Guest Editorial: European perspective
Is mobility really an opportunity for employees?
By Olivier Meier, Mercer- Munich
Editor’s Memo: Mr Olivier Meier will be a faculty-member on June 11 at the Global Business IQ™ in Stuttgart inside the Museum at Mercedes-Daimler
A better alignment between global mobility and companies’ global talent agenda is a precondition for making mobility truly strategic and help companies achieve a significant return on investment with their international assignments.
Looking at the top talent trends and HR priorities, it is interesting to see the potential synergies and mismatches between the talent agenda and the realities of global mobility.
FIGURE 1 Source: Mercer’s 2017 Global Talent Trends Study
IS MOBILITY REALLY AN OPPORTUNITY FOR EMPLOYEES?
In the 2017 talent survey, opportunity to work abroad is at the bottom of the list of employment aspects that employees perceive as ways to improve their work situation.
This is partly explained by the fact that mobility for less qualified workers is viewed as constrained mobility – i.e. the risk of being the victim of job delocalization as opposed to being offered new opportunities abroad.
The mobility gap between international high flyers and the rest of employees who can be victims of job mobility or are not been considered for international assignments is widening.
This gap has an impact on career progression and might slow down workforce diversity progress (that’s the case with gender parity as discussed in the article about women on assignment.)
The second explanation is that mobility is not always leading to faster promotion in companies despite the hype and declarations of intention (developing leadership is one of HR’s priority and should in theory be supported by global mobility.)
On the contrary, mobility can impact negatively career perspectives by cutting high performers from their peers at the company’s HQ and from their business network or by creating a skill mismatch (skills developed during the assignment might no longer be relevant when back in the home country.)
Furthermore, the absence of global career management coordination could mean that managers might not be even aware of the past achievements of their employees abroad.
Tracking the career evolution of international mobile employees provide useful insights on the real value of international mobility to boost an employee’s career.
Are former expatriates promoted faster (mobility is clearly an accelerator)?
Are they promoted at the same pace as their local peers?
Or slower (mobility is a danger for the employee’s career)?
A disconnection between the official company message about expatriation (expatriation is good for you) and the realities of mobility (I am being passed over for promotion) could lead to attraction and retention issues.
RECOGNIZING THE VALUE OF LATERAL MOVES
Lateral moves (moving between job types as opposed to being promoted in the same type of job) are not viewed positively: only 14% of employees respond that it could improve their work situation.
Yet, the development of lateral moves – and their acceptation by employees – is critical for retention purposes and to improve skills in fast changing environment. The number of jobs at managerial level is limited and not all highly skilled and talented employees can make it to the top.
For a mobility perspective, the impact of this limit is even greater and partly explains repatriation problems. Companies cannot offer a guarantee to expatriates after their repatriation.
There are objectively not enough jobs of a certain level available in every single country. International assignments tend to increase the skillset of international employees and in some case accelerate promotion – but that leads to increased expectations and ultimately to a retention crisis when employees reach the bottle neck in the managerial path.
Lateral moves are important because they can ease the pressure by increasing the number of possible job options for employees.
In a context of fast workplace changes and digitalization, they are a way to develop new skills and maintain employability.
The future of work is about changing jobs and even career paths frequently as opposed to having a linear career progression.
But this kind of flexible career path can only work if there is a greater degree of recognition and acceptance of lateral moves by both employees and management.
From that perspective, finding ways to strategically moving talent within the company is rightly listed as a top HR priority.
YES or NO…
ASPECTS EMPLOYEES BELIEVE WILL IMPROVE THEIR WORK SITUATION
FIGURE 2: Source: Mercer’s 2017 Global Talent Trends Study