This Sunday was Holocaust Memorial Day around the world. I was listening to LBC radio and they were also talking about the news that 1 in 20 people in the UK now don’t believe that the atrocities actually happened. As the debate rumbled on about why, I came to the opinion that part of the problem was that a lot of those people who lived through it were no longer with us to tell their stories, the human experience as opposed to the dry facts in textbooks. Now, I don’t know about you, but it feels more real to me when I have someone’s story rather than looking at a long list of stats and numbers.

We often transfer knowledge through stories, especially between different generations in the corporate world. More recently, as technological innovation has increased exponentially, the transfer of knowledge goes the other way too, with millennials and now Generation Z teaching the Baby Boomers about social media, vlogs and memes.

This all reminded me of something that my friend Garry Turner from IMCD mentioned in of our Global HR Executive roundtable discussions recently. Garry thought that there was an opportunity with some of the some of the advancements of technology to capture some of the knowledge that would be leaving industry with the Baby Boomers.

But how would we capture this knowledge? Traditionally the lessons of experience are put down onto paper, in hardback if you’re really respected, then placed on the shelves in bookstores, or analysed in university seminar rooms. That, of course, requires a writer to document it but dismisses the knowledge of those who don’t. So, how will intelligent technology capture more of this lost knowledge?

I don’t know for certain how technology will facilitate this, but as a thought, I can imagine AI-led retirement and outplacement interviews, using sentiment analysis and predictive learning to store and sort knowledge in usable forms for future use. Would that work? What would it miss? Would there be biases? I’d love to hear your views.

Through our engagement with HR & Global Mobility leaders we have noticed a trend that many Global Mobility teams are striving to move away from being seen as an administrative function that purely co-ordinates employee moves, to instead being seen as a more valued strategic contributor to the organisation. However, the reality is those leaders are experiencing varying degrees of success.

Support for change is needed from across the business which is no easy task considering the commercial reality, competing priorities and tight resources many organisations are facing.

Buy-in from the senior management teams is crucial to enable and drive change within Global Mobility programmes.

Challenges for Obtaining Buy-in?

There are several challenges for Global Mobility teams who are striving for change.

Organisations are typically resistant to change and generally there is a lack of understanding of compliance duties. Add to this limited resources and the fact that collaboration and integration between functions remain the exception not the norm. This can often mean that there is dearth of consistent identity and positioning for Global Mobility within the business.

Operationally, there is more regulation and compliance than ever before. This adds additional risks and costs when moving and hiring talent across borders. These continually changing regulations and compliance requirements are uncompromising and highly stringent on employers.

A persuasive case to the management will have to focus on how an effective global mobility function will address these challenges, both strategically and operationally.

Aligning Global Mobility to the Wider Business Strategy 

A crucial element to gain management support is to ensure that there is a vision of what Global Mobility should look like for the business. This will enable the senior management team to have a better understanding of how Global Mobility can align to the wider organisational strategy.

A few areas for consideration:

  • Corporate Culture and Objectives

Understanding the high level goals of the organisation and what it is trying to achieve should ultimately determine the shape and form of any mobility programme.

Due to the ever dynamic nature of international business and uncertainty in the geopolitical landscape, many organisations need more flexibility and agility when deploying employees globally in order to increase competitive advantage.

Also, Global Mobility teams should consider how their programmes are aligned with the culture and core values of the organisation.

If the employee journey and experience is an important focus within the business, does this align with the current mobility programme? Are employee aspirations, expectations or experiences a consideration or is the focus driven by process and compliance tick boxing?

  • Reducing Cost and Increasing ROI

Cost and return on investment will always be important for senior management, subsequently the key themes will be around the implications of organisational mobility in terms of investment, savings and returns.

Will changes in policies, procedures, systems or resources require investment? What are the expected returns – cost savings, resulting efficiencies?

Typically, we see the cost of Global Mobility being passed from department to department before ultimately coming out of the HR budget. A fully owned and ring-fenced budget, managed by a centralised Global Mobility function, will enable financial transparency for management purposes, through improved planning, accountability and effective vendor management.

  • Technology Innovation

Improvements in technology now offer a huge amount of potential to enhance efficiency and effectiveness within Global Mobility programmes.

Global Mobility teams and organisations are moving away from locally managed spreadsheets to more comprehensive future-proofed technology platforms that support integration between functions such as HR, Global Mobility, Tax and Payroll.

But it doesn’t stop there, there is also an increased focus on data and how it can be utilised to better drive decisions, strategy and action. Analysing accurate data across Global Mobility programmes allows teams to measure and improve service performance, identify risk and trends and enable informed decision-making by both the senior management teams and the mobility function.

  • Talent Strategy

The war on talent is relentless and competition for talent is fierce, however an effective Global Mobility programme can offer the potential to enhance talent acquisition and development for all levels of employees.

Strategically, Global Mobility should unite in the process of forecasting and planning for the future talent needs of the business. What skill sets does the organisations need to attract, where will they need to be and when will they be needed?

Another key area within talent strategy and where Global Mobility could add value is identifying and developing future leaders within the business. It is important for these future leaders to acquire the international exposure and experience that is expected for senior management positions.

The opportunity to work internationally is now a key draw for many employees seeking new roles, especially for Millennials who place a huge amount of importance on gaining professional experience within different cultures. Employers who incorporate international opportunities within their employee development schemes will be more appealing to top talent.

On the flip side there needs to be a focus on retaining repatriating employees. In order to avoid high attrition rates, these employees will want to understand what their future remit will be within the organisation.

 Impact of Global Mobility Strategy

Securing senior management buy-in is imperative in developing a truly effective and sustainable approach to Global Mobility. Ultimately it rests on convincing senior management that Global Mobility can deliver in alignment with the overall business objectives, supporting the organisation’s competitive advantage.