Gaining Through Global Mobility

relostoryimageTalent retention, a skilled workforce, and engaged employees are just a few benefits of international relocation programs.

By Audrey Roth

The recent rocky state of the economy has challenged organizations to rethink their global mobility strategies. One particular driver has been talent. How can organizations find, attract, cultivate, and retain the top talent? One solution is to align their global mobility strategy with talent management goals. Organizations can enhance their employer brand, develop the workforce, retain top talent, and engage their employees by allowing them to have new professional experiences in a variety of geographic locations. The integration of these goals can make planning the global mobility program an attainable action item.

Filling Talent Gaps
A principal driver for relocating an employee for talent management is the need to alleviate talent gaps. Brookfield Global Relocation Services 2014 Global Mobility Trends Survey found that 49 percent of international assignment objectives were to either fill a skills gap for managerial skills or for technical skills.

Organizations have two options when a position in a specific location requires a specific skillset: Train a new hire on the jobsite or look within existing staff members to fill the role. “Whether it’s sending the trainer to build the skills in the local workforce to fill the talent gap for the long term, or providing the talent to bridge a specific short-term need or timing gap, or a project-based need that will end upon completion, relocation can deliver the talent to achieve the business solution,” says Cara Skourtis, vice president of corporate knowledge and experience, NuCompass Mobility Services Inc.

Filling longer-term talent gaps is also a use case for global mobility to create a stronger workforce. “From a longer-term succession planning perspective, you’re meeting longer-term talent gaps by building up those experiences, and gaining those skills in one assignment that may or may not be needed for that assignment, for the next one down the road,” explains Head of Talent Management John Brice for Mobility Services Internationals (MSI).

Today’s increased acceptance of different work environments—like virtually and telecommuting—has forced organizations to compare the benefits of temporary relocation versus long term. The demand of the talent gap will often be the determining factor.

“Part of the dynamic is identifying where that talent gap is, and then developing a very customized strategy to meet that specific need,” says Steven Wester, president of Global Mobility Solutions. A one-size-fits-all solution doesn’t exist, so organizations can leverage the expertise of third-party provides to discover what the best solution is.

Retaining and Developing Talent
Global mobility assignments are often viewed by top talent as a perk—and organizations need to use that to their advantage. Such assignments can help retain that talent, while strengthening their key skills. “Global mobility can be used to provide opportunities for employee development, whether investing in high potential employees, supporting those just launching their careers or placing seasoned executives in leadership roles to develop the workforce,” says Skourtis.

Global mobility can be considered a two-way street, with the different motivations of the employer and employee coming together for mutually beneficial results. Andi Melick, senior specialist, global talent management at Newmont Mining Corporation, says that both short- and long-term international assignments provide the opportunity for employees to learn more about the organization and how their skillset fits in.

“This benefits the employee from a career development perspective, and also benefits the business as an effective way to accelerate development and grow the talent pipeline for key roles and succession planning,” Melick says, whose global mobility team works on expatriate assignments rather than relocations.

Younger employees have the chance to build their resumes through the experience of a new assignment. Some skillsets would not be obtained otherwise. “Global mobility can be used to support employees in individual contributor or entry-level roles to build their resume and develop their skill sets,” shares Skourtis.

And it can also whet the appetite for relocation assignments. The term “global nomad” describes the philosophy when employees are seeking out the global opportunities that can lead to them to new places, to find new skill sets, and new experiences. “Those are in fact people typically in this younger demographic who don’t have an allegiance to a particular organization, but rather continue to move and gain a set of experiences and skills through mobility,” says Brice.

Brice explains that there are two main factors in the flux of global nomads: employees tend to job hop and the majority of organizations are extending their global footprints. “There’s more and more companies that are realizing to be competitive they need to globalize and actually be in markets outside of where they have used to be,” he says. “It’s almost created the ability to move both across different organizations, but also move to different locations at a much more rapid pace than even five or 10 years ago.”

