Understanding the Context of Global Mobility: Why it matters to assignees and their families

by | Sep 21, 2017

Why understanding the context of global mobility for all involved

As organisations expand internationally their need to understand the impact of global mobility to develop the right kind of leaders becomes more critical.

There is a pressing need to get the right people to the right place at the right time, compliantly and safely in a way that facilitates their ability to perform well in their new role - and as we all know this can be a bit of a headache.

Global Mobility

Strategic approach to global mobility

It requires a strategic approach to global mobility, which incorporates international talent management at its core. Success depends on motivated employees who are able to settle, adjust and deliver desired results quickly. Employees who warm to the challenge of intercultural communication, influencing multi-cultural teams and who are flexible, adaptable, self-aware, ready to learn and open to regular change in both their professional and personal lives. Not much to ask then! And when we add the reality that it can be both a challenging and rewarding experience, one that extends beyond the employee to impact on partners and families in the case of longer term assignments, it can seem a lot to ask of anyone.

To attract the best talent, global mobility needs to be accessible to and supportive of interested employees. This is not the case in all organisations. In some, global mobility is seen at best as something for the elite or privileged few, at worst, as a risky, poorly supported endeavour. The inevitable impact is an uninspired talent pipeline, resulting in under performance.

Perception of the value organisations place on international experience, the career opportunities and trajectories that can result, and relocation support provided count even before employees reach the recruitment and selection stage. Yet, often there is no real understanding of what global mobility entails until a job offer lands on an employee’s desk, at which point a million and one questions have to be asked and answered in pretty short measure.

And the underlying truth is that you don’t know what you don’t know….

Unless educated and informed, how can you know what questions to ask before signing on the dotted line. International relocation is one arena where ignorance is not bliss.

For employees to be able to form opinions about international opportunities, make informed decisions and prepare appropriately, they need to understand the context within which those opportunities are set, including the:

  • different forms that global mobility may take: perhaps as business travellers, taking on roles that require commuter assignment, short term assignments, rotational assignments or medium to longer term assignments.
  • different international opportunities: how they differ in purpose and how they are valued by the organisation
  • their potential career development within the overall context of global mobility: Including, how international relocation can potentially enhance their skills and abilities? What opportunities it may open for the future? Where the challenges may lie ahead, and how they may be overcome?
  • potential impact of global mobility from a personal and family perspective: The potential challenges and opportunities of relocating internationally for all family members.
  • policy and means of support provided for globally mobile employees and where necessary their partners and families.

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Understanding context of global mobility

Understanding the context within which international career opportunities sit helps employees to better set realistic expectations about what such a move might mean for them personally and professionally, and make better and informed relocation decisions. This in turn means employees are likely to be more engaged and committed to making the international role and life experience a success AND better understand the processes and support that their supporting organisation provides.

Understanding where global mobility sits from a strategic business perspective, the commitment and focus an organisation gives to this function also gives employees a sense of how their relocation efforts will be valued and supported.

International relocation represents a comprehensive life change for the assignee and where accompanied, the partner and family. It also represents a large investment from the organisation's perspective. It is a decision that should not be taken lightly and should be based on a full understanding of not only the potential opportunity and benefits, but also the challenges that are likely to be encountered along the way. An informed decision is the first important step in the preparation process. It engages employees to manage the process in a proactive and conscious way. To take ownership for their experience. This sets the tone for a more empowered assignment experience for all.

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Louise Wiles Contributor
THRIVING ABROAD supports organizations to improve assignment effectiveness and return on investment by supporting expatriate assignee's and families. Our book: Thriving Abroad: The Definitive Guide to Professional and Personal Relocation Success and the accompanying workbook, helps organizations support international assignee's and their families through the relocation process and beyond to the creation of a thriving and fulfilling life abroad.
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