HR must revamp its approach to global employee mobility, says report

The way global organisations move employees between locations is changing rapidly  with traditional approaches such as long-term relocations being replaced by a range of more flexible assignments, according to a report this month from management consultancy PWC.

The   ‘Talent mobility – 2020 and beyond’  report draws on information from several sources including data from 900 companies, CEO surveys, interviews with talent specialists and surveys of ‘millennials’ (people with birth dates between the early 1980s and early 2000s).

Key findings include:

  • 71% of millennials say they want an overseas assignment in their career.
  • The number of female overseas assigness has gone up in the past 10 years up from 10% to 20%.
  • The  mobile population in large organisations will grow by 50% by 2020 from the proportion of mobile workers in 1998.
  • Barriers to employee mobility that need to be removed by 2020 include tax, social security and immigration requirements.
  • Technology has a key role in working arrangements and supporting compliance.

The overall message of the report is that more sophisticated mobility programmes are needed. HR needs to take a flexible approach including: increasing in short-term assignments and project based assignments; increasing commuting and extended business travel; using more intra-country mobility (not just moving workers from US or European locations but also to emerging markets); adopting  rotational employee programmes; using ‘reverse transfers’ (where employees from developing markets are moved to a parent country to gain experience); deployment of contingent labour to meet short-term specialist demand; more virtual mobility (bringing people together through technology).

Global employee mobility is set to take off with a new generation of international assignees

Global employee mobility is set to take off with a new generation of international assignees

The report says HR’s existing responsibility for regulatory, compensation and tax issues as well as policies and processes will be combined with a more strategic role.  CEOs say they want to integrate employee mobility with business strategy.Among the challenges HR will need to deal with is, for example, the problem in parts of Asia where hiring levels and resignation rates are  nearly twice that of western organisations, and there is a higher churn rate of high performing employees.

HR will have to give more importance to the preferences of individual assignees, partly due to increasing numbers of women and due to the expectations of millennials.

Key practical challenges for HR professionals:

  • manage compliance and risk
  • deliver a good assignee experience so the worker can focus on their new role
  • understand, report on and manage costs
  • make sure the organisation gets the best value for money and report on the return on investment in a mobility programme
  • contribute to creating a sustainable talent supply
  • promote the rapid deployment of key skills and talent
  • develop meaningful management information to support business strategy decisions
  • partner with the business, understand the wider business strategy and then develop effective communications, policies and processes to deliver the talent mobility strategy

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