Leveraging Employee Experience Through Global Mobility

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You learn when you are on the move in other countries, environments, and cultures. Global mobility is defined as the ability of the company to shift/move its people to offices in different countries.  When employees are requested to move overseas as part of their job it is called International Assignment.

An international posting is viewed as being a key activity for employee development and a stepping-stone for future leaders. There are many examples where CEOs more often than not have led international divisions before returning home to lead the entire organisation especially in businesses like E-commerce, Information Technology, Telecom, Airlines, and others.

“One study defines employee experience as companies and their people working together to create personalized, authentic experiences that ignite passion and tap into a purpose to strengthen individual team, and company performance”

Research shows that there are two types of international assignments – demand-driven and learning-driven.  The former is driven primarily by corporate agency requirements (control and knowledge transfer) or by problem-solving needs; the latter focus on organizational competency development and/or personal career enhancement.

It is common knowledge that the global mobility of people needs to help shape an organisations talent: employee journey, the touchpoints where employees interact, environmental factors: cultural, physical and digital.

If your organization is expanding in new markets, bringing in the right people in the playing field is essential. While inviting the right talent in the new chosen markets is vital, leveraging your organization’s internal pool of experienced talent can be one of the right ways to achieve growth.  This could be done through temporary international work assignments and transfers of employees between global subsidiaries and affiliates.

Transfers, especially geographic moves, typically involve some degree of sacrifice of family and personal life, and the experience of sacrifice has long been shown to be part of commitment building, in the modern organisation.  Each transfer is an unfreezing experience by which the individual is remolded.  Since the company culture is the constant throughout, that culture progressively becomes internalized.  The more frequent the transfers, the stronger the degree of socialization will be. The outcome is a strong informal organization (senior managers or professionals recruited from outside find it difficult to operate effectively), providing coordination and flexibility.

Earlier international assignments were mostly driven by large multinationals based in the US and Europe.  From 1990 to 2010, demand for global mobility of talent increased as new markets emerged for companies to sell their products and services and also manufacture their goods at a lower cost. A new breed of mobile workers emerged alongside the expatriate and meets the globalization demand through commuter, rotational, and technology-enabled virtual assignments and companies began to tap into rich talent pools in emerging markets particularly India. During this phase, many Indian IT and trading firms have established operations abroad or have even acquired assets in foreign countries.

From 2010 onwards, Global mobility continued to grow in volume especially with the emergence of China and India as a big consumption economy demand in global mobility has only increased.   Therefore, it is expected that the ongoing war for talent and changing business needs will put pressure on the HR function to evolve its talent mobility strategy to create a workforce with global mindset.  

Through a well-structured global mobility program, your organization can enhance its culture by giving talented employees the opportunity to live and work in a different country, broaden their experience, learn new skills and establish a personal global network. The purposes of a global mobility program survey suggest is to support business objectives and adapt to changing business requirements, talent development and retention.

Further an informal study suggests, when we look at the composition of the workforce and the types of mobility patterns that will exist by 2022, we can categorize them into three demographic groups. By 2022, the differing needs of these three generations will result in very different mobility practices which will be difficult for organisations to manage and get right.

  • Baby Boomers main motivation maybe to accept an assignment based on financial package, location, and opportunity.
  • Generation Xers will look for seniority-based roles which may include creative, flexible commuter arrangements to balance their personal and work life.
  • Millennials will increasingly view the organisation—and the world—as boundaryless.  They will enjoy commencing their careers outside their home countries if the career or role prospects are better. They will look for the quality of life and opportunity, not necessarily monetary rewards.

Further, Global Mobility helps employers enhance the ability and executing skills of their workforce. It creates new perspectives and exposes their people to best brands, different consumers with new mindsets, all of which bring about career development, cross-market and cultural learnings, which help to create more innovative and insightful campaigns for their customers and business.

Mobility remains beneficial for knowledge transfer and talent development in emerging markets. It immensely helps in improving the organization’s efforts to win business from global clients in a competitive environment.  It helps the leadership teams understand people better, wherever they might be based, and it helps deliver better service to the clients. Each day, industries are strengthening their global presence and identifying new opportunities in countries that are promising next-gen centers of commerce.  India and China are great examples of this development in the fields of Information Technology and Telecom sectors.

In nutshell, systematically moving employees in the search of right skills and experience globally help a company remain relevant and competitive in this everchanging and hyper turbulent environment. Thus, global mobility reflects the attitudes, values, and management style of the wider business and should be at the forefront of shaping it.  It provides a rich and valuable experience to the employees which every organisation leverage to its advantage. 

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