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6 Initiatives to Maximize Your Global Mobility Program

by Taryn Kramer

How can mobility step up and help companies keep pace with today’s challenges and deliver on its opportunities?

1. Shifting mobility from operational to strategic

The need to fill skills gaps quickly risks international assignments that lack selection procedures, clear and agreed objectives or repatriation plans, and obvious lines of responsibility.

In these cases, the link between long-term company strategy and mobility is often unclear, which can impact both cost and employee engagement.

Talent mobility is becoming a key aspect of realizing organization objectives. Think how the mobility program can support these strategic goals, including talent acquisition and development, and make it part of your role to understand your company’s merger and acquisition, divestiture and global expansion plans.

Then work alongside key stakeholders in home and host locations to design policies and practices. You can maximize your mobility program’s strategic impact by building robust frameworks to ensure sure the right people are in the right place at the right time – and to the right budget.

2. Aligning mobility with the wider organization and talent teams

Truly strategic mobility programs align with the rest of the business. In practice, time pressures, a lack of insight into business strategy, uncertainty around global and regional remits, and cultural differences can make it difficult to link mobility approaches consistently across the business.

A starting point for demonstrating alignment to business strategy is connecting assignment types with business goals. Clarifying the purpose of assignments, and cascading the rationale through policies, decision-making and reporting frameworks, ensures assignments meet all parties’ expectations.

Successful mobility practitioners therefore strive to collaborate with key areas of the company and stakeholders – particularly talent, learning and development teams – to maximize the benefits of assignments to all parties. Opportunities for global mobility can strengthen assignee engagement and performance, which are quantifiable through indicators like attrition, performance and length of tenure.

A sound repatriation plan is also fundamental to retaining skills and knowledge in the business. This demands close working from the outset with colleagues across national and team boundaries.

Alignment also involves working cross-culturally to build mutual understanding, garner insight and support good relationships. What works best in one location may be inappropriate or counter-productive in another.

3. Developing your organizational awareness

Strategically aligned mobility policy and practice take account of the wider economic, industry and demographic contexts. Aim to create strength, depth and richness in your programs by understanding and acknowledging external factors and future trends.

For example, what are the upcoming visa and immigration changes that might affect assignments or local skills availability? What is the impact of aging populations on employee profile? Is your customer base changing? How do these factors play out in assignee selection, pay and reward structures, and assignment packages? Is your organization in an emerging or established sector? What does this mean from a program and cost standpoint? What do your competitors offer?

An appreciation of the wider operating environment will help you plan for the longer term. For example, some demographics are happy to exchange certain aspects of assignment support for the opportunity to develop their career. A broader understanding also means you can speak the same language as business leaders and ensure they truly consider the type of roles they are looking to fill. For example, are assignment roles project-based, strategic, developmental or likely to be permanent? These conversations mean you can more effectively define assignment type and manage expectations and costs.

4. Communicating internally about your mobility program and practices

Mobility has historically had a relatively low profile in most companies and therefore limited interaction with key influencers. However, maximizing your program means being proactive about “selling” mobility across the company, networking and ongoing engagement with stakeholders to manage expectations around cost, timelines and outcomes.

Be ready to demonstrate to leaders in all regions how your mobility program aligns with strategy and give examples. Also, be clear and concise about the financial and non-financial benefits to good mobility practices. This includes mobility’s role in ensuring compliance, supporting robust talent pipelines and positive working relationships with international operations.

Communication also means setting out and agreeing the program’s key deliverables upfront, introducing service partners and account managers. Communication with service partners is also a key part of maximizing mobility programs. Sharing timely information about likely volumes, assignee profile, package type, duration and destination, as well as any challenges, can offer new perspectives and good practice, and potentially efficiency savings.

Remember to tailor communication to account for individual circumstances and cultural contexts.

5. Demonstrating “reasonable” investment

Cost and compliance are critical considerations in any organization. However, the pressure to save money and act quickly can lead to knee-jerk decisions that ultimately turn out to be more expensive. Mobility programs can be maximized to take control of cost by delivering value for money through productive consultation and collaboration, and policies that are both fit for purpose and allow flexibility.

Explaining the compliance aspects of, for example, extended business travel arrangements and short-term assignments, makes it possible to re-frame financial conversations in a factual and company-focused way. It also raises the profile of the support mobility can offer the organization in upholding legal practices and avoiding retrospective tax bills or fines.

Mobility can also readily illustrate the personal and financial cost to the company of failed assignments, compared to the proportionately lower cost of critical services that assignees value, such as destination services for getting settled in their new home.

6. Harnessing the power of data

Human resources data capture and analytics are now well established in many organizations. However, their deployment in mobility is relatively low. Among the challenges is a lack of partnership with other parts of the organization to provide meaningful insights, and limited understanding of the key cost drivers and assignment metrics. The steps outlined here for greater collaboration, communication and alignment lend themselves well to developing an understanding of what data might be meaningful and useful.

Mobility analytics is a powerful tool that has the potential to provide organizations with critical insights for making transformative and commercially significant decisions. Working with HR and other stakeholders, mobility teams potentially have the capacity through predictive analysis to estimate, with a few mouse clicks, the relocation and assignment costs of setting up new operations overseas, potential talent pools and assignees.

To maximize mobility programs in this way ultimately requires more strategic, aligned, communicative and commercially aware practice embedded in company culture.