Article: Global Mobility - From a talent lens

Strategic HR

Global Mobility - From a talent lens

To successfully manage talent, global mobility must partner with talent management to work towards a common goal
Global Mobility - From a talent lens

Almost 83 per cent of HR leaders believe that global mobility must be involved in a greater capacity starting from screening and selection of assignees right up to the management and service delivery, thereby supporting the business


The Global Mobility team ideally should have HRBPs who have international HR experience


Global mobility, as it known today, is a niche function within the HR department, which is responsible for managing cross-border assignments, where cross border could either refer to domestic relocation or international assignments. As mobility is highly complicated and technical, possesses a high risk and is situation-based, no one size can fit all. Hence, a single decision in one area can have a knockout effect on several others. While HR Business Partners (HRBPs) have the understanding of a particular country, they lack the knowledge and understanding of cross-border assignments and their effect on the individual and the organization. This is where mobility specialists come in with the right guidance and expertise.

Global Mobility & Talent Management – an effective partnership

In order to successfully manage talent and support businesses, global mobility must partner with talent management to work together towards a common goal. There are four critical areas that need to integrate to get the best results –Strategy, Rewards, Technology and Service Delivery. The result will be a superior partnership to support the business and effectively manage Talent. Almost 83 per cent of HR leaders believe that global mobility must be involved in a greater capacity starting from screening and selection of assignees right up to the management, whilst only 17 per cent business leaders feel the same way. In reality, it happens only in 9 per cent of the cases. Global mobility and talent management functions are working in parallel and not towards a common goal. Mobility metrics needs to be used more aggressively in supporting business objectives and global mobility must make use of these more actively.

Almost 16 per cent of international assignees leave the organization within the first two years of repatriation. Surely something is not quite right here! Global mobility can add value to business by getting more actively involved in the selection process, ongoing mentoring process during the assignment and effectively partnering with the business on repatriation and management of careers.

There are different methods of managing talent. In the case of an international assignee aligning and recognizing the host country performance with the home country line and then properly rewarding on repatriation is simply missing. Use of HR metrics is minimal, HRBPs often have no clue on the number and demographics of assignees, sometimes HR does not even have the information on who is repatriating when and therefore what is the next career planning or move for the assignee? It is almost always a last minute action.

I see two reasons behind this. HRBPs who are working in a particular country are too engrossed with the domestic population and therefore in the long run lose sight of an international assignee who has left years back and is out there somewhere. Also due to the domestic nature of work done, HRBPs are not skilled and qualified to understand and manage the international HR and mobility aspects of managing Talent. Sometimes there is the classic push back from HRBPs stating not my job, let Mobility handle!!

The Global Mobility team ideally should have HRBPs who have international experience and have worked in more than a single geography. They could be perhaps called I-HRBPs who would form part of the Mobility function as International HRBPs.

Global Mobility & Talent Management functions need to work in partnership and support the business needs. Aggressive use of Mobility metrics, involvement in career planning, sitting in selection process, mentoring, integrating with workforce strategy, business strategy and talent strategy, dealing with flat organization structures and economic downturn, effective repatriation planning and career assistance are some of the ways Global Mobility can add value to the Talent Management process and therefore to the business and the overall organization.

Setting up a Global Mobility Function

Formalize the strategic purpose of Global Mobility and focus on the administrative, strategic and value addition initiatives. Understand the value proposition of global deployments. Short-term focus on costs overrides the main purpose of the assignment. Enhance the use of mobility data analytics. International assignments are expensive. If cost is the only thing to measure, cost pressures will be the only factor that drives high-level decisions. Do not measure program costs in isolation from operational, service, talent, business outcomes – if done this makes it difficult to assess the RoI from an assignment. Understand the expectation of the business and align accordingly to support.

A standard approach

The traditional approach, which is followed by almost all organizations, is to have a long-term assignment of two-five years and a short-term assignment (30/60/90 days to one year). However, due to increased vigilance, the Global Mobility teams are being asked to manage and track business travellers who do not fall into either category such as an assignment below 60 days or 30 days. Now in between the short and long term assignments, many organizations have different arrangements of assignments, which are specifically designed to support a specific nature of activity, but essentially borrow bits and pieces of the short- and long-term components. Some examples of such assignments are project-based or rotational assignments, Host plus assignments, permanently mobile assignments, reduced balance sheet, traditional balance sheet etc. We are also noticing that now there is extended business travel, commuter arrangements, moving the work to where the talent resides and virtual work arrangements.

On Risks, Compliance & Regulatory Controls

The Global Mobility function is one of high risk as every single cross border that the function deals with has several areas of risk and compliance areas that it manages. Issues around structuring split pay, effective ways of cross charging across different entities and countries are just the tip of the iceberg. What are the ways to effectively handle social security and pension arrangements on cross-border assignments and effectively manage this? What are the requirements for the individual employee? As laws become more stringent, companies need to be careful of lapses. Immigration is a classic example where most of the lapses happen.

This is the reason why specialist who are international tax providers, and immigration attorneys are engaged to tide over any compliance issues upfront and any risk elements are highlighted. Some of the common risk areas that the Mobility function handles are structure and design of the assignment contract, immigration compliance, tracking of short-term business travellers, payroll compliance & withholding, local expense reporting and tax compliance, arrangement of compensation, deferred compensation, pay delivery and recharges, cross border data transfer, social security, pension and treaty compliance, vendor management and risk of managing vendor and financial due diligence, technology and interface, disciplinary actions and many others.

The future of Global Mobility

Global Mobility is rapidly undergoing transformation across all sectors worldwide. However, to succeed in this rapidly changing environment, we need strong leadership, effective partnering with talent and the business, effective use of metrics and the right model to deliver. And all of this needs to be backed up a robust technology platform to enable superior customer experience and service delivery. The future of Global Mobility is very promising as more organizations discover the benefit and efficient management of cross-border assignments that this function can bring. The important thing though and as always is to get the right people to run the show!

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Topics: Strategic HR, #GlobalPerspective

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