Aligning global and local needs – The Worldwide ERC view

Continued mobility growth into, out of and within China and the wider Asia Pacific region is offering service providers, employers and assignees fast-evolving opportunities.

Peggy Smith Worldwide ERC
Re:locate’s Ruth Holmes caught up with Peggy Smith, CEO and president of Worldwide ERC, to get the membership and training community’s perspective.Following swiftly on its Singapore Summit earlier in the month, Worldwide ERC’s Global Workforce Summit: Talent Mobility in APAC rolled into Shanghai in March.Attracting keen interest from over 500 HR practitioners and service providers, this is the sixth year the workforce mobility association for professionals who oversee, manage or support domestic and international employee transfer has hosted its well-regarded event in China.Highlighting the scale of opportunity in the region and the level of interest in mobility from practitioners, 2016 also marked a return for January’s Hong Kong Summit and Singapore Summit.“For the past six years, we’ve maintained our investment and commitment to China, in particular Shanghai, because there is such a growth, such an explosion of mobility activity and a thirst for knowledge,” Peggy Smith, Worldwide ERC’s CEO and president, told me. “Now, we’re piloting events in Hong Kong and Singapore.”

Local engagement, global outlook

Explaining the importance of Worldwide ERC’s regional events, Ms Smith said, “The most valuable thing for us is understanding the local mobility setting; what are the needs, challenges and experiences? For our friends who came to all three Worldwide ERC events in the Asia region, we understand why: the content is different in each one.”In China’s case, Peggy Smith identified “a remarkable growth in domestic China mobility” as a key trend for professionals overseeing, managing and supporting assignment activity in the region.“The US, like the UK, has a mature and robust domestic mobility scene,” she noted. “We recognise the business arc that calls for workforce mobility awareness and experience, and we see China as an area that has taken off as a global business front-runner, and emerged as a region that is eager for mobility knowledge and expertise.”Firms in the manufacturing, automotive and engineering sectors are relocating to purpose-built facilities and benefitting from new infrastructure in China’s Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities.Overlying this are not only the demographic, local and cultural aspects for mobility service providers, but also technological innovation and a generational dimension.

Mobility and innovation: twin dynamics

“We’re obviously seeing a younger generation coming into the workforce. From a pure mobility perspective, a couple of different dynamics come into play. One is not just how people experience how they are going to move, but also how they want to work for an employer,” observed Peggy Smith.Understanding and accounting for the diverse motivations of the up-and-coming generation of assignees locally and globally is critical. Evidence suggests some reluctance among educated young Chinese workers to step out of the domestic and Tier 1 city career landscape for assignments in Tier 2 or beyond while the economy continues to grow.Worldwide ERC’s Talent Mobility in China survey, launched at the Shanghai Summit, suggests that around a third of the 164 employers are responding by significantly integrating talent management initiatives into mobility, with 37 per cent doing so to a moderate extent.“We’re seeing creative organisations, CEOs, and workforce-related professionals figuring out ways to use mobility to help solve some of the talent acquisition issues,” said Peggy Smith. “Companies are driving innovation, and instead of mobility being an afterthought, now we’re seeing companies asking how they can develop their programmes around people who want this global experience.”This brings the element of innovation into sharp focus. “Mobility has to embrace innovation – it can’t happen around us or we’re going to find ourselves dinosaurs. The great part about mobility is that more people than ever are going to want to move. Is it going to be a sponsored move, like we’ve seen previously? There’s going to be a different dynamic around this.”For Ms Smith, the “explosion” in extended business travel across borders is an example of how companies and the global business sector are responding. It is also cause for anxiety.“Extended business travel is a significant area of concern. People may be taking compliance risks if they think ‘Oh, you’re only going to be in Hong Kong for a day’. The challenge in that space is whether or not governments and immigration regulations can keep pace with that demand. It’s a big, big issue.”

New horizons

The challenges of compliance and talent mobility are not new, yet as China looks set to play an increasingly significant role in the mobility sector in the years to come, understanding local drivers, engaging with employers, employers and practitioners, and responding with global insight will become even more crucial.


APAC global mobility magazine
Read more about China and the Asia-Pacific region in our APAC Summer 2016 digital magazine.

For more Relocate Global news and features about global mobility in the Asia Pacific region, see our Asia, and China sections.

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