Expatriate assignment reward policy at Brown-Forman Europe, Beverages

Case study on Brown-Forman Europe, Beverages as presented at the CIPD Seminar on Managing International Assignments on 5 March 2008.


Kim Miller, HR director – international, Brown-Forman Europe, Beverages.

Company notes:

One of the 10 largest wine and spirits companies in the world
4,200 staff in 55 countries
2,000 staff outside the USA
Operate as a multinational rather than a global company

Brown-Forman only sends people on expatriate assignments if they will add value; and the company continually appraises this.

It also has a policy of† allowing someone to be an expatriate in† a particular country for a maximum of five years. If they decide to stay on beyond this, they are localised. “You can imagine the confusion when the person has to go from an expat package to a local one,” said Kim Miller, HR director – international, Brown-Forman Europe, Beverages.

The drinks company uses international assignments to develop staff and increase their flexibility across the business. This ability to move in different cultures and spheres is essential to the function of the business, explained Miller.

Brown-Forman has a very robust assignment policy that covers compensation and benefits.

Part of the deal is repatriation after the assignment. So right from the date the expatriate leaves for their assignment, their managers are thinking about where the expat will be placed on their return.

Expatriates qualify for extra benefits such as a pre-assignment visit to the country they will be sent to (along with their family). “We do a lot of pre-work with all our expats,” said Miller explaining, that the aim is to spot any potential problems before, rather than after, the expat is posted.

Other extra benefits include: accommodation, relocation costs, medical cover, company car, home leave, cultural awareness training, language training (also for spouse and family), education allowances and spouse allowance.

At Brown-Forman, there is a keen focus on spouses and families to accommodate any work-life issues. In some cases even a job for a spouse has been arranged. “We are very people-oriented at Brown-Forman, we look after the whole family,” explained Miller.

In the past 6 months Brown-Forman has had 3 expats (from a pool of 35) return home to the USA after postings in Europe. All have brought back strong experience and moved into more senior roles.