Global mobility: time for action as companies rebuild

The rapid-response phase to global Covid-19 lockdowns put the value of Global Mobility into sharp relief. Now its expertise has a key strategic role in rebuilding corporate competitive advantage.

The new issue of Think Global People – Relocate’s statement of intent for helping professionals shape the future world of work from a people, sustainability, and learning and development perspective – brims with the latest thinking on the direction of travel for leadership and global mobility in the post-coronavirus world.A key theme is why now is the perfect opportunity for global mobility expertise to step up and show its value to the company as we move forward in an uncertain world. The pandemic has put global mobility’s knowledge front and centre of organisational responses to the people challenges it raised and continues to, despite the inevitable postponement of plans.From rapid repatriations, family, health and wellbeing support in the immediate aftermath of lockdown and border closures, the global mobility function still has an important role today. The profession and wider sector is well positioned to consult with leaders on how to untangle complex considerations as businesses seek to survive and thrive.

Tax, immigration and technology post-pandemic

The global mobility community has been building a case over recent years for taking a place at the top table with other strategic decision-makers. Much like our colleagues in HR, this is recognition of the fact that in these talent-focused and globalised times, good people-management practices make or break a business and its reputation.With dispersed workforces now the norm due to lockdowns the world over, global mobility has had a vital task in advising senior leaders on what this means from a compliance perspective. There is no doubt that this remit is useful to the wider business. As Dr Sue Shortland writes in her piece, Global Talent Mobility Professional: A new job title?, compliance is business-critical and has become a core competence for global mobility expertise. This indicates how the global mobility function has evolved over recent years to absorb changes and guide decision making; particularly in relation to the rise in business travel and growth in non-traditional approaches to overseas assignments.As Debra Partridge of global talent mobility platform Topia notes in her piece, Compliance Risks in a Post-Covid World, technology is also a critical tool in ensuring compliant remote working, both now and going forward.“Proactively knowing employees’ locations and the activities they undertake while working in non-home jurisdictions are essential data,” she writes. “Business leaders realise that manual self-reporting is not a long-term solution. Investing in technology now will protect your businesses from compliance risks today and into the future.”Au20-in-text-banner

Strategic talent management

The other angle to this is global mobility’s interface with corporate talent functions, especially given global talent shortages and now strategic workforce planning as we emerge and respond to the economic shock of Covid-19.In recent years, some global mobility teams have successfully fostered relationships across the business, including business development, to assess the need, availability of people with the right skills, and the likely package, benefits and rewards required for a successful assignment. There has also been recognition of the role of global mobility opportunities and their role in talent attraction, recruitment and development in the multi-generational workforce.Today, global mobility teams have a chance to further leverage their insight to engage with senior leadership on the shape of the workforce and people risk more widely. Key people decisions are looming as furlough schemes end, redundancies rise, and output and consumption look uncertain.In the UK, Brexit-related uncertainties overlay these challenges. Commenting on trends showing a reduction in global mobility and increased hiring of local nationals, Sarah Dennis, Head of International at Towergate Health & Protection, says “The recruitment of local nationals has moved up the agenda for a number of organisations. Business travel continues to be affected by Covid-19, making managing globally mobile workforces more difficult as restrictions change daily, country to country. It’s an opportunity for businesses to get local national recruitment right, by supporting employees from the offset with competitive employment packages that incorporate support for health and wellbeing.”

Managing risk in global workforce planning

Here there is also scope for global mobility, in tandem with their talent colleagues, to actually advise where a dispersed workforce is the correct solution, for example where finding the people with the right skills is difficult.Louise Worbey, Global Mobility Lead at KPMG International, agrees that while traditional physical mobility is likely to decline in the immediate future, it is unlikely to cease completely, opening the door to other ways of ensuring the right people are in the right place at the right time.“Physical, strategic deployments do have the capacity to build diverse talent pools, diversity of thought, and a global mindset within future leaders,” says Ms Worbey. “Those more forward-thinking global mobility professionals are already talking about longer-term increases in virtual assignments, where employees either stay in their home-country while working for another ‘host’ entity or work from a third-country altogether, using technology to facilitate their day-to-day role. The ease with which many have continued to work almost seamlessly in their current roles, while operating remotely, has increased an understanding of its potential.”So, from a talent and a compliance perspective, Global Mobility has it all to play for as the role is poised to take on a more strategic, business-critical role post-pandemic.

Read Louise Worbey's article: Flexibility and agility after Covid-19: Global Mobility’s new reality

Global Mobility has already shown it can support flexibility and agility in the workforce. Yet post-pandemic, Global Mobility leaders need to be articulating the skillset of their teams like never before.Future-fit-in-text-banner3
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