Global Mobility Trends: 2020 & Beyond


An awareness of global mobility trends is essential for mobility and HR professionals within multinational organisations. Keeping your finger on the pulse allows you to ensure compliance, derive competitive advantage and maximise value and return from international projects, leading to lower expatriate failure rates and overall, a happier, more motivated, productive and engaged workforce.

Each year, the number of employees on international assignments continues to rise. This is despite the emergence of new technologies and software which make it unnecessary or less important to send an employee overseas. In general, there is an expectation of further significant growth in the number of internationally mobile employees by 2020.

As the demand for global mobility increases, so too does the need for multinational companies to follow global mobility trends and incorporate modern, flexible strategies into their relocation systems and policies. In today’s competitive and rapidly changing business world, this is necessary to improve:

  • Talent management: Getting the right person for the job, to ensure international assignment success.
  • Talent retention: Making sure that the best and brightest employees remain loyal to the company. This can be achieved through attractive renumeration packages, providing the opportunity for career progression and developing strong inspirational values that resonate with the employee.
  • Cost reduction: Balancing expense against talent when choosing the right employee for the job. New strategies can also minimize costs incurred by admin errors, with effective detection and compensation management systems. Employers can reduce the likelihood of costly expatriate failure with comprehensive employee support plans.
  • Compliance: Making sure that immigration and tax obligations are met, quickly and efficiently.

What are the key trends in global mobility for 2020 and beyond?


Software & tech trends in global mobility 

Digitalisation and technology have continued to grow since the turn of the century. With each passing year, these developments allow more organisations to take advantage of the global economy, while making increasingly effective international relocation solutions possible.

Thanks to the convenience and cost-saving benefits of digitalising core business activities, plus the numerous game-changing advantages offered by emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain, predictive analytics, machine learning and virtual reality, global mobility trends predict a considerable shift in the way international assignments are managed by HR departments and relocation partners worldwide.

As technology evolves, all parties involved in an international relocation case can remain in-sync, sharing data, monitoring activity and tracking milestone developments more effectively.

The following technologies are some of the frontrunners in the shift of global mobility trends towards tech-savvy relocation management solutions:


Blockchain facilitates decentralised data-storage and payment systems. International employees can be paid faster and more securely using bitcoin, which they could spend in any location using debit cards linked to their bitcoin account.

Storing and managing data via blockchain allows for better security as logged information can be seen by all parties and cannot be altered. This would allow international relocation analysis to be a faster and far more accurate process, as it avoids the need to individually gather data from different partnering companies.

Global mobility trends suggest that in decades to come, use of blockchain for employee compensation and data management will become the norm.

Predictive analytics

Advanced analytical software is increasingly being utilised in talent searches, making it easier to choose the best employee for an international role based on their skills, experience, willingness to relocate and other data points. This allows for greater accuracy in relocation cost forecasts, and faster deployment of the employee.

Virtual reality

There is scope for virtual reality technology to be utilised during the planning and training phase of an international relocation. The company could save money, time and resources by giving the employee a virtual tour of their new city and workplace, as opposed to sending them on pre-relocation visit.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning

AI chat bots can make it easier to touch base with expatriate employees and monitor their experience abroad. This allows for hands-off data collection which frees up more time for global mobility professionals to manage other tasks. As a scheduled chat bot survey is a fast and efficient way for the employee to report their experience to human resources, problems will be picked up sooner and expatriate failure becomes less likely. Machine learning can be used to enhance practically every system associated with expatriate management. Companies are increasingly using smart systems which learn from the data they receive, providing ever more accurate predictions on cost, success rates and other important factors.

Which – if any – of these solutions should be considered will depend on an organisation’s size, international presence, global mobility budget and future growth plans. When developing new relocation strategies, keep in mind that corporations who embrace emerging technologies while developing new global mobility management systems can benefit from seamless talent location, enhanced employee experience, reduced relocation cost and greater success among their expatriate workforce.


Immigration & visas

Despite the increasingly global nature of business and the need to expand across borders to achieve growth, national immigration policies are becoming increasingly protectionist.

