Companies Are Rethinking How They Manage Global Talent

Global companies have tough employee decisions to make as a result of all the political rhetoric and legislation issues on the table today. With a severe reduction in H1B visas, should they locate those employees outside the U.S.? And what should they do with foreign employees working in England? Thanks to Brexit, they may have to move those staffers somewhere else, as well.

As increased calls for protectionism across the globe complicate the operations of multinationals, more of them are stepping up the way they manage employee mobility within their international markets, according to the latest BGRS Talent Mobility Trends Survey, “CHANGING THE CONVERSATION: Transforming Mobility for the Future.” BGRS defines employee mobility as relocating employees to other company locations, either domestically or internationally.

The Burr Ridge, Ill. talent mobility solution provider surveyed more than 120 talent mobility HR professionals, representing more than 12 million employees worldwide, and found that companies “have moved firmly from aspirational thinking to actively embracing and planning for the change journey.”

A vast majority of survey respondents (85 percent) either recently made, are making, or are planning to make changes to the way employee mobility is managed in their organizations. The reason: To better cope with increased protectionism, even as the forces of globalization continue, say the authors, Joy Lee, BGRS’s director of talent mobility consulting and Diane Douiyssi, the firm’s director of thought leadership marketing.

“As a result of the new priority of talent mobility, there is a strategic shift in organizations’ thinking about how global talent is managed, leading to a wave of transformation sweeping through corporate HR and talent mobility functions.”

“While experts do not predict a wholesale return to the protectionist practices of the past, the current environment generates unprecedented complexity for global companies to navigate,” they write. “Leaders are required to focus on increasing value, maximizing their organizational capabilities and building unique competitive advantages. The need to operate at a global level and incorporate technology and adapt to the changing world of work necessitates strategic focus.”

What companies are doing about it
The majority (58 percent) of respondents are carrying out larger-scale transformative change projects at their companies, while the remaining 42 percent are making incremental and phased changes. A greater percentage (65 percent) of companies with larger, more complex talent mobility programs are more likely to be engaged in such projects, compared to companies with smaller programs.

“There is increased appreciation of talent mobility as an enabler of companies’ commercial success, from supporting global business expansion to growing a diverse and inclusive workforce with global competencies at all levels,” the authors write. “As a result of the new priority of talent mobility, there is a strategic shift in organizations’ thinking about how global talent is managed, leading to a wave of transformation sweeping through corporate human resources and talent mobility functions.”

In particular, companies are making changes designed to tighten alignment between talent mobility, talent management and other functions across human resources and the business.

More than half (52 percent) of respondents say that talent mobility is now fully aligned with compensation and benefits, while 70 percent say that the function is just somewhat aligned with talent development, 59 percent say it is somewhat aligned with succession planning, and 57 percent say it is somewhat aligned with HRIS. However, the authors expect these percentages to increase in the future, since nearly all of the companies in transformation (91 percent) say their cross-functional alignment is still a work-in-progress.

Talent mobility professionals most want to improve planning of career progression and repatriation timelines, so that their top-tier professionals will feel more confident that accepting international assignments will lead to significant promotions.

“If candidates or returning assignees do not see the benefits of an international assignment materialize, companies risk lower engagement and potential attrition, jeopardizing the investment to date and foregoing long-term business value,” the authors write.

Using insight to make global talent decisions
As the C-suite gets more involved with talent mobility, “having robust, accurate data is an imperative,” according to the authors. However, just over half (57 percent) of respondents indicate they do not have sufficient access to data that allows them to gain the insight they need into their company’s mobility program.

In the short-term, companies are most often leveraging existing internal resources to extract usable analytics from the data they already have (40 percent), while 38 percent of respondents say they are investing in technology integration to improve insight gained from mobility data. More than one-third (36 percent) say they are also relying on external consultancy to meet this need, and another significant group (28 percent) is focused on bringing additional analytical skills into the mobility team.

The top three most significant data gaps reported are mobile employee retention statistics, aggregated cost of their mobility programs and employee career progression data.

“Integrating career metrics with the data enables talent mobility leaders to quantify the mobility investment and, therefore, estimate its return,” the authors write. Now that talent mobility is “firmly in the sights” of the C-suite, more companies are undertaking large-scale transformation projects to move their functions away from being a process-oriented function toward a strategically purposeful one, according to the report.

“While balancing the needs of their mobile employees with those of the broader organization and its talent imperatives, they are decisively moving mobility into being an even greater strategic contributor to their companies’ success,” the authors write.

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Katie Kuehner-Hebert
Katie Kuehner-Hebert has more than two decades of experience writing about corporate, financial and industry-specific issues. She is based in Running Springs, Calif.

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