HR Team of the Year – Grant Thornton Talent Mobility Team

Demonstrating outstanding leadership and excellence in relocation that inspires others, the Grant Thornton Talent Mobility Team won the HR Team of the Year award for developing and leading a world-class global mobility programme.

Grant Thornton winners of HR Team of the Year

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See our special Awards supplement in the Summer 2016 issue of Re:locate magazine on our Digital Issues page.

Demonstrating outstanding leadership and excellence in relocation that inspires others, the Grant Thornton Talent Mobility Team won the HR Team of the Year award for developing and leading a world-class global mobility programme.The team’s passionate and business-focused approach to its mobility programme caught the judges’ eye for its responsiveness to key organisation and individual needs.Led by Susan Gregory, and with Andy McSkimming and Alex Webster on board, the team canvassed the views of the UK tax, assurance and advisory business’s 400 trainees and newly qualified accountants and their managers around international assignments. The objectives were to test assumptions and more fully explore individuals’ and managers’ views and business goals.By proactively addressing the link between talent and mobility for the millennial generation, the team has successfully demonstrated the mobility function’s valuable role in talent attraction, management and retention in these cost-conscious, resource-tight times.Susan Gregory’s outstanding leadership in building a dialogue and mutual understanding across Grant Thornton has enabled the team to add additional value to the business and its employees in a highly competitive sector.The development of strategic talent exchanges is helping people gain employability through international experience, and facilitating knowledge transfer across the international business to meet local needs.Throughout the process, the team’s care, dedication and focus have enabled it to garner support and interest from across the company. Commenting on the Re:locate Awards win, Grant Thornton’s chief executive, Sacha Romanovitch, said, “I have been very proud of how the team, under Susan Gregory‘s leadership, have shaped a vision and worked so well with our global colleagues to move us from the purely tactical towards the strategic, and it’s fab to see it being recognised externally.”

HR: Theory into practice

Scoring particularly highly for the people management aspect of the HR Team of the Year award, the team’s ultimate aim was, says Susan Gregory, “to improve our understanding of our employees’ views, motivations and preferences on mobility in the context of generational and talent trends, and the business’s needs”.Speaking of the survey’s rationale, Ms Gregory explains, “It can be very easy for people in a technical role to tell the company what it needs. We hear in HR about all the latest cutting-edge ideas, but sometimes these aren’t right for your business. I wanted to test assumptions and hear about what kept people awake at night.”The process brought managers and employees together in a conversation to find practical mobility solutions that met the requirements of all stakeholders.“We carried out the survey because I thought I knew what the answers were and I wanted to validate my assumptions,” says Susan Gregory. “There was a lot of noise being made around the millennial generation and what they wanted as being somehow different to previous generations.“Actually, our assumptions were about right – almost. There does seem to be a greater interest than before in mobility and in working overseas. So I wanted to make sure we knew what the issues were from every side – for the business, for the employees, and from a mobility perspective.”

Linking mobility and retention

Bearing out external research, Grant Thornton’s internal survey showed that overwhelmingly, yes, people wanted to go on assignment, with short-term assignments preferred to longer-term assignments because of family ties and relationships.“Our survey showed us that 70 to 80 per cent would like to go on assignment overseas,” explains Susan Gregory. “Realistically, it is a challenge to make this happen for everyone, but we do our best and plan appropriately.”For managers, talent retention was raised as a concern in this highly competitive sector. Firms and individuals invest heavily to achieve the professional qualifications required to practise, and it is disruptive and costly for the business to lose those skills.“The team’s passionate and business-focused approach to its mobility programme caught the judges’ eye for its responsiveness to key organisation and individual needs.”“Retention is always an issue at a certain level,” notes Susan Gregory. ”There have always been demographic issues, and various organisation types and sectors have gone through peaks and troughs. At Grant Thornton, we plan what is right for us from a skills perspective, and develop accordingly.”

Adding value

The survey gave the Talent Mobility Team renewed insight into how mobility could continue to support the business. The judges highlighted the team’s eagerness to understand people’s expectations and its responsiveness to these, as well as to the business’s needs on a practical level.From a business perspective, the team has a vital role in sharing skills and knowledge across its international network. With three strands to its business – assurance, tax and advisory – the company has 26 offices around the world and employs 4,500 people globally.The balance of each business across the three strands, and the blend of skills and expertise, is unique to each location. For the Talent Mobility Team in the UK, which reports to the head of reward and policy, the focus is on matching individuals with the relevant skills and experience to meet specific business needs.“Our tailored talent mobility programmes allow us to plan a really good assignment where we identify a strong opportunity to develop an individual and others in the host country,” says Susan Gregory.“This is about giving the assignment the best chance of success by planning it properly. It means picking the right people, setting the right objectives for the assignment, and then planning the return.”“The development of an exchange programme with engaged and motivated assignees and partnership building provides a good example of managing resources effectively,” commented the award judges, who also lauded the team’s innovative and agile “bespoke programme design that works for your own organisation, not going for a one-size-fits-all approach”.

An international partnership

For Susan Gregory’s team, which handles 160–170 inbound and outbound moves a year and works with talent mobility and HR teams and directors in overseas offices, good mobility is about knowledge transfer and making sure the benefits work both ways and for everyone.“Some of the larger partners in the network have talent mobility specialists – in the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand – and sometimes we work directly with managing partners,” explains Susan Gregory. “We try to make it so that it is a great experience for all people involved.”Combining this local and international outlook with the professional services company’s culture, which emphasises collaboration, Grant Thornton’s Talent Mobility Team is helping to secure employee engagement, deepen its business focus, and deliver cost savings.By canvassing employees’ and managers’ views, and designing and delivering tightly focused assignments that support knowledge transfer, the team, under Susan Gregory’s leadership, has also been able to bring back in house certain aspects of its role, saving Grant Thornton £70,000 last year.This has been achieved through a responsive approach that links mobility with the business’s talent agenda to deliver a highly tailored and cost-effective programme that meets both assignee and business needs.This has earned Susan Gregory and the team not only a Re:locate award but also high praise from Grant Thornton’s senior leadership and support from across the business.

Following record attendance at this year's gala dinner, the Relocate team is already hard at work to ensure we build on the success of the Relocate Awards 2015/16 and make next year’s even bigger and better.

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