Big Data & Global Mobility – Why Bother?


Why organisations should leverage big data to enable evidence-based global mobility decisions 

If your organisation isn’t making the most of data to drive its global mobility programmes – you are missing out.

As with all areas, HR & mobility teams are under pressure to demonstrate valueperformance and contribution to overall business objectives. Big data – handled properly – offers many solutions to achieving this.

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Big data goes beyond the discrete systems HR and mobility teams currently rely on for specific operational needs. It refers to huge amounts of data that can be analysed by businesses for organisational benefit.

Big data does however pose a number of challenges for HR and mobility teams, and none of them are insignificant. How to get it? How to read into it? How to store it? How to share it?

But the sooner HR departments get to grips, the sooner benefits can be realised.

Evidence-based approach

While data handling and analytics may seem beyond the traditional realm of HR and people management skills, the case for evidence-based decisions and strategies is compelling. Organisations are operating in an increasingly global and highly competitive environment. The volume, complexity and sophistication of employee mobility activities are growing, along with escalating risks and regulations.

Organisations are however facing pervasive barriers to leveraging big data. There are many reasons for this, including:

  1. Internal systems tend to lack any real design or logic. Investment in systems has traditionally been in response to an immediate and specific operational need of a specific internal function. The result is a legacy network of disparate systems, with low to non-existent levels of integration both within and across functions, such as finance, tax, travel, and often within HR and mobility teams.
  2. Operational issues exist such as lack of relevant skills, incompatibility of systems and security concerns.
  3. Cultural barriers also exist, such as a hesitation toward integrating systems and sharing information across functions.
  4. Constantly shifting demands of the organisation. Mobility requirements are advancing continually, from the need for real-time access and updating of information across locations, through to employee tracking and geo-location services. As technology develops and new systems become available, it can be hard for organisations to know when to jump on board.

Overcoming these challenges will ultimately require collaboration across your organisation and a shift in ethos toward the value and role of data in helping meet your business objectives.

Which sounds expensive and begs the question – why bother?

Top 3 reasons why you should be leveraging big data now 

Fundamentally, big data has the potential to fuel business intelligence and analytics. Global mobility is no exception.

1. Measuring business performance

A key benefit of capturing the right data is the ability to report on past mobility activity and service performance.

How long are applications taking? Where are you most frequently deploying personnel? How are you deploying them? Are you retaining assignees on repatriation? What is mobility really costing the business? Are you maintaining employee risk profiles? Just some of the information to consider.

Cross-referencing this with data from other parts of the organisation makes the potential even more powerful – with the ability to track and manage tax issues for example of travelling employees.

Retrospective analysis should identify how the status quo can be improved.

This can be leveraged to enhance operational efficiencies, and make improvements in areas such as assignee safety in emerging markets, immigration compliance risk management and improved processing times.

As a means of demonstrating the value of mobility programmes – the potential is huge. Benchmarking against industry standards and previous internal performance are indicators of the level to which your mobility programme is – or should be – both effective and competitive.

2. Predicting trends

A further critical output of any data analysis is the identification of future trends.

This holds particular significance for global mobility as it strives to demonstrate strategic contribution beyond the administrative support service.

Competitive advantage can be attained by foreseeing developments – both internal and external – before they cause issues with your mobility programme.

Sources are extensive. Internally, look at personnel profiles, payroll & package, processing times, tax, direct & indirect costs of assignments and travel. Externally, bring in data relating to cost and availability of labour, exchange rates, inflation rates etc.

By building the biggest picture you can benefit from both context and reach of information. Decisions become grounded in data.

3. Developing future strategy

Big data is increasingly being used to influence organsational strategy. Setting the tone and the parameters around risk management and future direction.

For global mobility, data can support in contributing to organisational objectives. For example, helping to shape succession planning, talent development or entry into new geographical markets. Which talent is needed when and where? How will they get there?

Importantly, the success of any organisation’s big data strategy is collaboration across internal functions. Support has to come from the top. Behaviours, skills and attitudes will require change. It forms part of an organisation’s digital transformation. It becomes a question of degree and the level of investment and commitment an organisation is willing to bear while returns are awaited as change is embedded.

Big Data for a Big Future 

Big data is said to be the new oil – it needs mining and refining – processes which come at considerable expense and effort. The difference however is that data is arguably infinite.

Organisations have to ensure they avoid the trap of amassing huge data sets without the focus and expertise to use it to effect.

For HR and mobility functions, this means having clarity of how data can drive, support and even transform existing global mobility programmes, and the skills to deliver on this. Leveraging data insight to ensure they are operating effectively and efficiently, while protecting the safety, interests and investment of the organisation and its mobile people.

The key takeaway is that irrespective of your current position, it is now time to explore how big data could be leveraged for your business and your employees, as a means of developing competitive advantage.

We are experienced legal advisers to large employers on all areas of corporate immigration and global mobility, including strategy and compliance. If you have a question about any area of immigration, please do get in touch.

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Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500 and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

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