Survey of surveys reveals the future of talent mobility

Talent mobility will play a key part in enabling business leaders to meet the challenges of a global business world that is more technologically advanced, demographically complex and geographically diverse than ever before, says a new study.

surveying talent

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This new mobility ‘survey of surveys’ was undertaken by the Canadian ERC (CERC) and the European Relocation Association (EuRA) and presented at April’s in Malta.Initiated by the CERC and EuRA, the new study reviews 57 global mobility reports, reflecting the experiences of more than 25,000 mobility stakeholders across 140 countries.The study highlights the top five factors that are driving change across the globe and impacting what estimates suggest is the $60-billion-dollar mobility industry. These are: globalisation – the shift in economic power from west to east; demographic change; individualism – creating more choice for employees; a movement toward knowledge-based economies; and technology.We are indeed in a changing business environment, as summed up by McKinsey & Company. “The collision of technical disruption, rapid emerging-markets growth, and widespread ageing is upending long-held assumptions that underpin strategy setting, decision-making, and management.”

34% of employers report trouble filling key positions

As CERC chief executive Steve Cryne stated at April’s EuRA Conference, “These factors are increasing demand for skilled and specialised talent across the globe. In response, more employers are expanding their mobility programmes to manage complex talent gaps, increase their global reach, attract and retain employees, and develop tomorrow’s leaders.”Having spoken to leading consultants over recent months, I have established that managing global mobility will soon become the norm for many organisations. Some companies already have 75 per cent of their workforce working globally across borders. Typically, companies are at 5 to 10 per cent, and some only move around 1 per cent, but that is changing fast.The not-too-distant future may spell the end of global mobility as a niche sector, but that certainly won’t be the end of the relevance of what the wide raft of mobility professionals do in a much wider global business market. The potential to share professional knowledge with the C suite is there, and with it lots of opportunity.Everyone in the sector knows that mobility trends are shifting rapidly and increasing in complexity. The quest of the CERC and EuRA survey was to establish if there was consensus in the literature, which consisted of a myriad of surveys, reports and professional opinion from 2011 to 2016. Its overall objective was to gain a deeper understanding of the global mobility industry and the factors shaping its development, and to present some considerations for the future.

89% of organisations plan to increase their mobile workers in the next two years

The two bodies did indeed find there was consensus, with as many as 89 per cent of organisations planning to increase their mobile workforce in the next two years. But they confirmed that the nature of global mobility was changing, reflecting an increasingly complex global economic environment.The top three challenges for employers are cost pressures, compliance and programme complexity, while family remains the top concern for employees.

80% of Millennials want to work outside their home country at some point during their career

Future trends

“Fortunately, there are plenty of skilled workers willing to meet the demand for global talent,” explained Steve Cryne. “Our joint survey found that most Millennials are eager to complete a mobility experience in the first six years of their career. Interestingly, 71 per cent of female Millennials want to work abroad, but they only represent 20 per cent of the current international mobility population. This disconnect makes for a strong argument for better talent engagement.”This underlines Re:locate’s commitment to keeping the development of women leaders at the top of the agenda and ensuring that what female assignees need in order to obtain global experience is highlighted. The support of Millennials has been topical for quite some time, but the value of older, more experienced, workers should not be overlooked, and nor should diversity and the importance of cultural awareness in managing global teams.

Proving mobility’s ROI

The old chestnut of proving the return on investment of mobility was certainly evident in the research. Steve Cryne revealed that all the surveys that asked about tracking, evaluating, and other elements related to ROI clearly showed that organisations were not excelling in this area.Survey after survey stacked the evidence, from PwC’s Moving People with Purpose report, which says that three in four respondents expect to be measuring return on investment from mobility in two years’ time, compared with just 9 per cent who do this today, to Brookfield’s respected annual report, which, in 2015, had the enlightened and on-trend title of Mindful Mobility. This set the tone by finding that 95 per cent of companies don’t measure international assignment ROI; respondents simply aren’t sure how to.However, the CERC and EuRA survey of surveys powerfully shows that the opportunity is there for managers to make evidence-informed decisions. This is just the ammunition global mobility professionals need if they are to influence stakeholders.Steve Cryne pulled together some pretty strong evidence, including the Strategic Global Mobility Report. “Big data and data analytics are beginning to help drive new, informed decision-making in mobility and make those returns more evident… This actionable insight is helping companies forge better decisions regarding cost management, reducing loss of talent after repatriation, policy development, and global workforce planning.”He also cited EY’s Global Mobility Effectiveness Survey, which says, “Mobility professionals are well aware of the substantial costs involved to keep talent moving. It is increasingly true that the wider business questions why the costs of mobility are so high in its focus on the bottom line. Therefore, to determine ROI, companies need to know what they’re intending to achieve through facilitating mobility.”

