Global Talent Mobility Professional: A New Job Title?

The current focus on rethinking HR job titles better reflects organisational strategic direction. Dr Sue Shortland sets the context and explains what this could mean for global mobility professionals.

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Think Global People Autumn 2020 issue
This article is taken from the first issue of Think Global People, the new home of Relocate Magazine.
Click on the cover to access the digital edition or read all of the articles on our website.
During the 1980s, personnel management evolved into human resource management (HRM). With its goal of generating high commitment, HRM was regarded as the new philosophy for managing and developing people.HRM might also be considered as ‘an industrial version of Thatcherism’ because it described human beings as a resource to be used to organisational advantage, just as businesses might treat machinery and capital.While the job title Human Resource Manager is still widely in circulation, there is an increasing focus on treating individuals as ‘people’, not simply as a ‘resource’. This shift in thinking is emphasised in the Relocate Awards’ focus on Think Global People and the CIPD magazine’s title, People Management.

A changing workplace

Hastening this shift is the Covid-19 pandemic. Lockdown has given us all pause for thought as to how organisations are resourced and the nature of roles people perform. With many people working from home, day-to-day organisational reporting structures have changed and job content has adapted to the new demands of businesses.Irrespective of the current reality of Covid-19, the workplace was already changing. The central challenge in both cases rests in ensuring appropriate strategic decision-making is supported by people management practices that are designed to achieve flexibility as businesses take new directions.Future-fit-in-text-banner3Competitive pressures continue to drive expansion into new markets globally. With this comes the need to ensure people contribute talent that is aligned with the particular characteristics of individual markets.Recognising this inside the HR and GM arenas, we have seen strong emphasis on diversity and inclusion (D&I) as a way of securing talent that best serves business needs. With this has come a re-examination of the traditional role of the D&I Manager and how it can make a real difference to the employment and progression of minority groups.

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The July/August edition of the CIPD’s People Management considers the new titling of D&I posts, finding these include ‘Chief Feminism Officer’ and ‘Global Women’s Advancement Director’. D&I is, by its very nature, intersectional. The concept addresses a range of often interlinking minorities. Inclusion creates a sense of belonging for all; feelings of being part of the organisation and being able to progress are at the heart of inclusive practice.While D&I Manager is more likely to stand alone as the job title descriptor, it could be argued that there is little point is promoting diversity if there is no inclusion. Diversity becomes simply a tick-box exercise. So potentially the job title will contract to Inclusion Manager as we progress. 

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A new role for global mobility – compliance professional…?

What do these developments mean for global mobility professionals, especially as the role changes? There is considerable evidence from survey research that people in the global mobility function are keen to take on new responsibilities from those that have traditionally comprised its role, including vendor management, relocation policy design and assignee cost projections. Global mobility professionals are pushing to become more involved in the strategic arena of talent management and development.

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The conundrum is what if the desired job role does not reflect an actual job role? Over the past several years there has been an increasing emphasis in organisations on ensuring compliance for globally mobile personnel. Authorities worldwide have seen lucrative mileage in pursuing compliance from the twin perspectives of a revenue stream from visa issuance, tax collection and so on as well as from the potential levy of fines when businesses get these issues wrong. For businesses, the penalties go way beyond this to include highly expensive reputational damage, duty of care implications for their employees and family members, inability to base operations in certain locations and/or to move people into jurisdictions where they have transgressed compliance requirements.Au20-in-text-bannerWith expertise in the compliance arena, global mobility professionals are finding themselves taking on more of these duties, becoming increasingly involved in immigration, tax, social security and other compliance issues. And, as expertise has increased, so organisations have moved yet more compliance management on to the function.

Read more about Compliance Risks In A Post-Covid World


Business trips and virtual assignments – not traditionally part of the global mobility portfolio, which typically dealt with long-term and short-term expatriate assignments – are now part of day-to-day compliance. And with the Covid-19 pandemic leading to greater emphasis on virtual assignments, this work is set to grow.Success has bred success, although perhaps not in the area that global mobility professionals wish to devote the majority of their time. This might suggest that the Global Mobility Manager is heading for a new job title – Global Mobility Compliance Manager.

… or global talent mobility professional?

The question remains is Global Mobility Compliance Manager what global mobility professionals really want to be? Looking at survey research into how global mobility professionals see themselves, the answer seems to be no. Evidence from the 2020 AIRINC Mobility Outlook Survey, for example, indicates their focus is on delivering business flexibility and enhancing the employee mobility experience.Other areas of focus include evaluating and redesigning policies to support mobility, communicating these to stakeholders and developing predictive analytics to better advise on mobility decisions. These are clearly more strategic issues. In addition, it is notable that, in terms of relationship development within the business, global mobility professionals are increasingly focused on relationship building with talent acquisition and management.Global mobility professionals’ desire for a more talent-focused strategic role is not going to be a driver for changed-role recognition by itself. Action is needed. But the good news is there is evidence that this is taking place.The Santa Fe 2019 Global Mobility Survey REVISION: Mobility through the looking glass, winner of the 2020 Relocate Award for Best Research Contribution, Thought Leadership or Book, notes the global mobility function is increasingly connecting with the HR talent and reward functions, thereby helping to drive forward workforce planning and advisory services. And better still this appears to be welcomed by HR business partners (HRBPs).AIRINC reports the strong relationships being built between global mobility and HRBPs are helping to shape and enhance programme offerings. And this is welcomed by HR as the following quote indicates, “I would like to see a more integrated relationship between Global Mobility and Talent. Within our organisation succession planning for returning expats is not considered.”So, the door is open for change. And the job title of Global Talent Mobility Professional is potentially within reach.

Next steps

Global mobility professionals are experts in their field and are becoming increasingly indispensable to organisations as their expertise in compliance continues to grow. A strong base in understanding compliance is critical to international people management and its importance should not be downplayed.However, a proactive approach to talent management and development is now needed. Global mobility professionals must continue actively to build links with appropriate HRBPs and specialist HR personnel within the resourcing, talent and reward functions to ensure their involvement in global talent planning initiatives.Internationally mobile assignees on traditional expatriate assignments typically comprise only a small percentage of company workforces (1–2% is a common all-industry figure), but these high-value individuals punch above their weight in terms of organisational outcomes. They are prominent figures on the global expansion stage and hold the international competencies required for future business leaders. Their international experience, retention on repatriation and future contribution to the business all matter immensely to organisational success.As global mobility professionals increasingly input into assignee selection, deployment, development and retention as part of an integrated career-planning process, so the Global Talent Mobility Professional will gain greater recognition for their role in helping to generate this organisational success. With virtual assignments predicted to increase, this opens the way for higher volumes of international working – widening further the scope for global mobility professionals to achieve their strategic input into the talent function and recognition as Global Talent Mobility experts.
Think Global People Autumn 2020 issue
This article is taken from the first issue of Think Global People, the new home of Relocate Magazine.
Click on the cover to access the digital edition or read all of the articles on our website.

For more information, visit our Leadership & Management hub.  


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