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Making moves: It's global mobility for the win when it comes to talent

January 28, 2022 - 19 min read

global-mobility-man-traveling

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What is global mobility?

3 reasons why global mobility is important

The challenges of global mobility

Who facilitates global mobility?

5 steps to build a global mobility program

Our world has only become more international and connected, especially since the onset of the pandemic. 

The global workforce is expanding, stretching across international borders. With a digitized, hybrid, or remote workforce, employees can (and want to) work from anywhere. 

But what does that mean for companies with employees moving to different parts of the world? 

Organizations need to have a global mobility strategy. It can't be an afterthought or addressed ad hoc. The talent you need wants it. Keeping your business operating on an upward trajectory demands it.

For business leaders crafting strategy and looking for global mobility solutions, it can be complicated. 

We’ll walk through what global mobility is, why it’s both important and challenging, and how your company can build an effective one. 

What is global mobility? 

The world, as we know it, has seemed to be getting smaller. We’re more connected than ever, which means we feel the impact in our global workforce. First, let’s understand what global mobility means. 

Where global mobility might traditionally have been focused on senior leaders and high-potentials in rotational programs, the scope has changed. Over the last couple of years, new trends are emerging from global mobility programs and the working world. With the massive disruption to the way the world works, it’s important to establish a global mobility program that works. 

3 reasons why global mobility is important 

Global mobility has evolved in parallel with human capital trends. Looking at them side-by-side, we can draw some conclusions about the importance of global mobility in the future of work

For example, in a 2021 global mobility study, Deloitte identified several trends and drew important conclusions about aligning global mobility programs with larger industry trends.

Among the interesting insights in the report: 

  • 51% of organizations name increased engagement, flexibility, and well-being as important benefits of remote work
  • 72% of executives think that “the ability of their people to adapt, reskill and assume new roles” is the most or second most important factor to navigate future disruptions
  • 41% of executives said that upskilling, reskilling, and mobility is one of the most important actions they are taking to transform work

So, what does this have to do with the importance of global mobility? Here are three reasons why global mobility is important for any expanding organization. 

global-mobility-women-professionals-traveling

Empowers flexibility 

Virtual work is the new way of getting work done. We’ve found workers report more creativity and productivity when working remotely. We also know that through cross-border, virtual working is what the future of work looks like. 

With an accelerated future work state, global mobility allows teams to embrace the future. At the heart of empowering flexibility is global mobility. This is why it’s vital that global mobility is integrated into your organization’s future work strategy in order to adapt to hybrid and remote work

Fosters inclusivity and belonging 

The same Deloitte study shared some interesting insights about diversity and global mobility. 

  • Millennials will comprise 75% of the workforce by 2025, and 59% are willing to work abroad
  • Although women represent more than 40% of the global workforce, only 1 in 5 international assignees are women
  • Family concerns are the number one reason for assignment refusal and assignment failure. Mobility practices often lag in applying changing definitions of family 
  • 6% of leaders actively encourage mobility to minorities despite 88% reporting concern about finding suitable candidates

future-minded-leader-report

When organizations integrate global mobility into their diversity initiatives, employees feel a stronger sense of belonging. We know from our data that inclusive leaders see more productive, more innovative, and more engaged teams. When employees feel they belong, the business benefits, too. 

Allows organizations to develop their existing talent 

Organizations everywhere are battling in this war for talent. We know employee retention is top of mind for company leaders. At the helm of retention is the ability to upskill and develop existing talent. Employees have shared that growth and learning opportunities will make them more likely to stay with their current company. 

But what if global mobility enabled more upskilling opportunities for your organization? The above-mentioned Deloitte report notes the importance of global mobility programs and talent. In order for talent growth to happen, programs need to be in place to empower upskilling and learning. 

Without learning opportunities  — and the ability to go to new places in new roles — employee talent and growth is stunted. 

The challenges of global mobility

There’s a reason your HR team might be stressed about the challenges that come with global mobility. While our world may be getting more connected, it doesn’t mean it’s getting less complicated. There are a handful of challenges that come with building a seamless global mobility program. 

Immigration 

Every country has its own set of immigration policies. Some of these policies are more complex than others. For example, granting visas to foreign workers can be much more difficult to attain in Hong Kong. On top of it, immigration policies are subject to change.

This makes immigration a real global mobility challenge for organizations. This is especially if immigration policies are constantly evolving. 

Tax and compliance 

Much like immigration, tax and social security regulations are also incredibly complex. And like immigration, tax policies are different not only in every country but also in different regions. PwC cites some common tax complications that come with global mobility: 

  • Withholding and payroll compliance
  • Permanent establishments 
  • Deductions for stock-based compensation
  • Deferred compensation and foreign pension arrangements
  • Information reporting requirements
  • Acquisitions and dispositions of business interests
  • Social security and residency issues 

Work closely with your HR and payroll teams when constructing a global mobility program.

Relocation logistics 

The logistics of relocating employees to different parts of the world can be complicated. And sometimes, it’s relocating an employee and their entire family. Some common challenges include:

  • Relocation travel assistance
  • Immigration/visa services
  • School search assistance for dependents
  • Household goods transport
  • Cross-cultural and language training
  • Global banking, airport transfers
  • Housing (often in very tight timelines) 
  • Manage out-of-scope expenses, like reconciling forms and extension filings

Ironing out the logistics of relocation can be a full-time job. Make sure your organization has teams staffed to handle the workload associated — or outsource to a firm that may be able to help.

The relocation details can be just that: detailed. It’s important for worker well-being that organizations take as much stress and anxiety off of employees. 

global-mobility-woman-crossing-street

Benefits 

If you talk to any human resources benefits professional, you’ll know that benefits vary greatly by country. Expatriate compensation and benefit plans can be pricey. Retirement benefits, pensions, and plans also vary greatly by company. Health insurance and employment laws can come into play here as well. 

