Global mobility: the future of work

Although it appears that the worst of the pandemic has passed, there is no doubt that the future of work for the global mobility function has changed significantly. Dr Sue Shortland reports.

global mobility article
As Santa Fe's latest global mobility survey observes, we are living in extraordinary times. It makes the point that the global mobility function’s focus is no longer on only managing formalised international assignment programmes, but also on dealing with unstructured global workforce cases.This has necessitated expertise on both globally mobile employees/business travellers, the compliance, cost and employee experience facets of managing these forms of mobility, as well as on the new normal of cross-border remote working. The future of work for global mobility professionals thus involves greater complexity and higher visibility as they take on a more strategic role.Over the past few years, global mobility has articulated its desire for a seat at the table. The significant changes and challenges that have arisen from the pandemic have widened the working landscape for global mobility professionals. The remit now encompasses a wider global workforce and responsibility for advising on more hybrid working arrangements, remote and virtual work, as well as traditional physical mobility.Business leaders have made clear their expectation of global mobility's partnership in making talent management decisions, controlling costs and analytics to ensure high performance and the management of talent progression and retention.There is no doubt that the future of work for global mobility professionals will involve a wider scope, greater strategic input and more complex operational day-to-day activity than ever before. This has resulted in a redefinition of roles and responsibilities, both internally within organisations and through outsourcing or co-sourcing models with external providers.

The focus on talent

It is interesting to note that global mobility’s input into strategic workforce planning has significantly increased over the past two years. This demonstrates greater organisational dependence on their strategic and advisory roles.Employers are focusing in a laser-like way on the acquisition and development of the very best human resources with talent screening and selection a crucial element in this process. With the keen focus on remote working as part of the employee value proposition, global mobility’s role has come to the fore. This is not just in providing advice on compliance issues, but also in terms of more direct input into talent management. Working alongside HR and the management line, global mobility will continue to play strategic, operational and advisory roles going forward.However, the future of work will not rest on remote work alone. As the international marketplace opens up again so we will see a rise in international mobility in physical terms. It is therefore likely that the future of global mobility’s work will include more input into strategic workforce planning. This is likely to encompass a range of assignment types, which will need to be managed in a more challenging environment going forward. A business case will be required, as indeed it always has been, to justify international assignments. This will include a focus on differentiating between working at home (virtually), in a third location (remotely/virtually) and relocation in a physical sense. Combinations of virtual, remote and physical presence are likely to become the new normal. These will have compliance, cost, employee experience and wellbeing implications for all involved.

Analytics as the key to success

As Santa Fe rightly points out in Redefine: An extraordinary time – GMS 2021/22, organisations will need better data. Analytics will become the key to assignee and remote worker management. Priorities will be on efficiency, compliance and cost; and data collection, collation and analysis will be crucial to success.Santa Fe’s survey notes that data will be needed on total programme costs (forecast estimates and actual costs), employee performance, risk management, compliance (immigration, tax, etc.) as well as employee location tracking. Data will be required for mobile and non-mobile employees. As such, the trend to invest in technology will grow in support of data analytics and the decisions that flow from these.Data analytics will also assist with workforce planning, managing compliance, enhancing agility in terms of policy and process modification, as well as in helping to improve the employee experience and deliver feedback to organisations on employees’ career expectations.

Global mobility's future role

Global mobility professionals have gained a new status within organisations as a result of the pandemic. As we continue to hope that the worst of the pandemic is over, this will not mean a reversion to global mobility’s sole operational status. The tide has now turned.Global mobility supported by digital innovation will form a central component of the workplace talent and business planning functions. Global mobility’s understanding and expertise on policy, risk and crisis management, as well as a vast range of international destinations, provide the bedrock for its future at the very centre of business operations.Santa Fe’s survey also makes the point that we need to alter permanently how we operate commercially and socially. This means shifting our focus to sustainability, flexibility, and agility with the challenge being to turn these into daily reality.Flexibility and agility are already in evidence as assignment types and various hybrid working arrangements and the policies that support them continue to adapt to better support business decision-making, talent deployment and employee experience. And there is evidence emerging that sustainability is also becoming a central focus within the global mobility function’s daily activity as effort is made to reduce carbon footprints through both policy design and outsourcing/co-sourcing activity.As Santa Fe’s research study’s title reminds us, we are living and working at an exceptional moment. Redefining what we do is now part and parcel of our everyday working lives. This will continue to shape the future of work for the global mobility function and all those employees whose lives will be touched by it for years to come.
This article is taken from the latest issue of Think Global People, the new home of Relocate Magazine.Click on the cover to access the digital edition or on the links below to read all of the articles on our website.
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