Career Moves

8 best practices for integrating mobility and talent management.


By Yvonne McNulty and John Brice

Today’s global mobility practices have evolved considerably from what they were five years ago. Global careerists have emerged: According to McNulty & Inkson, global careerists are those who will live in whatever location suits their purpose at the moment while building career skills that are not organization or location specific. Organizations are seeing expatriates increasingly demand rewards beyond only financial remuneration. And the prestige of an international assignment has been replaced by global mobility being a routine step on the career ladder.
These challenges are further complicated by organizations’ resistance to change. Companies need to adjust structures, policies, and procedures to provide a new level of service in line with the changing demographic of the assignee profile.
Global careerists -who are often high performers -will continue to become more nimble, savvy, and demanding. Organizations need to ensure they have the right strategic processes in place to administer a more integrated talent management program within their mobility offering.
But how is this done? One important way to address global talent management is to shift the focus away from the end points of the process -finding and acquiring talent, and then trying to keep it -to the intervening processes of developing talent. There are a number of best practices for motivating global talent and driving employee engagement.
1. Offer career planning.It helps for organizations to identify a global talent pool with key positions, including successors for key executive positions, and high potentials. Assignees can then be monitored in terms of what they do and how best to develop them. Global talent review systems are crucial for managing assignees because they enable all parties to know what level assignees are operating at so that business units can pinpoint people with potential and determine the roles they should be considered for next.
Companies may also consider investing in executive coaching and mentoring, which millennial employees in particular find to be a valuable part of their expected training and development.

2. Network and support.
Maintaining contact with assignees who are considered high potential and informing them of new opportunities usually involves little effort for a substantial return. However, this requires an organization to have a structure in place internally, with clear accountability as to who is responsible to liaise with and support assignees throughout the assignment.

3. Manage expectations.
Assignees’ expectations in relation to global career development are crucial. These include career management support, interesting work roles that leverage existing and acquired skills, and ongoing career discussions as to what’s next. When expectations regarding what expatriates are prepared to buy into are clear from the outset, particularly for global careerists pursuing multiple assignments over many years, the commitment and retention rates of assignees are likely to be higher.

4. Understand assignee’s needs. When companies seek feedback from expatriates, the focus is all too often on process elements such as relocation assistance and the quality of the repatriation program. Rarely do companies ask about expatriates’ personal satisfaction with an assignment and the outcomes they have derived from it. Questions that matter include whether assignees are happy with their new career/role, whether they have plans to stay longer, and whether the assignment has helped their development.

5. Prepare and equip. Ensuring that assignees are best prepared to be successful in their new, often challenging, assignments can make or break the important on- boarding phase of the assignment. Organizations that spend the appropriate time and resources to fully prepare and equip their people before they depart can help exponentially increase the effectiveness of the transition and also lay the groundwork for ongoing assignment success.

6. Plan repatriation. Whether an expatriate is repatriating for good or intending to relocate again at some point in the future, the planning of repatriation activities is a major shortcoming of many companies. Best practice for repatriation involves having an assignee pop up on a list six months or more before he or she is due back, then identifying a job or at the very least entering into a discussion about what could be next. As obvious as this seems, many expatriates worry that they will slip under the radar and be made redundant, or stuck in limbo because the employer has no jobs on offer. Research shows that these fears frequently result in a strong desire to avoid repatriation altogether and instead to re-assign to anywhere but “home,” thus pushing assignees to look for jobs with competitors.

7. Instill top management support. When top management does not support global career activities, assignees know. Buy-in from senior managers, particularly those with their own global career experience, can be pivotal in sending clear messages that international assignees are valued and that global careers matter. They can also encourage others in the company to focus on improving global mobility and enhancing global career opportunities.

8. Reward and recognize. Ultimately, assignees need to feel validated and appreciated for their efforts. Having a system of rewards and recognition tied to pay-for- performance demonstrates that an organization actually values the experiences and skills assignees have gained. Linking talent management to performance and rewards then becomes the backbone to demonstrating true organizational commitment to an assignee program. As people are rewarded and recognized, this also helps to increase assignee engagement and retention. Well- motivated employees on assignments are still considered talented when they come back or move to another assignment, and this sends a clear message that global careerists are valued and important.
Another important way to address global talent management is to find key ways that companies can keep and retain the talent in which they have invested much time, effort, and money. Ultimately, retaining global talent is perhaps the biggest return on investment payoff of all. The critical question is, once we have developed talent, how do we counteract talent loss and brain drain? Whether the goal is short-term on-assignment retention from talent or long-term succession planning for talent that is developed internally, the aim has to be to keep employees long enough to achieve specific objectives.
It is one thing to talk about talent management and another to actually do it. Many companies want and seek talent, but few “walk the talk” when it comes to implementing an effective global talent management program. Research shows, however, that organizations with a properly managed talent management program (with clear internal accountability for administering, supporting, and deploying talent) have repeatable and sustainable success over their competitors.

Dr. Yvonne McNulty is a member of the Global Business and Organizational Excellence Editorial Advisory Board, an associate editor of the Journal of Global Mobility, and associate faculty at the Singapore Institute of Management University.
John Brice is head of talent management at MSI (Mobility Services International).

Emergence of Global Careerists

Global careerists are those who will live in whatever location suits their purpose at the moment while building career skills that are not organization or location specific. They are qualified temporary employees who voluntarily move to new countries and use them as bases before deciding whether to settle there, return to the home country, or move somewhere else. These types of expatriates, who will come to dominate the international labor market, constitute the building blocks of much wider groups and movements such as global staffing, international itinerants, brain drain, global managers, talent flow, and the war for talent.

Source: McNulty & Inkson, 2013


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