The global mobility function: well-being, talent and inclusion implications

Recent research has focused on the widening and complex role of the global mobility function. Dr Sue Shortland reports on the implications for the relocation profession.

One of the key issues that global mobility professionals face today is the ever-widening scope of their role. With increased numbers of policies governing different types of mobility and also the trend towards guidelines that support greater flexibility, the role of the global mobility professional has become increasingly complicated. Not only is the function heavily involved in compliance (which has become more complex due to the inclusion of remote and hybrid working) and the management and delivery of the employee experience, but it is also becoming more actively involved in talent identification and deployment as well as talent strategy.A further area that has become central to the role of global mobility professionals’ work is their communication and links with senior leadership. This means that a different range of capabilities and competencies are required by global mobility professionals in order to fulfil the widening range of activities expected of the function.

Well-being interventions

Added to these demands, recent research from Santa Fe Relocation* has identified global mobility’s role in delivering well-being resolutions. Global mobility professionals need to be clear on what well-being means for their organisation, how the culture supports it, and who owns and uses any well-being data. Well-being must be built into international work arrangements and to achieve success in this endeavour, clear communication and education are required.With the focus strongly on improving employee experience, Santa Fe Relocation’s research suggests a review of internal well-being benefits and tools so that global mobility professionals fully understand exactly what the employee experience means within the culture of their organisation. This knowledge acts as the underpinning for arranging and ensuring that mobile employees and their families can access well-being interventions in international locations. Formal mechanisms for regular check-ins with internationally mobile staff and their families are also recommended alongside flexible approaches to relocation support in order to embrace well-being activities.Santa Fe Relocation’s research also indicates that the pandemic has fundamentally shifted the employer/employee relationship, changing how individuals work as well as their psychological contract with their employers. The emphasis has shifted somewhat from support and attention being focused on those on traditional assignments to more support and assistance being required by business travellers. In essence, employee expectations have changed and employees involved in all types of mobility now seek support with well-being.

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Diversity and inclusion

Another theme that is gaining prominence within global mobility currently is the championing of diversity and inclusion within the talent mobility strategy. Once again, more flexible approaches to relocation support are recommended to help with this. For example, Santa Fe Relocation’s research suggests that rather than simply considering accompanying family as dependent children, extended family relationships should be considered such that family mobility might encompass the movement of parents/grandparents if they are integral to the family’s support network.Global mobility professionals are urged to think laterally to consider widening support as appropriate to meet needs in different host locations in order to improve diversity and inclusion outcomes.

Senior management links

For well-being and diversity initiatives to be supported successfully, senior leadership as well as line managers must buy into the support being suggested and offered. This is also necessary in order to tailor policies and practices effectively to both employee and organisational needs. Again, this is another pressure increasingly being placed upon global mobility professionals. They must ensure that communication with management achieves the desired outcomes.

Technology and metrics

Another key area concerns the compilation and use of metrics. Without data to monitor actions taken, it is not possible to determine success. This means that there is increased emphasis being placed upon service providers to develop the appropriate technologies needed to support diverse policy and practice actions and for global mobility professionals to use these effectively. As Air Inc.’s 2024 Mobility Outlook Survey** notes, holistic technology and tracking tools are critical to manage mobility, particularly alternative types of moves such as commuter and extended business travel assignments and remote working.  As the emphasis on flexibility to improve the employee experience and the demand for flexible policies tailored to the needs of each individual grow, technology is required to ensure costs are managed effectively. Again, global mobility professionals are at the forefront of cost control for all forms of international deployments.Potentially, there is some good news on the horizon in terms of reducing global mobility’s workload – Air Inc.’s survey also focuses on the opportunities from AI for the function, noting that its use can enable global mobility professionals to operate more efficiently and have a more strategic focus. It is also envisaged that AI can help with communication with employees and provide access to more information for mobility practitioners.

Supporting the global mobility function

Given that global mobility’s role has expanded out from supporting international assignments to encompass all forms of international travel and mobility, it is important to consider the workload pressures on the global mobility function. As their remit widens and the demand for different skills becomes clear, this raises the issue as to how the well-being of global mobility professionals themselves will be addressed. The focus has always been on the importance of global talent and its deployment to meet business objectives but lying behind the mobility of individuals and their families is the global mobility function itself. If the complexity of its work and the pressures that it faces continue to grow without well-being support being considered, the knock-on effect is likely to be deterioration in the function’s own well-being and service levels.Greater attention needs to be paid to diversity and inclusion, talent development and deployment and competency and skills development within the global mobility function set within a culture of supportive well-being if the function is to continue to improve its contribution to organisational effectiveness.The theme of Relocate’s International Women’s Day this year was Inspiring Inclusion. The global mobility function must widen its own talent base through an inclusive and supportive approach focusing on well-being such that it will continue to attract the very best talent and thereby provide superlative service to the line, senior management, and employees and families on the move.
*Reshaping Global Mobility 2023/4: Taking Care of Global Talent, Santa Fe Relocation.**2024 Mobility Outlook Survey: Air Inc.

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