The evolving role of Global Mobility

Eric Pengelly and Simon Davies, K2 Corporate Mobility
Historically, in-house global mobility teams have been viewed as heavily operationally focused – being told when people were going on assignment (often at short notice) and coordinating the logistics of the relocation process. Though this still forms a significant part of the role of an in-house team, things have started to change over the last decade. Tim Wells, Head of Global Mobility Consulting at Abbiss Cadres LLP, shares five changes in the role of the in-house global mobility team that he has observed over the last decade.

Five changes in the role of global mobility

Greater variation

Firstly, businesses now require a much wider array of relocation policies than in years gone by. Where previously there had been the “standard” trilogy of short-term assignments, long-term assignments and permanent transfers, we have started to see a number of alternatives emerge, such as commuter assignments and local plus policies, as companies began to look at ways to cut the cost of their global mobility programmes and offer flexibility in working patterns. This in turn has given rise to a host of additional considerations for global mobility teams, particularly in relation to compliance and employment benefits coverage. The advice that businesses needed from global mobility teams has become more diverse and with an increased need for more comprehensive detail.

Globalisation

It is not just large organisations that re-focused on mobility - smaller companies have come under increasing pressure to launch into new international locations, particularly in to emerging economies for the first time, in attempts to stabilise sales hit by recession at home. These companies required a very different approach to mobility than the larger multinationals. Their potential budget constraints and under-developed processes meant that the global mobility support required needed greater flexibility and entrepreneurial and business savvy whilst managing compliance risks. This has meant global mobility professionals have had to become increasingly business-minded to enable them to effectively advise and operate in these types of businesses.

 Positive spin

The focus on attracting and retaining top talent has been high on the agenda for a while. Change in this area has seen companies looking outside their domestic or regional talent pools to search for candidates globally. The need to attract top talent is breaking down international recruitment barriers fuelled, in particular, by the emergence of the “millennial” generation in the workforce - candidates who have much greater expectations around travelling for work. This in turn has led to global mobility and recruitment teams collaborating more than ever before to ensure the relocation package and process adds to how attractive the company’s proposition looks to those in the talent pool.

Integration

As well as working closer with recruitment, global mobility professionals have started to partner with colleagues in other HR disciplines more than they have done previously. For example, we are now seeing collaboration with organisational development teams to develop talent mobility programmes, or with reward teams to support with the annual salary review process, employment benefits and stock plan management for expatriates. There is also a vital link between global mobility teams and in-house tax teams in relation to managing risk and compliance, which continues to grow stronger.

Partnering

Finally, we are seeing global mobility teams working more frequently in a business partner capacity.  Business leaders have recognised the importance and value of having an internationally mobile workforce, resulting in global mobility specialists starting to have an increasing level of input in to business planning and strategy. Over the coming years I am confident this will continue to develop, and it is nice to see global mobility is stepping outside the box we occupied a decade ago and starting to evolve as a valued specialism.

About the author: Tim Wells, Abbiss Cadris LLP
Tim is a Partner and Head of Global Mobility Consulting at Abbiss Cadres LLP, a professional services firm providing expertise in employment law, expatriate taxation, people consulting and communications. Having developed his career leading in-house global mobility teams and programmes for a range of multinational organisations, and providing consultancy services through Wells & Co Consulting, Tim is a member of the judging panel for the Association of Relocation Professionals Awards 2014, with a Masters’ degree in Strategic Training and Development from the University of Surrey.