71% of firms are actively searching for talent in different geographies, industries, and demographics

Steve Cryne went on to demonstrate metrics that could be used to measure ROI, such as:
  • Project completion
  • Employee retention
  • Development of new skills
  • Successful repatriation
  • Employee performance ratings
  • Employee satisfaction with process
  • Knowledge transfer to host location

78% of employers expect to see changes in the way their company manages talent in the near future

This is not rocket science, and any HR global mobility professional or account manager for a relocation management company could use the same process to put the case to business partners and stakeholders.

Technology and data analytics

Other top drivers of tomorrow’s environment are technology and data analytics.From better programme management to improved employee experiences, mobility professionals must stay on top of technological advancements.Steve Cryne quoted PwC’s Global CEO Survey: “The majority of CEOs believe that investments in digital technologies have created value for their business, and around 80 per cent say that mobile technologies and data analytics are key strands of their strategy.”He then highlighted a telling statement from a participant in Moving People with Purpose. “I quickly realised the employee experience at Guidewire is critical. The people we move are software developers and consultants. They don’t want long policy documents and briefings – they want to be able to get the information they need, at their fingertips, when they want it.”The use of predictive analytics in HR is still in its relative infancy, but an increasing number of organisations are beginning to embrace the concept. The data is available, but more sophisticated analysis would provide valuable trend information and the potential to identify risks.You only have to see the strides technology is taking in the global mobility sphere, as shown in the Technological Innovation category of the Re:locate Awards, to see how true this is, as well as the strides being made to achieve affordable solutions.

The immigration hot potato

The results of the CERC and EuRA survey also provided evidence that CEOs are looking to work with governments to support a diverse global workforce to help counteract the impact of the ageing population.Steve Cryne quoted the Global CEO Survey, which says that 44 per cent of CEOs plan to work with their governments to develop a skilled and adaptable workforce over the next three years, and 27 per cent want to collaborate with government to create a more competitive and efficient tax system.Quoting from PwC’s Talent Mobility 2020 and Beyond report, he added, “Those countries that recognise that their ageing workforce will soon create a pressing need for imported talent have already taken the first steps towards lowering their immigration barriers, and we predict that more countries will adopt less restrictive immigration in the future.” But there are challenges, and Steve Cryne, reflecting the CERC’s lobbying role, voiced the frustration of many “We have not developed a comprehensive, cohesive and compelling business case about the value of mobility to an economy, the enterprise and the individual.”He highlighted some of the opportunities:
  • Strategic mobility for skilled/professional workers
  • Trade agreements to support more open mobility
  • International certification standards with preferred trading partners
  • Fewer restrictions on short-term business travel
  • Trusted employer programmes to remove adjudication from POE
  • Alignment of tax, social security, healthcare, financial services
  • Spousal employment supports

74% of mobility managers have reduced costs associated with international assignments directly in response to economic pressures

The CERC and EuRA should be congratulated on producing this report. At the very least, it should generate discussion and the opportunity for different sectors to work together to solve problems and address challenges.However, it could do so much more, as Steve Cryne noted. “I hope it will get us thinking about the importance of mobility to economic prosperity, business success, and providing meaningful, rewarding careers for transferees and families.“If there is one key takeaway from our report, it’s that global employee mobility is something both employers and employees are keen to embrace.”

Look out for more coverage of the EuRA conference in Malta, in the Summer 2016 issue of Re:locate magazine.

See the winners of the Re:locate Awards 2015/16, relocation and global mobility's premier awards, in our special highlights video here:


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