How can businesses build a dynamic, global workforce?

As businesses expand internationally, they need to create strategies to enable continued global growth through talent acquisition, retention and global mobility. Envoy Global investigates the pitfalls.

Building a World-Ready Workforce
Global immigration services provider Envoy Global, examines what makes a company successful on a global scale.

How global assignments create world-ready leaders

To be successful on a global scale, companies need to be able to hire the right people no matter where they are in the world and help them develop the skills to move seamlessly across the enterprise. Such investment in people enables businesses to adapt to the shifting needs of a global marketplace and workforce — plus, companies that prioritise recruiting globally, sponsoring international employees for visas and green cards and offering mobility opportunities to their employees, have an edge when it comes to acquisition and retention.Seventy per cent of visa holders say that whether or not a company has a green card sponsorship policy in place is very or extremely important in deciding if they would work for the organisation — a huge opportunity for employers to develop a policy that would attract top global talent. And when organisations attract global talent, it tends to be a long-term deal: 46 per cent of expats have been at their current company for three years or more, and 42 per cent plan on staying for five years or more.As more businesses expand into the international marketplace, they need to create formal strategies to enable continued global growth from all sides, including talent acquisition, retention and global mobility. The order of the day is truly about creating a global-minded, world-ready workforce.

What does being world-ready mean?

The war for talent is real. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 68 per cent of HR professionals are experiencing difficulty recruiting candidates for full-time positions in their organisations, with those in the high-tech industry most likely to cite global competition for talent as a reason for their increased recruiting difficulty. This massive challenge, combined with fast-changing talent expectations — according to PwC’s Talent Mobility 2020 Report, 71 per cent of millennials expect and want an overseas assignment during their career — is understandably daunting. However, now, more than ever, companies’ ability to hire, mobilise and manage a workforce across international borders will ultimately be the decider of success.As talent in the United States continues to prove difficult to find, employers are hiring employees from around the world, most of whom will need some form of visa sponsorship — but that’s just part of the equation for global-minded organisations.

Companies that are world-ready:

  1. Acquire the best talent from across the globe;
  2. Mobilise their employees around the world to pursue business opportunities; and
  3. Have the capability to manage their entire global workforce seamlessly, with a strategic view into budget, workforce forecasting, and immigration timelines and needs.
Organisations’ need for global talent and an inclusive perspective uniquely positions HR to be the department driving process and strategy in each of these areas. It’s HR professionals’ opportunity to shine.

Talent where it needs to be

One of the best ways to help employees develop these world-ready skill sets is through mobility programs that give them opportunities to stretch their skill sets while working outside their comfort zone. Mobility is a vital piece of the leadership development process for global companies, says Betsy Welch, global mobility manager for AIG, the multinational insurance corporation with more than 88 million customers in 130 countries. “Mobility creates unique opportunities for leaders in global firms to expand their leadership experience, find synergies that bridge gaps between locations and help inform work when they return to their home office,” she says.That kind of experience can’t be taught in the classroom, or developed through business travel, she adds, “There is no substitute for the experience of living and working in another country.”Taking steps toward being truly global has never been more important, as more companies expand their operations.“The era of the national company is over,” says Kevin Martin, chief research officer for the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4CP), a human capital research and data firm. “Given the complex diversity of customers, supply chain and markets, if companies are not developing global-minded leaders they will fall short.”

