Six Key Tips for Aligning Global Mobility to Talent Management

Six Key Tips for Aligning Global Mobility to Talent Management

Our research identified six key actions that companies can take to better align global mobility with the talent management function and obtain better outcomes and greater ROI for global assignments.

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 mobility costs and to show a positive return on investment. This year’s Global Mobility Trends Survey echoed what’s heard from the business community: that there is room for improving alignment within many companies. Although many companies see evidence of talent mobility’s potential to attract and retain key talent and have taken certain steps to align supporting business practices, the prevailing view is that the breakthrough— for most— has yet to occur.

The survey revealed that only 10% of multinational companies are more fully realizing the benefits of closer alignment between global mobility and wider workforce planning goals. This could include identifying individuals within the organization who have a high potential and using relocation as a tool for retention or additional professional growth. These successful companies are doing more to ensure their mobility programs have foundational practices in place to meet the needs of their mobile workforce and to deliver new levels of strategic contribution.

What We Can Learn from the Top 10 Percent

1. Understand your Company’s Broader Talent Agenda

The war for talent is real in many industries worldwide, and as human resource leaders attempt to increase effectiveness and transform their organizations, they are still often left out of key talent discussions. Twenty percent (20%) of companies in the survey report that they are unsure if they do, or do not, have enough internationally experienced talent to meet their business needs.

2. Track Costs Associated with Mobility

Nearly every multinational company is under pressure to reduce mobility costs. Yet despite the importance placed on cost efficiencies, there is continued evidence that many companies do not have some of the most basic cost quantification and management practices in place. The survey found 49% of companies do not consistently track the actual total cost of an international assignment, making it quite difficult to increase cost efficiency.

3. Maintain a Candidate Pool for Future International Assignments

A well-developed global mobility strategy and a strong candidate pool support talent deployment success when overseas positions open up. Companies must continually gauge employee interest and develop key skills to enable successful global placements. Unfortunately, there is a disconnect – 73% do not maintain a candidate pool and 33% don’t even have a process in place for employees to say they would be willing to accept an international assignment. The crux of the problem is that a majority of companies say that international assignments are critical to careers, yet the system to support placement is often not there. In contrast, in companies aligning mobility and talent, we see 81% have a formal way for individuals to designate themselves for international assignments. It can be twice as costly— or more—to send the wrong person on an assignment.

4. Provide Support for Acclimating to the New Culture

It is a common problem among employees of all industries placed on global assignments – to successfully adapt to the host location. In fact, nearly 20% of global assignees on average experience notable difficulty overcoming barriers to acclimation. In response to this persistent issue, companies must leverage external resources to accommodate their global talent’s needs. Intercultural training can help employees be as effective as possible as soon as they land in their assignment location. It can also prepare accompanying family to transition to the new location as well.

5. Focus on Candidates with the Leadership Attributes Necessary for Success

While it is essential to prepare and support an employee once they have accepted an international assignment, it is just as critical to develop talent prior to the placements so they can be effective in their new role. The survey showed 26% of global assignees taking on a leadership position did not possess the necessary skills to be a leader in the host country. Respondents cited a variety of skills these employees lacked, specifically negotiation, ability to lead others, and conflict management and resolution capabilities.

6. Engage Millennials for International Positions

Millennials have permeated the workplace and now hold the future of our companies in their hands. This generation is young, curious, and often less rooted than their more senior colleagues—making them ideal candidates for global assignments. Therefore, it is imperative for companies to understand the strategic value of this workforce population and how best to engage them in new positions abroad. The survey found a stark difference in how millennial global assignees were handled between the top 10% and those companies not viewing global mobility as a strategic driver of growth. The top leaders reported double the percentage of international assignees between the ages of 20 and 29, underscoring their ability to foresee the long-term effects of engaging and developing this key demographic.

Among the Top 10 Percent

The top 10% of companies surveyed are at the forefront of utilizing candidate identification, selection and assessment tools, and they lead the way in integrating career management into the assignment lifecycle. They are also more likely to measure international assignment performance results against company metrics and align with results from other departments.

Do companies have what it takes to join the top 10%? By opening the conversation and bringing talent management into the global mobility conversation, global mobility leaders will open lines of communication, bring in new perspectives and, at the very least, identify opportunities for improvement in their company’s global assignment strategy.

This article first appeared in extended form in the August 2016 issue of HRO Today. Excerpted with permission.