinion survey of current and former assignees to help define necessary improvements;
  • A demographic analysis of the assignee population, including a review to identify the most suitable expatriate pay model for Edrington;
  • A quantitative analysis of average net take home pay for an assignee in each assignment location.

Once ECA had received the results from the current-state assessment, they took the initiative to organise a visit to our offices in Scotland to discuss the key findings and next steps. This meeting was hugely beneficial to both parties, as our discussions enabled us to identify what issues our new policy framework would need to resolve.

The results of the stakeholder questionnaire and assignee satisfaction surveys indicated that Edrington’s assignees found the relocation process stressful for them and their families. The review of our current policies, processes and documentation highlighted that we were not able to facilitate different types of assignments – that the benchmarking study showed similar organisations used – and we needed to move away from our one-size-fits-all model to introduce a range of assignments, that would better align the organisation’s strategic aims with assignees’ expected outcomes.

The current-state assessment allowed us to form a holistic view of global mobility at Edrington, from which several key themes emerged that indicated some enhancements could be made to our global mobility programme to maximise our return-on-investment, increase assignee satisfaction, and improve processes. ECA’s team were clear on how we should proceed – centralise the global mobility function and give it a distinct identity.

The next step was to use these insights to:

  • Design and implement a flexible policy framework;
  • Create assignment letter templates;
  • Develop detailed process flows - to provide clarity within the organisation of the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders.

A transformed global mobility programme – how ECA delivered

ECA worked with us every step of the way to make sure that all parties remained satisfied. Their proactive approach to ensuring that we stayed on track throughout the process was extremely effective. ECA didn’t just use their tried-and-tested model here; to incorporate some of Edrington’s strategic requirements, they comprehensively remoulded what was already a successful approach and made it suit Edrington’s specific circumstances to produce its new policy framework.

Our global mobility programme was transformed, delivering on all aspects of our joint ambition to create a refreshed global mobility programme that:

(i) is aligned to Edrington’s strategic ambition and priorities; 

(ii) serves as a key talent-development programme and creates opportunities for Edrington’s high-potential employees to flourish;

(iii) offers market-competitive support to Edrington’s employees and their families when relocating abroad;

(iv) ensures Edrington’s approach to compliance remains fully robust;

(v) is supported by a clear governance structure to ensure roles and responsibilities of all parties, both internal and external, are clearly defined and understood; and

(vi) maximises return-on-investment for the business with a clearer understanding of all mobility-related costs.

We transitioned from one inconsistently applied and unpublished mobility policy to a suite of standardised, but more flexible, ones, published and tailored to Edrington’s strategic priorities and the needs of our employees. Essentially, we created four distinct policies that provide clarity through a structured framework, enabling consistent and transparent application across the board.

Having had consistent feedback that the previous assignment process was opaque, all global mobility stakeholders, IHR teams and assignees, from now on had clearly articulated and defined roles and responsibilities and were supported by a centralised global mobility resource throughout the assignment lifecycle which was their dedicated primary point of reference and coordination.

All policies, roles, responsibility matrices and cost frameworks were made available to the business, bringing a previously unseen level of transparency to the programme.

Clear line of sight for assignees and business units as to what constitutes the overall mobility proposition led to improved decision making as to where assignments were truly required (and where not). There was minimal debate on the recharging of costs (and their size) as the overall cost of an assignment could be made explicitly clear up front via ECA’s assignment cost estimator tool. The published policies ensured clarity for assignees as to what their assignment package would (and would not) be comprised of.

By clearly linking global mobility to our talent programme, we differentiated and incentivised our top tier international talent like never before to make cross-border moves, supporting their accelerated career development. Several months after the review we saw several high-potential employees either relocating or being in the process of relocating on stretch assignments.

As a direct consequence of the review, over £1million of overhead-cost savings have been achieved for the programme without compromising our ambitions to compensate our assignees in line with the external market and deliver a key stream of top talent for future succession. Savings were made through the identification and cessation of long-standing legacy assignments, which was a significant hurdle to overcome given the seniority of the impacted assignees. A successful outcome was achieved through considered consultation and all those involved have now either been repatriated or accepted localised roles, and continue to contribute to the success of Edrington. Feedback from stakeholders has since been overwhelmingly positive.

The benefits extended beyond Edrington’s mobility programme

Edrington as an organisation benefited enormously from its partnership with ECA. Of all Edrington’s partners, ECA stands out on the key measures of effectiveness, quality of service, timeliness of execution and return on investment.

A well-defined organisational structure meant that efficiency levels drastically improved, assignees could focus on their roles and departments knew what was expected of them. By separating the identity of HR from the global mobility function, our new Global Mobility team had complete autonomy - creating accountability and new-found trust between the team and their assignees. This also enabled our HR team to operate more effectively and focus on other areas of the business. The £1million of overhead cost savings were reinvested into other areas of the business, which in turn led to greater profitability. Perhaps one of the most rewarding elements of the entire process relates to the fact that Edrington is owned by a charitable trust - The Robertson Trust. Our enhanced profits are now paid as additional dividends to this worthy cause.

Universally lauded by the Board, stakeholders and assignees in terms of communication, approach and execution, Edrington’s collaboration with ECA ensured that every one of its international reward projects has three key fundamentals at heart: transparency, consistency and fairness. A real success story for both Edrington and ECA International, and one that has set the yardstick by which all other Reward projects will be judged at Edrington.


Setting up a global mobility programme for the first time? Or maybe your global mobility requirements are changing?

ECA can help you manage the increasing demands of global mobility. Whether you need help with any or all of the key steps involved in the design and implementation of your global mobility programme, our team of experts can support your business’s needs. We can assist with the design of a new policy or the review of current policies to ensure they are fit for purpose and remain relevant.

  Please contact us to speak to a member of our team directly.

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