Last update: December 10, 2020
Table of Contents
Business Travel and global mobility
How will businesses adapt to the new norms of global mobility business travel? What skills are the global workforce going to need? In the next 10 years international companies will have an even greater need shift talent to their international office far away, meaning international assignment levels and overall mobility will increase significantly.
So what does the landscape look like right now? How has it changed in recent years? And what should we expect?
Global mobility on the rise
Global mobility has been on the rise for many businesses from SMBs to multinationals, it is a fundamental growth indicator of international businesses and is expected to expand to 1,87 billion people by 2020. Counter to the argument that fewer companies will need to move their workforce due to improved communications technology, more businesses have seen moderate to high increases in global mobility.
Many companies approach Global Mobility ad hoc. When the circumstances (or opportunity arises) they react. This causes various knock-on effects. Staff complain that costs rise due to ineffective planning, higher accommodation and workspace costs. On top of this, the skill gap left by the travelling employee is unaccounted for, meaning greater pressure at headquarters. The runs against the grain, the idea is to grow business in international markets, yet in many cases the converse is true, and more money is spent than made before the plug is pulled from the C-Suite.
Attracting the best talent
But global mobility, well implemented, can lead to great benefits from tangible indicators such as greater presence in international markets, to wider business concerns such as leadership and employees’ personal development. The leading talent is looking to work abroad to gain international exposure, thereby progressing their careers. The talent pool has grown thanks to globalization, where staff are much more likely to be courted by new prospective employers, so companies will actively headhunt from their competitors. All of this brings a new meaning to the word “career”. Staff are now more likely to move through companies performing different roles and sharing their previous experience in new fields. A job is no longer for life, right now it’s not even for ten years.
Global mobility agility
According to this report by Deloitte; 68% of leaders agree that a global workforce is an enabler of business and talent strategies. Businesses are becoming accustomed to having highly diverse portfolios due to cultural differences in business practices and also in buying behaviours. Teams need to be agile to quickly adapt to new ideas, new languages and fundamental practices across countries, to work with similar products. In many cases, partnerships are used to speed up access to markets, and as knowledge is shared across organisations, companies are improving on both sides as new, as yet unused strategies are implemented.
One of the biggest challenges for finance and human resources departments is to accurately budget for global mobility, on the SMB level you can only imagine the pitfalls, yet they do exist as even the smallest companies with an e-commerce website are required to have local presence to service their clients. This requires compliance with the myriad local taxes and rates that can at worst lead to a hefty and unexpected divergence in the budget of a project. It’s no surprise that companies are investing in, or outsourcing their compliance departments across regions. For those without the resources, there is helpful software to help manage these technicalities of international tax.
Counter to current trends, diversity both in gender and ethnicity in Global Mobility is stagnant. 41% of companies answered “yes” to the question “Do you have specific diversity measures in your global mobility infrastructure. Expect this to change. Companies are acutely aware of the need of a diverse workforce, yet there has been little change at some of the world’s biggest companies. The latest move against inequality is not something that will go away, and though many multinational companies are paying lip-service, it’s likely that regulations will tighten to enforce greater diversity in coming years.
Human after all
Putting business aside, one of the biggest obstacles to both companies and employees is upheaval, leaving families for months on end, replacing talent in the business, and confronting company-wide challenges to grow and make a success of mobility programs. Employees rarely have a fully clear idea of the strategy at hand, and are on their own in implementing standard processes in new markets, with more pressure, amid personal upheaval, and with less contact from head office.
To counter this, companies are relying more heavily on technology. Digital communications are making huge bounds in improving daily contact with foreign-based employees.
How can mobility departments and professionals improve for their employees?
- Focus on the human side of mobility, and encourage staff to “see it from the side”, travelling themselves to get a better understanding of the pressures
- Work towards a single mobility platform which is used in every mobility case, improving consistency across the company
- Implement standard practices to help with employee well-being and families
- Carry out constant review of the end-to-end mobility program from implementation to conclusion.