An increasingly globalized world benefits from a global workforce. Few business leaders would likely disagree and they move beyond this principle when they identify emerging markets, and the need for global mobility and the development of global leaders as priorities for their own organizations.
But knowledge is not action. In Deloitte’s Strategic Moves 2012 survey of nearly 200 human resources, talent and global mobility professionals from companies around the world, the same responses that reveal a keen awareness of global mobility issues and challenges also show little movement to address those needs.
As documented in the Strategic Moves 2012: The Global Mobility Island report, respondents identified global mobility as an important tool for addressing the top three strategic business agendas:
- 100% for emerging markets
- 99% for increasing globalization
- 98% for increasing competition.
The Global Mobility Island report also reveals that, despite this awareness:
- just 2% of the survey respondents describe their organization’s global mobility practice as “world-class”;
- 70% of the respondents report their organization’s global mobility is underperforming or requires significant improvement;
- only 12% of the companies surveyed perform assessments of their mobility practices and link improvement efforts to solving organizational challenges;
- 80% of respondents are undertaking only a limited assessment of their global mobility practices;
- 88% of those surveyed report their organization does not have either clear measures or measurement-based improvement plans, or both; and
- only 34% of those polled plan to review their global mobility strategies in the next 12 months.
Organizations that identify with these statistics risk finding themselves awash in new opportunities without the workforce necessary to exploit them. This disconnect between global mobility thinking and action shows that most of the companies surveyed remain at sea about the nature of the global workforce and global leaders. They have a sense of what needs to happen, but no plan for making it happen. It appears as though many organizations worldwide have set sail for a global future and left global mobility strategy behind, marooned on an island, disconnected from the key business strategies most requiring its support for their success.
The revelations of these statistics are surprising given the amount spent on international assignments each year. By failing to assess and measure global mobility practices in a planned and regular manner, organizations may be missing the chance to identify their difficulties and determine how to overcome them; it’s difficult to strengthen an ability whose deficiencies aren’t being measured.
What is the Way Forward in the Short Term?
In order to align global mobility with boardroom agendas, companies should consider how to:
Agree upon the strategic purpose of global mobility within their organization and determine what’s required to meet the desired objectives. Once this has been established, the appropriate strategy can be agreed upon and improvement roadmaps developed. This will likely require better integration of various technology systems, processes, polices, vendor capabilities and overall use of data analytics, among other initiatives.
Understand the value proposition of global deployments. Look at the individuals being sent on global assignments, and determine why and how these assignees fit with the individual business units’ growth and talent goals. This will involve the use of appropriate candidate selection, assignment justification and assignment approval processes. In many cases, there may be alternatives to mobility for meeting these goals, such as talent acquisition and talent retention strategies. Additionally, assignment extension, early repatriation and assignment failure should be investigated to affirm assignment costs are being well spent.