Is your global mobility strategy a fix for now or a plan for the future?
According to a survey by recruitment firm Experis, employers across the world have never found it harder to find the right skills. Globally, 40% of companies report they are having difficulty filling positions with the right candidates – the highest rating since the survey began 11 years ago.
Global mobility and the skills gap
If you are concerned with global mobility strategy, this is great news. You are hugely important in your organization’s ability to get the right skills in place – because the answer to the problem is simply to look overseas. Experis reported that one in four UK companies aimed to look overseas to fill their skills gaps – a statistic that underlines the key role played by global mobility.
It is also wonderfully logical. Companies are becoming more global in their outlook. In the words of Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, “arguing against globalisation is like arguing against the laws of gravity”. There is also a trend towards an ageing workforce. So using the experience of expats is key, especially as companies seek to harmonise and standardise practices across the world. This is why the majority of global assignments have the main objective of filling the skills gap.
Building for the future
But there has to be a balance. To build a global mobility strategy around skills gaps is a short-term measure. It also has a crucial long-term role to play in every organization’s ability to attract, retain and motivate key talent.
Younger employees may not be able to bring 30 years of experience to a project. But that is not the point. They include the leaders of the future and their experience abroad exposes them to different technology and management practices – which in turn equips them to be more effective and to perform better for the organization. It doesn’t leverage their existing skills, but adds to their skill set in a way that they could not achieving staying at the global HQ.
A true long-term talent strategy, however, can take into account not only developing skills – but also attracting and retaining talent. And it has been proven that the prospect of overseas deployment is what most talented young people want.
A recent survey conducted by PWC reported that “millennials have a strong appetite for working overseas and 71% expect and want to do an overseas assignment during their career.” It is also revealing to look at even younger generations. According to UIS figures, the global stock of internationally mobile tertiary education students reached 3.6 million, up from 2 million in 2000. Students from Central Asia are the most mobile. The fact that the number of students seeking to travel is rising, suggests that the appetite for global assignments amongst the incoming Generations Y and Z may be greater than ever.
Yet the statistics suggest that global mobility departments are not reacting to this trend. According to a 2016 survey by BGRS, only 1 in 10 global assignees are millennials. We would logically assume that the remaining nine are more seasoned campaigners, sent abroad not to learn but to pass on their skills. A reasonable, practical – even essential – part of global mobility – but not the whole picture.
A question of balance
It may be time to take a look at the real objective for your global mobility program. Are you building for the future? Or just dealing with the here and now? Both are important, but companies are clearly struggling to get the balance right.