Countries such as the US and the UK are tightening their immigration routes for economic migrants. Business travellers are facing increased scrutiny across the globe, both at the visa application stage and when attempting to enter at the border.

For global mobility teams, expect a growing need for improved consideration and planning for visas and permits to travel and work overseas.


Interest in emerging economies

We will continue to see an increase in multinational corporations extending their reach into previously untapped emerging economies.  While the western trend of seeking growth in developed nations continues, the past few years have seen a definite slowing of mobility towards such countries.

Deploying talent to previously unchartered territory presents a new set of challenges for global mobility teams and HR professionals, for instance:

  • Attracting the right employees: Global mobility professionals may have greater difficulty attracting talent to fulfil international assignments in a new or uncertain environment. Support provisions must be made to ensure a positive employee experience despite concerns such as political unrest, cultural differences and lack of access to familiar comforts. It may be necessary to develop even more attractive remuneration packages to tempt prospective assignees.
  • Ensuring compliance: Global mobility trends show that HR may have difficulty negotiating employment, immigration and tax laws in the new environment. Provisions must be made for this when devising new policies.
  • A need for flexible relocation plans: HR professionals must consider what impact relocation to an emerging economy could have on the company’s diversity and inclusion policies (i.e. while having a diverse workforce is always beneficial, it may inappropriate to send employees with certain characteristics to some locations). In less economically developed countries, working with shorter assignments may be necessary to maintain a positive employee experience. In some cases, commuter assignments may be more appropriate than full-time relocation.

Compliance has ranked highly as one of the top challenges faced by global mobility professionals over the past five years and is expected to continue doing so as we move into the new decade.


Millennial workforce rises

Moving into 2020, millennial employees who entered the workforce post-2000 will start to form an ever-larger part of your company’s talent pool.

Current global mobility trends suggest that these millennial employees are likely to have relocation expectations and goals which do not fit with traditional ‘return ticket’ relocation models. This is even more likely to be true for employees sent on international assignment from countries which do not currently house your organisation’s headquarters. The need to provide competitive renumeration packages will heighten, not only due to the risk of losing employees to competitors but also as a result of an increasing number of millennial workers opting for self-employment.

Employers and HR professionals must work closely with mobility partners to ensure talented employees have a positive international experience, to maximise talent retention.


Varying expat demographic

The one-size-fits-all relocation model no longer has a place in global mobility plans. In decades gone by, a relocation package only had to suit a very specific type of expatriate employee (typically, the older professional male with a dependant wife and children). Now, employers must develop flexible relocation solutions to suit their rapidly diversifying workforce, to ensure they are not excluding talented individuals who do not fit the traditional mould. Your relocation policies should cater to:

  • Single-parent employees
  • Families with two full-time working parents
  • Single employees
  • Employees in LGBTQ+ relationships

These factors must be considered when devising packages to attract talent, but also, when planning and orchestrating the international relocation. Failure to consider the wide variety of personal situations among your expatriate employees may lead to negative expatriate experiences and ultimately, expatriate failure.


Need assistance?

DavidsonMorris’ global mobility specialists are experienced advisers to multinational companies operating diverse and global workforces. With insight into emerging global mobility trends and an understanding of the commercial, legal and regulatory challenges facing global employers, we can work with you to develop strategies and support with implementation of high-performing global mobility programmes that deliver against organisational objectives.


Global mobility trend FAQs

What are the top 3 trends to watch for 2020?

Tech remains the key area of change and progress, as global mobility teams invest and adapt to take advantage of improved management and communication in global mobility.

What are the immigration challenges for mobility programmes?

There is a general movement towards tighter immigration control in countries across the globe. This is impacting business immigration, requiring greater attention, planning and expertise to avoid issues with obtaining visas and entry into countries.

How can DavidsonMorris help you take advantage of global mobility trends?

Our global mobility specialists are experienced in helping multinational employers develop high-impact strategies and operate successful global mobility programmes. This includes knowledge and insight into the latest trends to ensure a competitive and compliant talent mobility across your organisation.

Last updated: 3rd January 2020


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.

Legal Disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct at the time of writing, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

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