December 17, 2020

Global Mobility and the Next Talent Agenda

The current pandemic which has dictated so much of 2020 has shone a spotlight on the global mobility function. With greater visibility, global mobility is in a stronger position to strengthen its ties with talent management, to support the organization in navigating through the current economic turbulence and to achieve its strategic objectives in 2021. When AIRINC released its Mobility Outlook Survey at the beginning of this year, global mobility respondents evaluated their relationship with talent management as the weakest of several internal functions or stakeholders, with the relationship with the business overall increasing as a higher priority from its current baseline.

The landscape for talent management is being shaped by the transformational influences which have taken hold this year and will continue to have an influence in 2021. Many agree that the way we work has undergone an indelible shift, and as a result, the way organizations acquire, retain and deploy talent will continue to change and adapt as well. With remote working and virtual assignments at the forefront of global mobility managers’ minds, the profession looks set to embrace a wider definition of mobility which flexes to match organizational talent supply with operational and strategic demand.

Earlier this year Dave Ulrich, sometimes referred to as the father of modern HR, outlined four talent innovations which he believed would shape the next talent agenda. Here, we take three of Ulrich’s innovations and examine how global mobility might look to play a key role in supporting the organization through 2021.

cross functional executive team

Employee Guidance

Ulrich advocates “thinking about talent from the outside-in to better justify talent investments” where “talent choices, practices, and activities deliver value to customers and investors.” The purpose of an international assignment will vary, but inevitably there is a talent-related investment decision involved. From a global mobility perspective, this means a cost projection and business case for most organizations. Many of the global mobility professionals we have spoken with over the course of 2020 have discussed how they have partnered even more closely with stakeholders across the business to deliver key messages. This evolution in cross-functional partnership and communication means that global mobility is well positioned to play a vital role in the coming year to provide guidance to the business on making talent related investments for stakeholders who matter (customers, investors). In advancing the strategic mobility agenda, this goes beyond running multi-scenario cost projections but looks at a range of flexible options which could meet the business objective using combinations of local talent and a mobile distributed workforce. Further, global mobility can continue to provide guidance and support to employees on international working either directly or through digital tools. A recent AIRINC survey revealed that 79% of respondents indicated that employees are excited about the prospect of taking an international work opportunity. According to AIRINC, “Global Mobility is keeping current assignees and the talent pipeline engaged and excited through communication and high-touch service.”

Employee Experience

“There is an opportunity for global mobility to view the employee experience through a more strategic lens.”


The global mobility perception of employee experience has often centered around the transactional employee interface with mobility processes, whether that be flexibility and choice from a policy delivery perspective, or quality interactions with mobility stakeholders and third-party service partners. There is an opportunity for global mobility to view employee experience through a more strategic lens, focusing on how it works to satisfy the employee’s personal needs, which Ulrich identifies as believing, becoming, and belonging:

    • "Believing: An employee finds personal meaning from organizations because employees realize that their personal values derive from and align with the organizations’ purpose and values.
    • Becoming: An employee learns and grows through participation in organizations because they enable employees to pursue new talents through opportunities.
    • Belonging: An employee has a personal identity and develops new relationships because organizations put employees in contact with others.”

It’s not difficult to imagine how global mobility can support in fulfilling these needs. International assignments, whatever form they take, undoubtedly provide opportunities for employees at all levels within an organization to grow, acquire new skills and to develop new relationships. Opportunities for personal and professional growth through international working arrangements could also be seen as a factor in aligning the employee’s and the organization’s values. In partnering with human resources and talent management, global mobility is well placed to promote mobility through the organization’s performance and career management processes.

Culture Before Talent

Ulrich’s team discovered through their research that “organization capability had four times more impact on business results than individual competence (talent).” With an innate understanding of the building blocks that form the foundation for an international assignment, global mobility is in a position to support the organization beyond facilitating a supply of talent to meet organizational demand. Through careful partnership with key stakeholders, mobility can help deliver workforce planning which places people in the right job at the right time with the right skills – happy, productive people who form happy and productive teams.

For more information on the evolving role of talent mobility professionals and enhancing the integration of the function into other areas of the business, see Tips for Engaging Stakeholders and Building the Mobility Brand or reach out to schedule a conversation with us today.

Stuart Jackson

Stuart Jackson

As Account Director at Sterling Lexicon, Stuart focuses on working with clients to optimize their global mobility solutions. Stuart has worked in global mobility for 24 years. His broad experience of working with different program sizes across a variety of industry sectors helps to bring success to clients' programs and wider business strategies. If you would like to discuss any of the points raised in this article or learn more about Sterling Lexicon, please do not hesitate to contact Stuart Jackson at

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