Three Keys to Getting Global Mobility Right

This post originally appeared at 

The future of work is all about movement: moving operations to the digital sphere, moving certain functions to automated systems so we can spend more time on other tasks, and moving people from location to location. Organizations are expanding from one local hub to a far broader global footprint — credit mergers, collaborations, strategic initiatives and growth. The Harvard Business Review found that 72% of executives said their need for globally mobile employees will increase in next two to three years.

Fortunately many employees see domestic and overseas assignments as a great chance to increase skills, broaden horizons and grow careers. But from a management standpoint, it’s not so simple. Assigning workers across the world is daunting enough from a logistical standpoint. But if the personal side of global mobility goes unaddressed, it can have fallout in terms of employee engagement and retention.

When done right, global mobility is a true plus for your organization. You’ll need to leverage three key factors — empathy, personalization, and the technology to make those choices happen.


Let’s start with empathy. Among HR pros you might call this a soft skill, but being able to anticipate and understand the myriad needs of every employee will make global mobility management infinitely easier for all parties. Empathy should be part of the workplace culture, but it’s often overlooked. Don’t overlook it when managing global mobility. There may be increasing points of friction for some employees if they perceive a lack of sensitivity and thought behind the reassignment.

And one person’s worries aren’t another’s. While surveys and algorithms can help, empathizing is not about expediency. It needs to happen in the early planning phases and reflect a commitment to anticipating the needs and concerns of each employee. One way to help shape those possibilities – create scenarios: an executive and a family; a new hire; a differently abled person; a woman relocating to a highly traditional city with conservative social customs; or any number of other possibilities. It’s a form of due diligence that pays off in smooth transitions and far less downtime. Another useful practice: build in a survey phase that solicits honest feedback from your employees — before any reassigning is done. The data you’ll get from it is vital to shaping workable, empathetic solutions.


Offer a realistic, relevant range of choices. Back when I was a recruiter, I was constantly reminded that there’s always going to be a gap between how employers and employees see a job. HR by necessity has to think of employees as entities to be managed, but they are people — who think of jobs as conditions to be navigated, considered, and negotiated, even if they’re only with you on a gig assignment. When an organization makes the effort to provide every employee with choices as to how they want their relocation and new assignment to happen, it shows the employer values that person. Italics intentional. It can also cut down on the friction over what is versus what isn’t possible.

Consider millennials, who are generally enthusiastic about the prospect of a global reassignment, and will comprise most of all international assignments by 2020, according to a recent PriceWaterHouseCoopers’ study. They prefer resources at their fingertips and expect fast and responsive communication to questions. Given the choice, they want to be able to access services and support on demand — probably from a mobile phone. They want to be able to set up portals according to their own needs, and customize their own user profile. And notice: they assume they will have an agile, customizable portal, no matter where they wind up.

Other choices may involve types of medical care, schools, financial planning, security, spousal employment, language training, cultural programs, neighborhoods, pay options, transportation, coworkers, teams, kinds of work — Is your organization in a position to handle and facilitate all of that?


I’m going to take the liberty to answer my own question. You’re more than welcome to disagree, and if you do, congratulations on having your own highly sophisticated, in-house Global Mobility management technology. But most likely, unless you’re Google, you’d benefit from partnering with a firm, that specializes in the tech you need to most effectively provide those choices.

Global mobility management (GMM) tech is a fast-growing industry, projected to swell to between $11B and $15B in the next five years. Top GMM companies can collaborate on building 360º support to meet all your employees’ needs. solutions that answer those concerns. Likely, they have already run the gamut of scenarios, building a cost-effective platform that combines empathy and efficiency.

The bottom line is that no employee is the same. Whether you’re dealing with a dozen or a thousand people, reassignment can trigger a reaction from “No way” to “that’s great!” Every organization has its own side of the story: we need to staff up or shift people fast – with the least amount of risk, expenditure, or downtime. Start from the heart, use your head, and then leverage the tech platform of a frontrunner in Global Mobility management — and your people will thank you.

New Call-to-action