The number of international assignments continues to rise prompting many companies to review their Global Mobility function. Historically it was seen as an administrative tool for short-term resourcing and tying up the loose ends of an assignment. Today it is recognized by many as a strategic facilitator of global growth and builder of leadership capabilities and strengths.

Although many organizations globally spend significant sums of money on international assignments these investments are often made on an ad-hoc basis, rather than based on the enterprises’ strategic growth and talent priorities.

Many studies and surveys point to a lack of a robust strategy. Many assignments are doomed to inefficiency and failure by ignorance of the wider issues, and a vision of the Global Mobility function that is too short-term to fit into any kind of strategy.

Why Global Mobility Needs to Help Shape an Organization's Talent

Back in 2011 Deloitte’s report “Strategic Moves: A New Direction for Global Mobility”, a survey of HR and business executives from across the globe, revealed that:

  • 88% of respondents felt it was important or critically important to align their organization’s Global Mobility strategy with its business and talent objectives. Yet only 2% felt that there was full alignment at present
  • Less than 10% of participants felt their organization currently perceives the Global Mobility function as fully strategic
  • 70% of businesses and HR stakeholders said that Global Mobility teams in their organization are underperforming or need to be improved; some of them significantly

Fast forward seven years many organizations have reviewed or are about to review, their Global Mobility function.

A 2015 Deloitte report highlighted the changing nature of the role revealing that:

  • 88% of companies reported a significant change in the role of the Global Mobility professional over the past five years
  • 87% of companies expect considerable changes to their role in the next five years.

These reviews cannot come soon enough. It is vital that business leaders and HR teams invite Global Mobility to input to any strategic discussions relating to international growth and personnel movements or hiring.

Perceptions of Global Mobility may well be unfounded: seen as an administrative function by many, it is judged by strategic standards.

By bringing Global Mobility into the conversation earlier, there will be a far more significant strategic alignment, and their vast (and unique) knowledge will contribute significantly to strategic conversation and outcomes.

Until the perception changes, Global Mobility will be left with a minor functional role and seen as a cost to the business and not an asset.

The burden on Global Mobility is to develop an argument that can influence these strategic reviews and demonstrate the value Global Mobility professionals can add to an organization’s approach to global resourcing and development of talent.

Conflicting perceptions of the global mobility function

A key challenge when aligning the Global Mobility function with corporate strategy is the conflicting perceptions of the role.

Many HR professionals see the role as purely strategic. However, those in high-level talent and reward roles may perceive it as an administrative function. There is no clear understanding by many businesses of the full range of the Global Mobility team’s capabilities and potential.

How Digital Transformation is Transforming Global Mobility

Many of those who have a stake in the Global Mobility function do not perceive it as having strategic value. There is no clear understanding by many businesses of the full range of the Global Mobility team’s capabilities and potential.

Global Mobility leaders need to develop a strategic response to this to make their mobility practices world class. They must learn to leverage the unique insight, skills and experience they possess.

One size does not fit all: A failure to be strategic across borders 

Global Mobility can add value to the organization by providing professional insight and advice in the selection and assessment of the best person for each international role.

When it comes to relocating personnel, an unavoidable truth is that sending the wrong person on an international assignment can do more damage than sending no one at all.  

At a strategic level, many organizations give little thought as to who might be the best fit for an international assignment beyond assessing their technical or professional skill set. It is assumed that the best person technically will be successful in any environment.  

Global Mobility professionals offer a much deeper insight into what makes a successful assignee. They are on the front line and may be the first to notice a mismatch between an employee and their (in)ability to perform successfully in their new assignment.

However, organizations may not recognize, or may ignore, the warning signs; Global Mobility is ideally placed and has the hands-on experience to flag or pre-empt issues. With the right strategic input, your organization can maximize the Global Mobility function and avoid potential issues.