The virtuous circle of global mobility and talent retention

15 November 2017

Global mobility cuts both ways: the expectations of employees against the business objectives of each assignment. The role of global mobility professionals is often a constant battle to match one to the other – and that can be challenging.

Yet there is another way of looking at it: the virtuous circle of global mobility and talent retention.

What employees want…

Statistics (the Deloitte Millennial survey, for example) show that younger generations are more willing to relocate. And not just because of their age (a common misconception is to attribute millennials with qualities that owe more to their stage in life than to their values), but because they are shaped by the world they live in. The advancement of instant communication across national borders, along with more affordable travel and cross-cultural understanding has made the world a much smaller place.

However, people want to travel in order to learn, rather than to ride the expat gravy train. It is not about money: it is about learning new skills and developing a competitive CV that will help them build a career in an increasingly international world.

What companies want…

Companies often have short and long-term requirements. There is a job overseas that needs doing – but they also have a talent management strategy to retain people who will drive the company forward.

Therefore, you need to leverage the increased desire to travel with the needs of the organization. In other words, to use global assignments not just as a tactical means, but as a reward to keep employees happy.

The virtuous circle

But wait, there is another dimension. In stark contrast to the classic senior expat, younger employees are typically much more engaged within the organization. Because their motivation comes from self-improvement (as opposed to self-enrichment) they want to understand the value they are bringing. They keep a keen eye on the business objectives and aim to apply themselves in a more deliberate and conscientious way. They want to be seen to be effective because that is how they will build a successful career.

The results are obvious: a much greater chance of successful assignments. Being acutely aware of the business need they are fulfilling, modern expats take steps to avoid the pitfalls that cause assignment failure. They are more likely to understand the cultural, domestic and professional obstacles that stand between them and a successful assignment, and will address them proactively.

The final arc of the virtuous circle takes the form of global mobility departments proudly sharing improved data on the effectiveness of the assignment strategy, leading to confident investments in global mobility.

With more assignments on offer, those companies can meet the needs of more employees with an uplift in other key indicators, such as talent retention, recruitment costs and the overall satisfaction levels within the company.

It’s happening now

As a result, large companies are offering assignments to meet the aspirations of the talent that they wish to retain. There is a need to be flexible, of course. As the attitudes of assignees have changed, so has the nature of the assignments. Additionally, it is well-known that shorter, more flexible assignments are quickly becoming the norm.

The key benefit of the virtuous circle is that global mobility drives greater engagement – which, in turn, increases the chances of a successful assignment – which then drives further investment in global mobility. It doesn’t have to be a struggle to align individual and corporate needs. There can be a happy consensus and, in turn, a virtuous circle that benefits the organization, the individual and you, the global mobility professional.

Pictures by Jakub Jacobsky and Don Ross

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