The ROI of global-mindedness

Global companies have always had mobility programs, yet they are often transactional in nature, designed primarily to address the cost and logistics of moving a senior leader to a new office or region to fill a short-term reactive business need.According to Brookfield Relocation Services’ 2016 mobility trends survey, only ten per cent of mobility professionals say their role is strategically aligned with the wider talent agenda, and that they are actively engaged in workforce planning to create tighter alignment between employee mobility and talent management goals.The firms that make mobility a talent development priority may be in the minority, but the ones that do make these investments gain a measurable competitive advantage, i4CP’s 2015 Talent Mobility Matters report found that prioritising talent mobility not only results in more globally minded leaders, it directly correlates to market performance in terms of profitability, revenue, customer satisfaction and market share. The report shows that high-performance organisations — those that perform better than their peers — are twice as likely to prioritise talent mobility than low performance organisations. They are also more likely to reward managers for developing their direct reports, to make internal talent aware of job openings across the enterprise, and to report that the criterion for talent mobility is transparent to their entire organisations.Translation: Being world-ready means having the mechanisms in place to get the best talent in the world into the roles that you need filled. Top talent means top performance.

Mobility fuels employee development and retention

According to Envoy’s Global Workforce Management 2017 Survey, 70 per cent of employers have a global mobility department.“A formal mobility program gives valued employees opportunities to take on roles or assignments in different departments, business units and locations in order to expand the capabilities and knowledge of the organisation and the individuals,” I4CP's Martin says. An investment in mobility “will improve engagement of top talent, while expanding the skills and experience of the company’s workforce to ensure it can meet its human capital needs for the short and long term.”“Mobility is also a great retention tool,” says Travis Cossitt, senior manager of organisation effectiveness for Western Union, the global financial services firm, headquartered in Englewood, Colorado.At Western Union, opportunities for movement are discussed in annual talent reviews with a focus on helping senior leaders develop cross-functional skills through new assignments — which helps keep them engaged.“Tying mobility to talent development makes us more agile and innovative, which we need to stay ahead of the competition,” he says.It also helps the company spread the corporate culture, and fill roles more quickly, because management can tap the internal talent pool to fill key positions. That lowers the cost of recruiting and ensures people familiar with the Western Union way of doing things are in these roles.Mobility shouldn’t be limited to the leadership team, however. The chance to work abroad and take on new assignments can be an enticing tool for young talent seeking opportunities to build a global career, says AIG’s Welch.“They often want the opportunity to learn, try new projects and work in other countries, and they look for employers who offer that,” she says.The Brookfield survey shows 41 per cent of companies use mobility policies to recruit external candidates, and 61 per cent say their company communicates to employees that taking international assignments is important to optimise their careers.

Compliance, security and risk

Companies are putting more attention and focus on understanding compliance issues and their consequences at the global level. Much of the challenge surrounding compliance is around awareness of the risk. Sometimes global mobility or HR is the last to know about a project where a key employee needs to be in country within days. Or, the trip falls into the gray area of short-term business travel and there is a lack of clarity as to what kind of work authorisation is needed. Global immigration requires the passing of private information between multiple suppliers including in-country partners, domestic law firms, the company and the employee. Ensuring this data is protected is critical and only becoming more important given that in early 2016, the European Parliament voted on the “biggest shake-up” of data protection laws, according to the BBC. The new laws aim to strengthen the rights individuals have over their data and make companies take the issue of data protection far more seriously. Data breaches, for example, have a 72-hour window in which they must be reported which some argue is extremely difficult to comply with; however, the cost of failing to comply can be prohibitive.Consequences can include high monetary penalties (i.e. fines, potential criminal sanctions (i.e. jail), an inability to secure visas for company employees in a particular jurisdiction (i.e. your employee is no longer allowed in the country), disruption to business practices (i.e. your company is unable to obtain future business or work visas to a specific country) – and most of all, could result in unhappy employees.

Prioritising global pays off

Implementing a global talent acquisition program or a robust mobility program isn’t easy, especially when companies are concerned about costs of overseas assignments, the complexities of the immigration process, mitigating risk and keeping the company and the employee working compliantly. But if business leaders want to embed a global mindset in their corporate culture and appeal to a diverse customer base, these are investments that need to be made, Western Union's Cossitt says.“Mobility gives leaders a world perspective, and it demonstrates to local customers and employees that the company is truly a global organisation.”To find out more, visit

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