Global mobility not delivering for firms

Moving employees around the world is becoming increasingly important but doing this well remains a challenge for business

Fewer than one in five (18%) global mobility professionals believe their talent mobility programme meets all of their expectations, according to research from MOVE Guides and the RES Forum.

‘Talent mobility’, the deployment of talent to new cities and countries, can be a key retention tool. However, none of the respondents said that their talent mobility programme exceeded expectations, showing a clear need for improvement.

The Talent Mobility Survey, seen exclusively by HR magazine, found that the biggest challenges with talent mobility programmes include high costs, cited by 64%, compliance risks, mentioned by 62%, and having too many points of contact, encountered by 51%.

MOVE Guides CEO and founder Brynne Herbert told HR magazine that there are a range of different stakeholders who must be consulted when an employee moves. “Typically, when a company moves someone, a business unit will send a request for the move and then they’ll contact the talent mobility department to provide the cost estimate,” she said. “Then that will need to be approved by the business unit and the finance department. Sometimes there will be a recruiter involved, and the local HR business partner will need to be contacted, and after that the employee is authorised to commence their move.”

However, the growing list of stakeholders does not end there. “When your employee is moving there’s all sorts of different vendors you need to consider that provide various services, such as the shipping company, the travel provider, the temporary housing contact,” Herbert explained.

Global HR director for Save the Children International Claire Fox, author of Work/Life Symbiosis, said things don’t always go to plan. “As long as people feel they and their family are treated considerately they are generally resilient and willing to accept setbacks,” she said. “However, if people feel that their and their families’ personal needs are being disregarded they will not be so forgiving or co-operative.”

She added: “To do this cost efficiently and in a way that works well for both the assignee and their family, as well as the employees in the local organisations, is extremely complex and time-consuming.”

Echoing Fox’s views, a quarter (25%) of respondents said that talent mobility is the most time consuming and complex HR function – a greater percentage than learning and development, reward, and performance management combined.

David Enser, a founder of the RES Forum, described talent mobility as a “tricky business to do well”. However, he outlined steps that organisations can take to attempt to reduce the strain. “First, understand what you are seeking to achieve with your mobility programme,” he said. “Is it simply to move an individual from A to B, or is it part of a bigger picture of a global talent agenda and strategic workforce planning? If the former, it can be a lighter effort, but if it is the latter then there are more facets to consider and more work to be done.

Technology should underpin all of the above, as well as data on which to base strategic decisions.”

For those that have not yet adopted any talent mobility technology, 31% say they are inhibited by high costs, 26% by a lack of support from management, and 21% due to difficulties in implementing it. However, 69% of those with the technology agreed that it gave them a much better handle on cost control, and 76% said it aided them in managing compliance.

Talent mobility is the last mile of HR technology,” Herbert said. “It is complex, it touches a lot of different countries, different regulations, a lot of tax codes, and a lot of different stakeholders.”