Global Mobility’s Role in Developing Future Leaders

Developing Future Leaders: Global Mobility’s Role

The world of work is changing in response to the dramatic evolution of global business and leaders who are globally competent are increasingly in demand.

While senior leaders have traditionally been a focus for development, strategic organizations are taking a broader approach. They are building their leadership strength by offering high-potential employees developmental assignments to help create cross border networks, skills and competencies in this next generation of leaders.

How can Global Mobility support global leadership development?

Assignments vary in scope and objectives, yet they all have a developmental component, regardless of employee level. To frame up leadership development discussions, global mobility leaders can utilize the 4-quadrant global mobility cost framework. The top two quadrants of the framework are high on developmental value. These types of assignments will yield the highest return to an organization on a strategic leadership development level. They can also enable global mobility to contribute to meeting the company’s wider business objectives.

Strategic leadership assignments

The investment into this level of talent is often significant; however, the return to the organization can be both high in business value and developmental value. As such, companies have historically offered international assignments to senior leaders.  In addition, more companies are requiring the next generation of leadership to have international assignment experience. Even the most senior employees, who typically have well developed skillsets already, need support to ensure both the success of the assignment as well as further their global competency development.  As part of their assignment package, senior leaders should participate in intercultural training. This training is designed to build their personal business competencies and support the family’s transition and adjustment to the assignment location. Offering on-assignment coaching throughout the life of the assignment also keeps the focus on developmental growth.

Talent development assignments

Developmental assignments may not have as high of a business value as strategic leadership assignments; however, their high developmental value makes them an important opportunity for developing global leadership competencies. While some developmental assignments focus on building experience in different parts of the organization or in different country locations, others are focused on skills development.

The typical relocation package may be lighter for developmental assignments as employees are generally expected to bear some of the burden of the assignment since they are also benefitting. Nevertheless, preparing the employee for the assignment is critical. Before the assignment training these employees on business and cultural competencies will build a foundation for further learning. To provide holistic support, companies should consider providing transition support and/or coaching at the end of the assignment. This will allow employees to recognize what they learned on assignment and how to effectively integrate these skills in their future work.

The global mobility function can reinforce the talent development aspects of both assignment types from beginning to end. The following phases can help maximize the development of these current and future leaders:


Companies can begin to focus on candidate assessment long before assignment opportunities are even identified. Offering self-assessment tools can help build self-awareness and encourage employees to have a developmental mindset by evaluating their global competencies.  As companies start to identify employees who are  interested in, and a good fit for, assignments, these tools can help create candidate pools.  Integrated candidate assessment and selection processes can support candidate selection once an assignment opportunity arises by incorporating the use of cultural adaptability assessments, personality type indicators and business skills identification.

Pre-assignment Preparation

Prior to assignment, it is critical to provide intercultural training to the employee and all accompanying family members. Intercultural training will develop the necessary knowledge, awareness and skills to adjust to living and working in the new culture. Training should also incorporate a focus on global business competencies and communications skills. This will provide the assignee with a strong foundation for development of global leadership skills during assignment. Doing so will ensure the achievement of both the assignment and talent development goals.

Ongoing Assignment Support

Companies that continue to provide support throughout the course of an assignment can maximize the developmental potential of an assignment. Ongoing coaching during the assignment helps the assignee:

  • Integrate their initial training
  • Continue to learn from on-assignment experiences
  • Apply the competencies in real-time
  • Receive ongoing feedback
Reintegration Support

Training and coaching during this critical phase of the assignment can help ensure successful integration back to the home business environment. In addition, it can provide employees with the opportunity to recognize the skills and competencies they gained while on assignment and develop action plans to apply these new skills as leaders within the organization in their future roles.

The mobility function is evolving into a strategic talent partner to global companies.  Nowhere is this more evident than the value mobility brings to the selection, assessment and development of the next generation of future leaders.