The typical response for organizations is to increase spending to help cover costs of relocations. But it’s possible to design a cost-effective (and even, cost-saving) global mobility program. The challenges may seem daunting, but it’s not impossible. 

With the right facilitators, your organization can design a successful global mobility program. 

Who facilitates global mobility? 

By now, we know global mobility can be complicated. When you’re assembling your dream team to build an effective global mobility program, consider these experts and their roles. 

  • Your compliance and legal teams. From employment law to compliance, your organization needs legal input. Different rules may apply for employees becoming ex-pats on a formal multi-year tour versus employees chasing the dream of working from everywhere as digital nomads.
  • Your human resources team. It’s likely the bulk of your global mobility team will be made up of HR professionals. Benefits, total rewards, and well-being are three key areas where HR will play a significant role. But you might also need the help of human resources business partners or even talent acquisition to provide input. Work with your HR leader on identifying and defining the right roles. 
  • Your employee experience pros. Change is disruptive, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that global mobility can be disruptive to the employee experience. Keep in mind the role of the employee experience as you design your global mobility strategy. You’ll want folks who are deeply passionate and knowledgeable about what employees want and need.

Every organization is different, so it may look different for you depending on the structure of your company. At its heart, global mobility is inherently cross-functional. Keep key stakeholders close to the project. Your stakeholders should understand the goals, expectations, and purpose of the program. 

5 steps to building an efficient global mobility program

By now, you might have a good idea of why global mobility is critical to your organization’s success. Now, you’re ready to start designing your global mobility strategy. 

1. Figure out why you’re building a global mobility program

For any multinational organization, you need to identify the goals and purpose. What are the key objectives for your global mobility program? What problems are you trying to solve? What’s the purpose of global mobility? What benefit will it bring to your organization and your employees? 

Figuring out the “why” behind the program is the first step. From there, you’ll be able to better determine the how. Figuring out the why will help you better allocate your time, resources, and teams in a more efficient way. 

2. Outline the program design 

Once you’ve identified the purpose of your global mobility program, it’s time to design the program. Consider these aspects: 

  • Target markets or regions for expansion 
  • Talent pool expansion goals
  • Mobility policies 
  • Benefits, compensation, and healthcare 
  • Tax and compliance 
  • Visa and immigration support 
  • Travel logistics 
  • Coaching or mental fitness assistance 
  • Professional development 
  • Family support (i.e. schools, spouse or partner support, housing, etc.) 
  • Financial support for relocation 
  • Any related communication needs 
  • Any related incentives for relocating 
  • Pricing and budget 
  • Coronavirus (COVID-19) and your organization's future work model

Start by making a list of all the aspects of program design you’d like to see. Consider getting feedback from your leadership team — and adjust accordingly. 

3. Assemble your dream team

Take a look at your why behind the global mobility program. Then, examine the list you’ve created. Now, it’s time to create your dream team

Identify folks within your business who are experts in their respective fields. First, clearly communicate their roles and responsibilities. But also, don’t forget to assess their needs and ask how you can best support them. For example, if you’re expanding into 10 different countries, is your HR team staffed to provide that level of support? 

Keep the lines of communication open so you can continue to gather feedback. It’s important to stay agile and adjust for any needs as your team gets into the weeds of developing the program. 

global-mobility-employees-on-laptop

4. Embed employee well-being into the program design

Employee well-being is one organizational trend that’s skyrocketed in importance over the last couple of years. It’s no longer just an add-on program for companies. Organizations are looking to embed worker well-being into policies, programs, and the overall future of work. 

Moving to a new country can be incredibly stressful. If an employee is uprooting their family for a new international opportunity, it impacts the well-being of their family as well. 

Think of ways to make sure your program prioritizes the wellness of your employees and their families. The employee experience, reduction of stress, and ease of relocation are all important factors to consider. 

5. Consider support structures 

Global mobility inherently brings about a lot of change. Employees who are well-equipped to weather change are more resilient, productive, and creative.

Consider the support systems you’ll put in place to set up your employees for success. Empathize with the level of change employees will face — and match that empathy with personalized support.

Personalized coaching on topics like change and uncertainty can pay dividends for your employees. With BetterUp, you can provide your employees with coaching to help them develop the skills needed to build resiliency.

By investing in their mental fitness, your organization will also benefit. With coaching, you can empower a thriving workforce. Employees who thrive are more productive, more satisfied in their jobs, and are able to bounce back from any setbacks stronger. 

You might also consider where outsourcing support systems could be helpful, especially in the short term. If you're just building a team, you might identify holes that can be filled with outside support. The top global professional services firms offer consulting services that specialize in global mobility. These firms have an expert advantage because they've done it for their own people for decades.

Create big moves 

Building an international workforce is hard work. Building an international, mobile workforce can feel daunting for any multinational corporation. 

Talent mobility is critical to today's global ecosystem. At the heart of talent mobility are human beings — your employees, their teams, and the important people in their lives. Every one of them has goals and aspirations, as well as needs and expectations.

It's safe to say that global mobility is much bigger than having a relocation process. Whether you're looking to refine your relocation process or build a strategy from scratch, most orgs can benefit from some support.

Consider ways BetterUp’s personalized growth and development can make human transformation part of your mobility strategy. The future of mobility is in your hands. 

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Published January 28, 2022

Madeline Miles

Madeline is a writer, communicator, and storyteller who is passionate about using words to help drive positive change. She holds a bachelor's in English Creative Writing and Communication Studies and lives in Denver, Colorado. In her spare time, she's usually somewhere outside (preferably in the mountains) — and enjoys poetry and fiction.

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