By Anne Rossier-Renaud and Rob Thissen, Mercer


When it comes to managing your rotator assignees, there’s a number of issues you’ll want to prepare for before sending any employees away.

Shifting demographics, security issues, talent shortages, and compliance complications are just a few of the challenges that global businesses have to address when managing rotator assignees, all of which should be looked at carefully and thoughtfully.



Put simply, rotators are employees who work in remote offshore or onshore locations for extended periods of time, whether that be days, weeks, or even months.

As a result, rotators will typically shift between prolonged periods of activity (work) in a remote location and prolonged periods of non-activity (rest) in their location of residence, typically on a fixed or predefined schedule.

So, now that we’ve defined what constitutes a rotator assignment, let’s explore some of the key trends, challenges, and other findings that were uncovered in the 2018 edition of Mercer’s Rotator Assignments Survey.



Rotator assignments are most heavily used within industries like energy, mining, and similar sectors. This is corroborated by the fact that more than 70% of participants in the Rotator Assignments Survey said they use rotator assignments because of the nature of the work to be performed – and more than a quarter identified the location’s hardship or remoteness as the primary reason for using rotational assignments.



Most companies in the Rotator Assignments Survey – close to 90% – reported that they currently have onshore rotators. 70% of respondents reported having offshore rotators, and close to 60% reported having both onshore and offshore rotators.

Looking ahead, the number of onshore and offshore rotators are expected to remain relatively stable, but more participants said they expect their number of offshore rotators to increase.



With regards to the typical duration of their rotator assignments, there was quite a bit of variation in the respondents’ answers.

Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • 44% of respondents replied that their prevalent duration was “12 months to less than 36 months.”
  • 38% of respondents responded that their rotator assignment duration was “open-ended.”
  • 15% responded with “less than 12 months.”
  • 4% responded with “36 months to 60 months.”

The actual day-to-day work schedules of rotators can vary widely according to any number of criteria, but the most typical rotational work schedule (irrespective of the type of rotators or any other factors) was found to be 28 days on, followed by 28 days off.

Work days are formally tracked through payroll or time-reporting systems by a majority of respondents.

Another critical question you might be wondering is, “What is the nature of their employment relationship?” As it turns out, the number of respondents who said they employ both contractors and company employees for their rotational assignments was similar to the number of those saying that all rotators are in-house employees. However, the survey results show that respondents expect greater increase in the number of contractors.



As you can well imagine, rotator assignments come with their own unique challenges that need to be addressed within the proper framework. It’s no surprise then that more than two-thirds of survey participants said they have a specific, formal policy in place for managing rotational assignments, which is significantly more than, say, commuters (another group of mobile employees, albeit one which far fewer organizations have formal policies in place for).



Global workforce managers often encounter a series of unique issues when managing rotators. Among the most significant of all rotator program challenges, cost containment was reported by the highest proportion of respondents (more than half.)

This was followed by talent attraction and talent retentioncompliance, and governance/program administration.

This apparent conflict between the need to contain costs on one hand and yet have a competitive talent attraction and retention proposition for rotators probably explains why close to three-quarters of the survey respondents recognized the need to review their international policy.




Almost 70% of companies in the survey selected the limited supply of suitable candidates to work in remote/hardship locations, making it the biggest challenge to talent attraction for rotational assignments.

Difficult working conditions were indicated as a challenge by more than 60% of participants.

The family-split issue was reported as another significant challenge, which makes sense. After all, living in remote locations for prolonged periods of time doesn’t make it easy for employees with families.

This would also explain why half of the survey participants reported that rotators are never actually accompanied by their families, whereas more than one-third of respondents said they don’t even support accompanied rotational assignments to begin with.


In line with the aforementioned rotator talent attraction and retention challenges, close to three-quarters of participants said they recognized the need to review their international assignment policy to ensure they have a competitive proposition for a rotating staff in the upcoming years.


Meanwhile, half of participants said they are actively looking to move away from employing expensive Western expats and trying to employ lower-cost local resources from other regions, while an almost equal proportion is reviewing their international rotator policy in an attempt to lower costs.



The 2018 edition of Mercer’s Rotator Assignments Survey can help you unlock the full potential of your rotator program.

The perfect aid for any global workforce manager, this comprehensive survey expounds on the insights featured in this piece, plus a myriad more – including the most competitive compensation and benefits practices, taxation management approaches, and various other data points that are essential to running an effective rotational assignment.