What’s Trending in Global Mobility?

As we start to wrap up Q2 for 2017, some interesting trends are presenting themselves. As the year unfolds, we have seen a continuing need to fill skills gaps using short-term assignments. Businesses have also expanded their number of mobile employees as a means of recruitment and retention.  The younger workforce, one of the largest generations in history, has expressed a desire to learn new skill sets gained from an overseas assignment. And as always, keeping costs under control is paramount as the expense of an international assignment continues to grow.

The Brookfield Global Relocation Service’s 2016 survey revealed that companies are continuing to expand globally and the survey predicts that international assignments will increase throughout the year.  Increasing numbers of employees are being sent to new tier cities and countries as globalization continues to drive these new mobility patterns.  Shortages are appearing in accommodations as assignees move to secondary and tertiary markets in Asia and the Middle East.  New corporate housing companies are popping up to accommodate this demand.  Seeking strategic business partners in this area will help with a smooth transition.Younger workers are driving mobility programs’ evolution to meet their needs, which include new skill acquisition and gaining international business experience.  There is a shift toward flexible short-term assignments replacing traditional long-term relocations.  These younger workers are being used to fill the skills gaps around the world.  Assignments of less than 12 months are growing, as is the business travel population.

This young talent believes that a global assignment is a feather in the cap towards career progression.  Employers are also recognizing the advantages of relocation in supporting retention and career development.  Some corporations even use this as a recruiting carrot.  This strategy of an evolving mobility program allows a company to create opportunities for different stages of a career.

Some ideas to keep the younger talent engaged include housing them in the same part of town to keep them connected, plotting out a clear career development path, and linking them with a mentor either in their new location or back home.  Assignments taken early in their careers can lead to insights on overseas markets that will be valuable at the home office for years to come.

Clearly this digital generation differs from previous ones in their communication preferences.  They are used to calling up information instantly and easily.  Providing online policies, destination information, and cultural training in one location on the company intranet helps support millennial workers.

Cost is always a critical part of any assignment.  In the past, assignment costs would ebb and flow with the economy. But today’s approach is to budget for, plan, and contain costs.  Along with increased focus on compliance and risk, cost containment is the assignment manager’s most pressing issue.  When assignments are tied into the business objectives and talent management, the likelihood of an assignee staying with the company increases.  Global mobility programs that are strategic are more successful all around.

As 2017 progresses, we will likely see companies continuing to use fill skills gaps with short-term assignments, the younger workforce requesting international assignments as career development, and the focus on cost containment should create flexible and interesting ways to move employees abroad.
Written by Cathy Heyne, GMS-T – Managing Director, Living Abroad