Meeting the Challenges of Global Mobility


In the highly competitive nature of today’s talent marketplace, the need for a globally-mobile workforce has never been greater. Jonathan Pearce, Principal at Deloitte Tax LLP & Marc Solow, Managing Director of the Human Capital Practice at Deloitte Consulting LLP discuss how a digital solution for the global mobility challenge can help deliver inspired employee experiences

A well-developed capability for global mobility is essential for companies seeking to develop and manage top talent, achieve business objectives, and foster a global mindset. Of the 10,400 businesspeople in 140 countries who participated in Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends survey, 68 percent agreed that “a mobile workforce is an enabler of business and talent strategies.”

The problem? Only 3 percent of the respondents rated their companies as “world class” in global deployments.

There are good reasons for this gap: global mobility is a complex, risk-laden, and disruptive undertaking. Moreover, it’s costly to move employees around the world. Our experience working with multinationals tells us that it costs approximately three times an employee’s salary (and typically, these are executive and professional salaries) to deploy someone on a traditional long-term global assignment. And that does not include the productivity losses commonly incurred as employees move themselves and their families to new and unfamiliar locales.

That’s needed is a way to manage global assignments that is simple, personalized, and predictive, in a manner that better serves the needs of workers and the companies for which they work.

The global mobility challenge

The challenge of global mobility is one that affects both employers and employees. They represent, in effect, two sides of the global mobility coin.

For employers, the challenge of global mobility is about talent identification, first and foremost. They need a way to find and match talent to global opportunities, a task that is becoming more complex as the workforce expands to include non-traditional elements, such as gig workers. Unfortunately, 73 percent of the respondents in our 2017 Global Human Capital Trends survey said their companies do not maintain a candidate pool for future international assignments.

The second part of the challenge for employers is about selection. In short, who is the best choice for a specific opportunity? This is a surprisingly complicated question that can involve a variety of decision factors, including cost, timing, risk, and tax considerations. Few companies have systems that enable them to efficiently collect and analyze all of the factors that play a part in the mobility decision. The result: less-than-fully-informed decisions that don’t serve employers or employees.

Employees must navigate personal and professional dislocations that global mobility can create. Global assignments are complex and disruptive experiences. Not only do they involve fundamental changes in an employee’s work life, often they also involve the uprooting of an employee’s personal life—a condition that can become exponentially more difficult when life-partners and children are involved.

Far too often, the global mobility challenge for employees is exacerbated by a lack of support from employers. Unlike the seamless, one-stop experiences that employees have come to expect as digital consumers, the disjointed nature of the multiple processes and disconnected interactions with multiple vendors they must manage in a global assignment can feel like a big step back in time.

Just meeting the demands imposed by the immigration, employment, and tax laws associated with a new country can be daunting, especially when it also involves dealing with siloed functions within their own companies. Add in moving, housing, schools, language, and cultural assimilation, and it’s no wonder that global assignments require exceptionally adept and adaptable employees.

And yet, all of these challenges notwithstanding, the need for global mobility is growing. New types of mobility assignments are becoming commonplace. Among them are managers whose responsibilities cross national borders and, as a result, are asked to take frequent, extended trips to other countries, and functional and subject matter experts who are being asked to temporarily relocate for a project. The expat of yesteryear, who left his home country for years and returned only for vacations and in retirement, is becoming the exception instead of the rule, while many of the risk, cost, and personal implications remain.

A digital solution to global mobility

As the demand for a mobile workforce grows, so does the need for a solution to the mobility challenges facing employers and workers. A mobility solution should seek to transform the employee experience in a global assignment into the same kind of convenient, efficient, and engaging experience we’ve come to expect as digital consumers . Happily, digital technology can offer such a solution, with apps, personalization, and 24/7 access.

Digital mobility solutions can deliver an inclusively designed, worker-centered experience that rivals digital consumer experiences . Getting a visa, planning a move, getting the kids enrolled in new schools, finding a home—not to mention all of the support mobile workers may need while on assignment or upon repatriation. All of these tasks and more can be navigated on one intelligent platform that not only delivers transactional capabilities, but also monitors outcomes and offers advice. By streamlining and guiding mobile workers through global assignments in this way, digital platforms enhance engagement, productivity, and impact.

One example of such a solution is Deloitte’s ConnectMe™, a digital workplace that provides employees with a host of HR services, accessible from anywhere, at any time. A digital platform like ConnectMe is smart and intuitive, and it enhances organizational and employee productivity and mobility. It brings all of the processes and vendors involved in global mobility together onto a single place, and in doing so, it can reduce the friction inherent to global assignments and elevates the employee experience.

A digital mobility platform can also provide the analytics that can surface the insights needed to better manage today’s multi-modal talent pools and to make more informed decisions about global talent, deployment, and workforce planning . Better yet, it enables companies to embed global mobility in the other processes within a company—integrating it into the company’s total talent lifecycle, for example.

In marrying the needs of employers and workers, digital platforms transform the complexities, risks, and disruptions that create obstacles to global mobility into a dynamic marketplace of opportunities. They enable human-centric mobility programs, freeing employers to focus on higher-value activities and more personalized connections with workers. They bolster the employee mobility experience—after all, a happy, engaged expat is a more productive expat. And, in a time when the composition of the workforce itself is changing, they offer Global Mobility professionals a chance to position themselves on the leading edge.

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