· 2 min read · Features

As international mobility grows, UK needs to consider more flexible work patterns


In an increasingly competitive global economy, countries worldwide are recognising the potential of human capital and the economic value this asset possesses when emerging from the depths of the downturn.

As such, international mobility has grown tremendously, with markets across the globe competing to attract the world's best talent and opening their doors to recruit from an international labour pool.

As international mobility has grown, the management of the process has changed considerably. Gone are the days of simply sourcing an airline ticket, a hotel and an expense account. Companies are being asked to offer more to prospective employees to remain competitive in the labour market. Flexible working is at the top of that agenda.

It is widely reported that free markets, such as the UK, offer attractive employment packages compared to the more reserved eastern economies. So why is there a need to offer flexible working when trying to attract staff internationally?

One has to bear in mind the contextual benefits of such a scheme within the modern era of Western Europe's work culture. For example, employment in the UK is constantly being shaped by the growing demands of an ageing population that require a better work-life balance, which is further backed by emerging technologies that allow for remote working.

Accordingly, flexible working is becoming a necessity within the British workplace, with evidence suggesting flexible working schemes lead to an increase in staff motivation, as workers feel more in control of their life. This control resonates well at an international level, as those looking to move to the UK seek a work pattern more suited to their needs and so adapt to the UK culture and labour market more effectively.

Such is the need to offer employees flexible working as a right, not as a privilege, the Government is reviewing policy around this issue. The grounding force behind this change seems to aim to put an end to the potential brain drain and eliminating the traditional, deskbound British work culture. In particular, the Government is looking at reviewing current legislation that gives employers 26 weeks after recruiting an individual before they are obliged to negotiate more flexible hours. However, changing legislation is the tip of the iceberg if the UK is to compete at a global level, as countries, especially those in Northern Europe, continue to offer more to prospective employees.

If the UK were to offer flexible working schemes, why stop there?

Another major problem in deterring employees from an international job re-location is spousal assistance. Reports have suggested that spouse and family adjustment issues are a major factor in returning home prematurely, and are proving to be a huge barrier to workforce mobility. By addressing the needs of flexible working and spousal assistance, the UK has the potential of positioning itself as a global labour capital, a major asset as it emerges from the recession.

With this in mind, we, along with the youth-focused consumer insights company Intelligence Group, want to facilitate a greater understanding on this matter and so have commissioned research over the summer to discover whether countries could offer more in the international labour market. Our main objective for this is to help employers - and countries - to better understand the market and enable them to be in a superior position to attract international talent.

We hope this research will help offer additional insight to both policy-formers in the UK as well as abroad. Of equal importance, we seek to provide international recruiters with further information on how best to create employee packages, which take into account regional differences but also help fuel the drive for greater mobility in the international labour market.

Steven Lewis is international sales director at online job site, Totaljobs.com