Global Mobility in the age of AI

Intelligent technology is not only transforming our daily lives, but the way we work – from employee recruitment and retainment to customer service and business productivity. Ruth Holmes looks at the latest thinking on the evolving role of tech and global mobility’s role within this.

Autumn 2019 issue of Relocate magazine
This article is taken from the latest issue of Relocate magazine 
– the must-read for HR, global managers and relocation professionals.Developments in technology and artificial intelligence (AI) – the simulation of human processes by machines – are undoubtedly making life easier for people on the move globally.Designed for everyone from expatriates to relocating employees and business travellers to cross-border commuters, a preponderance of apps and platforms are keeping pace with the shift towards hyper-personalisation, as employers and service providers seek to engage and retain employees – and meet their clients’ needs.

What does AI-enabled mobility mean for mobility teams?

Today, AI and tech have moved on from straightforward compliance and tracking to bring people together in positive ways. AI, machine learning and digitally-enabled social platforms are enhancing the global mobility experience and freeing global mobility professionals to focus on other aspects of their roles.This picture is being replicated across the corporate domain. Technological developments and the increasing involvement of AI in every walk of life are raising fundamental questions and anxieties about the role and purpose of what we do – and the way ahead.Perhaps one most obvious aspect is the concern that technology brings longstanding challenges into sharper relief. Unconscious human bias around recruitment, training, progression, selection for assignment and reward are being echoed in nascent technology.

Making mobility better

Yet, AI also presents recruiters with a golden opportunity to hand over candidate selection to an algorithm that is blind to the markers of age, race, social or cultural background and more attuned to learning capacity, skillset and qualifications.Technology can also, without a doubt, make the relocation and acclimatisation process easier for end-users. Research presented by InterNations Business Solutions at Relocate’s Festival of Global People in May highlights the positive application of technology in global mobility to bring people and places together.Global mobility management tools and platforms such as Benivo – the Relocate Award Technological Innovation Employee & Family Support winner for 2018-19 – are harnessing technology to move mobility squarely into engagement and talent management.Benivo’s online resources, which are constantly refined and available, are designed so assignees can focus on their new job and home life rather than on the mundane, necessary, and often stressful tasks, of relocation.

Tipping point - but in what direction?

This duality around the nature of AI and this tipping point we find ourselves at – both in global mobility and wider society – is an opportunity to define the nature of AI in relocation, our teams and our sector more widely.A recent Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) study, claiming to be one of the first comprehensive surveys of both employees and employers, explores how AI and automation are already being used in UK workplaces. It suggests that AI and automation are radically shaping work and jobs in a way that is creating better and more fulfilling jobs for employees.
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However, the research also highlighted how just over half(55%) of HR teams are involved in investment decisions on AI and automation, and just 45% in implementation processes.One implication is that if professionals want to be engaged and have a stake in their future organisation and career path, then getting curious about technology and continuing professional development is going to be key.

Technology, professional development and engagement

As well as the broader issues for HR and global mobility around technology’s impact on strategic workforce planning, upskilling and business transformation, there is also the very real and related issue around engagement.A new survey by Dell showed that 73% of UK office workers would consider leaving their employer if they failed to provide a suitable workplace environment. Citing the “damming impact the wrong approach to technology can have,” Neil Marshall, senior director, client services group at Dell EMEA, commented, “Businesses need to think carefully about the design of the workplace and specifically about how they integrate technology into employees’ workstations, breakout areas and meeting rooms.”

The nexus of people and AI

With this reality of the impact of technology on jobs, organisational design, physical workspaces and engagement, at its 2018 Annual Conference and Exhibition the CIPD launched its revised profession map. Reiterating his belief that HR is at a critical inflexion point, the CIPD’s chief executive Peter Cheese described the new Profession Map as “a fundamental rethink of our core competencies and the context of our profession.”In HR and global mobility – both areas of work that have people at their heart – good work, flexible working, well-being and engagement, skills and capabilities, inclusion and diversity, governance and transparency remain central. This commitment to people is coming to define how we think of technology and AI adoption. “We are at an incredible point in time where we are rethinking that is the real heart of business,” said Mr Cheese. “It’s about people – humanity. This is going to define our future.”At the Festival of Global People, CIPD fellow, CEO of Jungle HR and policy influencer, Teresa Boughey, joined a host of leading experts to speak about the importance of providing the conditions for people to thrive and be the best they can be through more inclusive practices. Coach, consultant and author Ben Renshaw followed, speaking about the importance of enabling people to connect and work with the innately human characteristics of passion and purpose.

Watch videos from the Festival of Global people to learn more

The CIPD continued the narrative at the professional body for HR and people development’s first Festival of Work this June, with a big-picture session on understanding what AI means for organisations. From the perspective of technology, Rob McCargow, director of AI, technology and investments at business services consultancy, PwC, framed why AI is important to HR and how it is impacting business. Sounding a cautionary note about instances where the rhetoric around AI proliferation does not meet the reality, Mr McCargow went on to outline the predicted global financial impact of AI, which hints at the future for work.In total, the potential boost to global GDP is in the order of $15.7 trillion by 2030. PwC’s data shows that, all things being equal, China and North America will see the largest potential GDP gains attributable to AI by 2030. For China, which is set to gain most, this could bring a 26.1% dividend to its GDP, while for North America the figure is 14.5%.

Leading the discussion around AI

In the global mobility realm – already facing the brave new world of relocating and transferring the next generation of tech talent and supporting companies moving to new tech-driven domains – the challenge is both one of people and practice.In significant ways, the Festival of Global People presaged this message. The discussion was around how will what we do shift in line with what people and organisations need and the technology available to deliver this?Clearly, the extent of the challenge varies according to each organisation’s rate of technology adoption and the type of work it does. Nevertheless, speaking at the CIPD Festival of Work, Mr McCargow believes that to steer leaders and organisations through the hype and reality of AI, HR has a vital role to play by “joining in and scrutinise, all the better to drive this hot topic forward.”Fellow CIPD Festival of Work speaker and panellist in this session, Dr Sally Eaves, wholeheartedly agrees; particularly when it comes to selling the benefits of AI and making it work for people and societies in progressive ways. “This is all about agility, creative confidence and learning for life,” said Dr Eaves, for whom technological developments are all about people taking their own development and upskilling seriously, and following their passion with “pragmatism and purpose.”For Ms Boughey, the challenge is the same. That is, how to bring technology and people together: Speaking at the Festival of Global People, she said, “We have to look to the future. This broadly is about talent planning: how do we find talent, where do we get it from and how technology will help us?
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