Aligning Global Mobility to the Talent Agenda: Deriving Benefits & Understanding the Challenges

Aligning Global Mobility to the Talent Agenda: Deriving Benefits & Understanding the Challenges

As companies move employees across borders to simultaneously achieve broader business goals and develop future leaders, many organizations face this talent mobility imperative with increased pressure—to reduce costs for global mobility programs and to show their return on investment. While many companies are in a state of evolution regarding the role global mobility will play in meeting these demands, some companies are on the path to a new and better way of managing mobility.

This article explores key characteristics of the global mobility functions with greater alignment to the talent management objectives. It is based on the recent ERC Learning Zone webinar during with BGRS’s Talent Mobility Consulting and Client Services leaders discussed benefits and challenges companies face aligning global mobility and talent management.

Links between Mobility and Talent

BGRS’s 2016 Global Mobility Trends Survey of mobility leaders around the world shows that 10% of companies are realizing fuller benefits of aligning mobility with talent management, and integrating internally to drive business results. These 10% are using global mobility as a strategic tool for talent engagement at a greater rate than other companies. For example, they more frequently communicate the importance of international assignments to employees’ careers, send employees on assignment primarily for career development, and incorporate international assignments into the wider career planning process. The balance of companies remains in a state of evolution. In some companies, strong talent planning processes exist, but international assignments may not yet be fully integrated into overall career development.  Other companies are just starting to embrace the importance of international assignments, and high potentials have to “tick the box” of having gone on an international assignment if they want to become a leader. Still others struggle because mobility is treated as a mechanism merely to fill open roles.

For global mobility leaders looking to optimize their programs in this area, it’s important to first understand the roles of recruiting and mobility. Next, in order to plan and execute strategies that combine the development of talent and its deployment, a closer, more structured relationship between global mobility and talent management is critical. If a formal reporting relationship doesn’t exist, global mobility leaders can proactively create routine meetings to ensure that the partnership between the two functions grows. And finally, if fairly informal links do exist, it’s important to understand the breadth of that relationship. To be truly effective, a strong partnership between mobility and talent management must have collaboration across all regions.

Candidate Selection Processes

Another area the 10% of talent focused companies are more engaged in is matching candidates to the particular demands of an  assignment. For example, more of the 10% have a formal process in place for employees to say if they will consider an international assignment, more use self-assessment tools to gauge adaptability, and more have a formal candidate pool.  Other companies continue to evolve in this area. Many times the decision to send someone on assignment has already been made before the global mobility team has been brought into the loop; other times the business is more focused on filling an opening versus making a longer term investment in talent mobility.

Improved candidate selection is a key area where the global mobility function can make a greater impact and ultimately contribute to critical business goals. For global mobility leaders looking to shore up their own companies’ selection processes, it’s important to know the current state of the overall recruitment and selection process to understand how to design around obstacles and plan for success. Also, global mobility leaders can engage with suppliers who provide candidate assessment tools and leverage their knowledge of what the tools can and can’t do and jointly explore how they could become part of a well-rounded selection process. Finally, global mobility leaders should know that self-assessment tools are a viable alternative to having a formal assessment process in place.

Cost Management

Another area where the 10% exhibit program differences is in having better basic cost management processes in place. For example, a significantly higher percentage of the 10% prepares cost estimates for all assignments, utilizes cost benefit analyses to justify international assignments, and tracks international assignment performance metrics. While, most companies operating at a more strategic level have a good handle on the basics, other companies still struggle to implement comprehensive total cost tracking for international assignments. Data may be in separate systems such as those of multiple providers, payroll, local HR and different country accounting systems.

Most companies are under increased cost pressures, so getting a handle on basic cost management processes is an increasingly important imperative. For global mobility leaders interested in exploring ways to improve, the first step is to recognize which costs may be missing and to understand where those costs are housed. Global mobility leaders can also consider moving cost tracking and exception management to a Relocation Management Company (RMC) to reduce administrative burden and have access to better program analytics.  And finally, global mobility leaders can assess the value of ROI in their companies to understand how valuable, or not, having this metric may be, and can consider exploring how to track international assignment performance metrics instead.

Repatriation Practices & Assignment Outcomes

Another area where the 10% are performing better is around repatriation planning, practices, and assignment outcomes. For example, more of the 10% talent-focused companies have a repatriation strategy linked to career management and assignee retention, mandate job identification for returning assignees, have fewer assignees leave after repatriation due to unmet role expectations, and have lower attrition rates.  Many other companies see this as an area of concern, but attrition data for international assignees remains elusive. In other companies, certain areas, such as Human Resources, may have attrition data, but that information may not filter back to global mobility leaders for action.

Given the critical role that repatriation practices can have on assignment success, global mobility leaders can drive up results in this area. The first step to designing an effective retention strategy is to understand if there is a problem by finding a way to track assignee attrition. Next, repatriation conversations with assignees can be started earlier. And finally, global mobility leaders may want to consider the company’s stance on helping assignees find jobs when the international assignment ends. While many companies rely on informal networking, a more formal approach may have better results.

The role of global mobility can have a profound influence on its alignment with talent management. The 10% of companies who say global mobility is aligned to their company’s talent agenda are showing signs of a new and better way of managing mobility. For the balance of companies that remain in a state of evolution, opportunities exist to strengthen the connection between mobility and business and talent management goals and to make strategic changes to their mobility programs. In the end, no matter where a company falls on the “mobility to talent management” alignment continuum, the common goal is articulating a better value proposition of global mobility within the company overall.

Access a recording of the BGRS-hosted Worldwide ERC® webinar and the presentation. Request a copy of our white paper Aligning Global Mobility to the Talent Agenda: A Practical Guide for more practical guidelines to capitalize on closer alignment of global mobility to the talent agenda.