Why are in-house Global Mobility functions feeling squeezed?

Growth in assignment activity, increased assignment variables and resource pressures from the business are ramping up pressure on HR

Many HR departments and in-house Global Mobility functions are caught between a surging demand for increasingly diverse assignments and business pressures on costs and resources. That's the painful, day-to-day reality for many HR directors and their departments world-wide, according to the Global Mobility Survey 2015, the largest study of its kind, with research based on feedback from nearly 1,300 companies from 74 countries.

Complexity & Diversity

The report shows that life is becoming increasingly complex for Global Mobility functions. They now have to manage a greater diversity of candidates, dynamic legislation, challenging new markets, a dazzling array of compensation options, assignment packages and policy types.


Organisations seeking new revenue streams and ways to increase profitability are driving real growth in Global Mobility activity which hit new heights.  Over the past 12 months, there has been a 24.8% net growth in organisations worldwide reporting an increase in assignment activity, reveals the Survey. But it seems that the resources required and value delivered through Global Mobility functions is not always recognised within the businesses that they serve. The evidence strongly indicates that Global Mobility departments are being squeezed. Rather than focusing on how Global Mobility can deliver value to the business, it appears that many organisations are instead set on cost reduction. Virtually all companies (92.8%) are focused on containing costs and over half (53.5%) are feeling under significant pressure to reduce the overall cost of their programmes – requiring them to do more with less in terms of head count and resources.

Cost Containment vs Return on Investment

The Global Mobility Survey 2015 makes fascinating reading for HR directors and Global Mobility professionals who want to spot global trends early - and are seeking expert guidance on how to optimise Return on Investment from their strategies. Commissioned by Global Mobility specialist Santa Fe, the report provides valuable insights into the fast-changing world of Global Mobility and Talent in international businesses.

Growth in Global Mobility is sharpest among consulting firms (+51% growth), followed closely by engineering firms - these organisations are expecting a +47% net increase over the next year. The highest proportion of growth in activity - across all sectors - came from ‘mid-size’ programmes, or those organisations authorising 26-100 assignments per year.  These are most likely to experience the effect of the “Global Mobility Squeeze”.  These companies are expected to be hit hardest as they face the challenge of allocating sufficient skills and resources to support the higher activity levels.

In terms of locations, a staggering 136 different countries were quoted by companies when asked for their top three assignment destinations. For many, the original ‘new frontier’ markets, such as the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), are now core to strategy and responsible for their own sophisticated mobility programmes. The report also identifies the subsequent rise of intra-regional assignments managed out of Asia, Africa and South America - with control both being delegated from or shifting away from Europe and North America.

“Rather than focusing on how Global Mobility can deliver value to the business, it appears that many organisations are instead set on cost reduction.”

The survey shows that the dynamics of Global Mobility are changing rapidly. Assignment candidates are being sourced from increasingly diverse talent pools at different points in their career and family lifecycle, creating myriad of assignment variables that Global Mobility functions must be able to manage. Global Mobility also faces a whole new series of motivational, cultural and economic factors. This trend has been highlighted by today’s broad spectrum of policies and packages being adopted by organisations.

Other Global Mobility Key Trends

The Global Mobility Survey 2015 covers other topics too. It explores the type and level of risks that Global Mobility functions must manage. And how personal risk to employees on assignment has been highlighted on the agenda for many companies. HR directors reading the report will also discover how their global counterparts are demonstrating their value to the business in an era of continued cost-cutting. The key to improving Return On Investment is also explored.

The 2015 survey was commissioned by Santa Fe, which specialises in managing and delivering the full range of assignment services through locally-based offices in 56 countries worldwide. The study was carried out to ISO 20252 standards by Circle Research, an independent global research company.

About the Global Mobility Survey

The Global Mobility Survey is the world's largest and most reliable study of Global Mobility programmes managed by organisations worldwide.  Independently researched to ISO20252 standards, the survey goes deeper than other studies and includes input from an Expert Panel of some of the world’s most influential figures in Global Mobility. The Report is published annually to provide insight into; key trends, strategy, best practice and the latest thinking.  Academics, International Business Leaders, HR and Global Mobility professionals will also be interested in the benchmarking site www.globalmobilitysurvey.com which enables results to be analysed further by industry sector, programme size, geographic scope.

The 2015 survey recorded a record number of responses - from 1,282 companies from across the US, Latin America, Europe, Middle East, Asia and the Pacific region.  All research for 2015 was conducted by Circle Research (www.circle-research.com) to ISO 20252 standards.