July 14, 2020

Business Critical: What Does It Mean for Global Mobility?

There has never been a better time to shine a spotlight on just how mission-critical the mobility function is to business success.

With many new assignments temporarily on hold and economic pressures mounting, several mobility teams may be rethinking their roles and finding new ways to do the proverbial “more with less” in this incredibly challenging environment.

But there is some good news in all of this.

If they didn’t before, the entire business now understands and appreciates just how crucial the employee mobility function is: this is the go-to team in a crisis, the ones who are passionately committed to taking care of the people, and have the data, knowledge, and on-the-ground expertise and partnerships to get them where they need to be, safely and compliantly. Not bad for a day’s work.

Getting the right people into the right roles has always been a business imperative, and it’s what global mobility professionals do best. A pandemic hasn’t changed either of those facts. What has changed is the way we’re thinking about and defining mobility.

Here are some of the ways we see talent mobility professionals building on and enhancing their relevancy:

Informing Sound Business Decisions.

The economic fallout from COVID-19 will have long-lasting implications. Companies still need to get work to people and people to work, but both domestic and global moves are under much tighter review, and likely to be approved on a case-by-case basis for some time. Mobility teams can be strategic partners in this process, providing candidate assessment data, assignee demographics, cost estimates and ROI measurements to ensure that those crucial decisions are sound ones – for both the company and the employees.

Managing Expenses.

data analysisIf ever there was a time for greater transparency into and simplified expense management, it’s now. In a world where Siri, Alexa and Google are never far away, employees are accustomed to self-serve solutions, with a bit of help from a device that serves them up immediately. The expectation of having quick and easy access to the necessary funds to facilitate their move is no different. But business leaders, procurement and finance teams need the controls, tracking, reporting and management tools on the other side of that, and want that process to be equally easy to navigate. “OK, global talent mobility team, tell me how much we spent on temporary living in Europe last year, overall and per employee.” You get the idea. 
See an example of expense management success.

Developing More Flexible, but Simplified Solutions.

We all know that customization is key, and every employee’s moving experience is unique. If we thought we needed to be agile before, our new world of work requires the flexibility of a yoga master. But we also know that we must have some formal policies in place, and exceptions are problematic. Global mobility practitioners are uniquely qualified to design and deliver those customized solutions. As one senior HR manager from a global payroll services company noted, “mobility knows things I don’t.” They fully understand the business goals, finances, people, skillsets, and culture – and they also know details about employees’ family needs, outside interests and other areas of expertise beyond their work roles that can add value to the organization.

Employees are consumers, and global mobility professionals have front-row seats to observe how the company brand and values hold up at one of the most exciting, yet stressful times along individuals’ career journeys.


They have the data to support what works, what doesn’t and why. Tracking policy exception requests gives them detailed insights into where support needs to be more flexible. They can map in-depth demographic profiles of mobile talent to predict where the best fits are likely to occur. And when the fierce competition for top talent inevitably heats up again, they have competitive awareness about industry best practices to help position the company as an employer of choice.

Now, if we take all of that knowledge, experience and skill and apply it to the process of “repatriating” people safely back into office environments again, can you think of a team better equipped to lead the way? It all goes back to rethinking our understanding of the traditional definitions of mobility.

Managing and Developing Talent.

Companies still need to recruit, develop, train, and retain the right talent. Just about all of that can happen virtually now, but mobility teams can still be strategic advisors across each of those processes, too. Working in tandem with legal, tax and finance departments, they can tailor customized solutions to get the right talent into the right roles, helping to ensure they “settle in” and are fully compliant in their new position, even if it’s an entirely remote and digital experience. When tough decisions are needed around mergers, acquisitions and consolidation, the global mobility function has the power to offer strategic direction about the most beneficial talent investments.

As business leaders rethink priorities and develop new paths, employees and customers are watching. How they respond now will be critical to how the business is perceived for decades to come. It’s an opportunity to design new approaches to economic and social imperatives, and to tap into the rich benefits and innovation that only a truly diverse, inclusive, and global team can bring. Global mobility professionals are at the heart of that process.

So, if you’re asking yourself “now what?” – take a moment to consider how valuable – and critical – your skillset is for the future success of the business. And when you need additional help and expertise across any of the core functions outlined here, we know a good place to find it.


Kristin White

Kristin White

Kristin brings nearly 30 years of experience in global workforce mobility, PR, marketing, editorial planning and communications to her role as a member of the thought leadership and content development teams. Before joining the company in 2020, she worked for many years at Worldwide ERC® in collaboration with cross-departmental teams and industry stakeholders to develop in-person and virtual event programming, digital and print content, and served as editor of Mobility magazine. Contact Kristin at kristin.white@sterlinglexicon.com.

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