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. Some companies have a well-integrated process, while others struggle to demonstrate meaningful results.
What does today’s landscape look like?
Each year, Brookfield Global Relocation Services administers a Global Mobility Trends Survey that gauges the developments and best practices in global mobility and related talent management activities. The survey, now in its 21st year, provides insights from 163 global companies representing more than 11 million employees. The report nets information for leadership and those in global mobility roles, and this year’s report 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.
Consider that 90 percent of multinational companies do not yet fully align their employee mobility efforts with their overall talent management goals.
This means just 10 percent of multinational companies realize the benefits of closer alignment between global mobility and wider workforce planning goals. For illustrative purposes, this could include identifying individuals within the organization who have a high potential for using relocation as a tool for retention or additional professional growth. Yet, in most instances, performance metrics are not being consistently wed to decisions to move key talent.
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
Leaders, take note. These six key learnings are actions that companies can take to better align global mobility with talent, and obtain better mobility outcomes and greater ROI for global assignments.
1. Align with the 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. Case in point: 20 percent 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. Exact expenses related to international assignments are often neglected in the name of difficult accounting. The survey found 49 percent of companies do not consistently track the actual total costs of an international assignment, making it quite difficult to increase cost efficiency.
3. Maintain a Candidate Pool for Future International Assignments
A global mobility strategy should not go into effect whenever a position opens up overseas. Rather, companies must continually gauge employee interest and develop key skills to ensure global placements are successful. Unfortunately, there is a disconnect, as 73 percent do not maintain a candidate pool and 33 percent 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 companies aligning mobility and talent, we see 81 percent have a formal way for individuals to designate themselves for international assignment. 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 percent 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 percent 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 percent 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 strategy alignment.
Among the Top 10 Percent
The top 10 percent 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.
Does your company have what it takes to join the top 10 percent? By opening the conversation and bringing talent management into the global mobility conversation, you will open lines of communication, bring in new perspectives and, at the very least, identify opportunities for improvement in your company’s global assignment strategy.
—Diane Douiyssi, director of consulting services at Brookfield Global Relocation Services