Changing Age Dynamics
More and more Millennials continue to enter the workforce, and this younger and more agile generation are often more open to the possibilities of relocation assignments. They tend to have less personal (family) and financial (mortgages) responsibilities to take into consideration. ““In cases where employees are moving, we are seeing an increase in the numbers of younger employees moving, and the number who are self-nominating to relocate,” says Skourtis. “Single employees appear to be motivated to experience new places, and may volunteer to move to have a specific experience, live in a specific place, or as a resume building strategy.”

Younger employees without families not only don’t have to worry about finding family size homes, jobs for spouses, or schools for children, but are also just generally interested in exploring new locations. This even means that they are potentially more concerned with the global opportunities than receiving a robust relocation program. “Millennials actually want to integrate into the culture,” says Wester. “They’re going a little bit more willingly, as well as their expectations are not that they’re going to stay in this six-bedroom mansion on the shores of somewhere. They’re going more so that they’re going to live and breath the culture and walk away with a very different cultural experience.”

Maintaining a strong Millennial workforce has become a concern for many organizations as the capabilities and size of this generation continues to prove advantageous. Global mobility programs will attract members of this generation because they will not only want but expect these assignments, explains Brice.

Strategizing Organization Wide
Brookfield Global Relocation Services’s 2014 Global Mobility Trends Survey found that 92 percent of respondents specified that their mobile function had links to human resources, 72 percent to the compensation and benefits department, and 53 percent to talent management.

“We are seeing a greater partnership between talent management and global mobility,” confirms Melick of Newmont Mining Corporation. “International assignments are a great way to provide career development, create a more diverse workforce, grow the talent pipeline. All of this takes time and buy-in from stakeholders and can result in more cost-effective and strategic decisions.”

These collaborative, inter-company relationships can lead to greater return on investment, greater results of developing and retaining talent, and all in all a more productive program. “Previously there was no collaboration and global mobility handled international assignments as standard expat programs. The partnership we have seen between talent management and global mobility has evolved and now in addition to addressing the changing workforce, we also aim to be more cost-effective, diverse, and strategic,” says Melick.

The manner in which global mobility is conducted has evolved over the years, and the new focus on talent management as part of the process has led to a different landscape. The business strategy has changed from why should companies attempt to use global mobility for talent management to how can companies use global mobility for talent management. Now that this transition has occurred, organizations have a lot to gain by having their global mobility programs working hand-in-hand with talent management.

Sidebar– 6 Best Practices To Global Mobility Success

  1. Communicate. The collaboration between the different team members involved with the process needs to be cohesive and constructive. “It’s imperative to ensure the entire team—including supplier partners—are on board with the program, understand the strategy, and can support the compliance and delivery need,” says Skourtis.
  2. Involve experienced professionals in the process. Resources can assist in conducting an efficient global mobility program; be sure to leverage that knowledge. “There’s nothing like preparation to ease the process, and the only way to do that is to use proven resources who have been there, done that, talked the language, and can ease that transition period,” says Wester.
  3. Make sure there is a productive process in place. Companies need to understand what their end goals are, both from an organizational standpoint and for their employees. According to Brookfield Global Relocation Services’s 2014 Global Mobility Trends Survey, 92 percent of respondents have a global international assignment policy standard in place. Having a clear and concise process, measuring and understanding the metrics, and confirming the goals for the return on investment can ensure the success of the program. “Some of those most simplistic best practices are starting with the strategy, figuring out accountability, and then creating mechanisms for regular information share,” says Brice.
  4. Allow decisions to be made based on the individual. Wester explains that oftentimes there will be a certain amount of money or benefits allotted to the assignee, who can then select the benefits that are most applicable to their situation. “One size does not fit all, especially on a global basis, so be fair and consistent across the organization, but allow for flexibility,” says Wester.
  5. Focus on the value. “When considering a costly relocation or assignment, applying talent management as a criterion puts the focus on the investment cost and the return on that investment to both the employee and the company,” says Skourtis.
  6. Cover your bases, starting with the hiring process, for benefit of employee and employer alike. “A lot of the ancillary stuff in the pre-decision process allows the assignee or the transferee to make the informed decision,” says Wester. This ensures the assignee actually wants to relocate and knows what they are getting themselves into, that way when they arrive they can actually focus on their job.
Posted September 2, 2014 in Relocation

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