For both established multinational tech companies and ambitious start-ups alike, one of the critical challenges of achieving growth through international expansion is ensuring the right talent is located in the right place at the right time.
Managing a cross-border workforce demands careful handling of complex global mobility issues, and the capability to adapt to changes in regulation, logistics arrangements, the economic situation abroad, and more.
Changing format of assignment types
Today, most employees are aware that long-term assignments abroad can take a toll on their family relationships, their mental health, and their productivity at work. For this reason, many employees are starting to choose shorter assignments so that they are able to spend more time with their families.
This is especially the case with younger millennial employees who are beginning to take senior corporate positions around the world.
Not only are shorter assignments becoming more popular, we also expect to see employees request international commuting to work to allow more time to spent in their home country with their family, for example, a Singapore-based employee could be working in Hong Kong for four days a week and returning to Singapore for three days to spend time with their family.
Disruptive tech entering the mainstream
The disruptive technologies that have been making headlines in the past few years are finally going to be adopted in normal global mobility practices. This means that global mobility experts and managers will be able to streamline their process of managing employees that are relocating to another country. This would, in turn, reduce the amount of time they have to spend on issues like compliance, administration, and answering queries.
For the global mobility industry, two key technologies include big data analytics and artificial intelligence. Big data analytics will allow global mobility professionals to capitalise on the information available to them and increase the cost-effectiveness of relocating employees all over the world. For instance, a multinational business can use data analytics to track information across over 15 branches around the world, allowing them to measure the overall success of their employee relocation program, such as the change in productivity and retention rate of employees after the relocation. This information will allow them to make data-driven decisions to streamline their global mobility program and reduce costs over time.
More commonly, artificial intelligence is arriving in the form of chatbots in the global mobility industry. Chatbots are increasingly becoming more reliable and consistent in tasks such as answering FAQs. This lifts a heavy burden off global mobility experts, who will have to normally answer questions from relocating employees and employers on a daily basis.
Move towards diversity & inclusion
For the global mobility industry, professionals in the field are presented with a timely opportunity to cultivate a more international workforce abroad by ensuring that they are implementing a more inclusive global mobility programme for all employees.
Increasing the number of females on assignment, supporting LGBT employees, dual career couples, creating low-cost and agile opportunities for millennials and employees from business-critical emerging markets, and adding flexibility to policy to support nontraditional family dynamics are all becoming commonplace. Creating international work opportunities for employees with disabilities is the latest area being addressed in some leading-edge organisations.
Global companies require international experience as part of future leader development and therefore it becomes increasingly clear that when the mobile population of a company does not have diversity, the company’s future leaders will be limited to those with access to international opportunities. Inclusion and reducing barriers to global mobility are central to this concept.
Today, companies are raising the bar with creative ways to engage and retain talent, and improve the employee experience in global mobility. At pivotal moments within the lifecycle of a temporary or permanent move, companies that are focused on the employee experience will have an infrastructure in place to provide the information and support specific to the transition underway.
For example, at the start of a move, companies are increasingly building on onboarding strategies to ensure that mobile employees receive an orientation, understand their points of contacts, the resources available and a timeline of what to expect and when it will happen.
The big takeaway is that no-one can afford to rely on “typical” or “standard” approaches to bringing in the human touch to the employee’s experience at each of these pivotal points. What one employee might deem stressful, confusing or necessary might be irrelevant to another due to their age, experiences or expectations. The key is to have information and support available and to offer it in a variety of forms.
Regardless of the destination or place of work, all employees should be and feel part of the organisation’s digital journey and experience.
Employees, especially early-career Millennials and emerging Gen Zs, continue to influence expectations. But employees across almost all generations have similar expectations when it comes to wanting the convenience and simplicity of having information at their fingertips – and available on any of their devices. Technology designed to help manage an employee’s move continues to evolve. Even companies with fewer than 25 assignments per year will look to move away from paper processes for forms and policy. There are a number of technology solutions that are clearly making a huge difference in enhancing the employee’s experience and simplifying the process.
While technology-supported solutions will continue to emerge and improve, employees’ demands will only increase, the person-to-person engagement familiar to the relocation process will continue to play a critical, albeit evolved, role. We believe that our industry will be at the forefront of balancing human technology interaction and human-to-human interaction to ensure that the highly emotionally charged experience of relocating is undertaken in the most successful way.
This topic continues to evolve in terms of what it means and is becoming a perennial trend. Today’s consumers want choices, convenience and the opportunity to customise. This reality is making it into all types of corporate strategy, including global mobility. Business and HR partners want options to meet their needs, whether it is the budget, region or employee population. Similarly, corporate global mobility programmes increasingly expect flexibility and choice from their external partners: concierge services, lump sum management, global or local billing, face-to-face or virtual consultations.
Flexibility offers companies a way to address differing business line, location and employee needs via a consistent platform. Yet this very benefit requires that someone take the role of advisor to the decision-makers, and that role is typically filled by global mobility. Employees looking for choices in policy are finding it in the use of lump sum and flexible allowances; particularly popular in policies targeted to early-career employees, often moving for the first time.
While these employees may need fewer services, they typically need more guidance. This paradox leads directly to the desks of global mobility professionals. Flexibility and choice of any kind add complexity and require new skills and practices.
Flexibility also ties into broader concepts such as worklife balance and employee well-being and duty of care, in response to notable shifts in workforce dynamics.
Dual career couples
The dual-career factor is a significant barrier to getting the right people to accept an assignment or a move and companies are struggling with the challenges that the dual couple demographic brings and are in search of creative solutions.
There are two ways that we see companies defining the dual-career couple. Most frequently the term applies to an employee whose spouse or partner has a career in another organisation and perhaps a different field. For some companies, the employee population includes a number of employees who are married, and therefore, “dual career” may also mean an employee whose spouse or partner is working in the same organisation.
This topic has continued to increase in importance because it is far more common for both partners to contribute significantly to a family income. This means that when an employee is asked to go on an international assignment or transfer locations, the economic and family impact of the decision is greater than in the past.
Another challenge for the dual-career family stems from changing immigration regulations and partner work authorisation regulations. Around the globe there are only around 30 countries that allow accompanying partners to work. In some countries, like the U.S., this is only for married partners. In 2018 Hong Kong passed a landmark ruling allowing dependent visa status for same-sex partners, giving LGBT spouses/partners the opportunity for employment. This shows progress, but it continues to not be the norm in most countries.
DavidsonMorris are established advisers to the tech sector. As employment solutions lawyers, we work with tech companies to support with their full people requirements including global mobility services & consultancy, immigration & employment legal advice and human resource expertise. We understand the commercial and legal challenges facing businesses in the sector, and work to support our clients in meeting their people management and planning needs while reducing legal risk exposure. Contact our tech sector specialists today.
Last updated: 2nd January 2020