mobile talent

The gig economy will have a profound impact on the globally mobile workforce and companies need to prepare to manage a mixed assignee talent pool that will include a growing proportion of international mobile gig workers.

Many future expatriates you will manage may not even be employed by your company.

One of the key trends of the future of work is that organizations will not just have to build (train) or buy (hire) talent, they will need to learn how to effectively borrow talent.

Here is what to bear in mind to anticipate this evolution.


The term “gig worker” covers very different types of employees. One group includes highly skilled and mobile professionals willing to market themselves globally.

Other types are managers with extensive international experience, consultants, designers, and IT professionals, among others. These constitute an increasing portion of the gig economy and the future expatriate workforce.

At a more local level, and at the opposite end of the skill spectrum, the gig economy is about temporary workers trying to boost their incomes with part-time work or who are simply unable to find full-time employment.

Gig workers may have different contractual models: freelancers and contractors who remain independent from the company …or workers employed by the company for a short duration.


On paper, the gig economy model, in which workers take on temporary work to perform specific tasks or projects, looks like a win-win for the company and for the employees. From a company perspective the gig model offers more flexibility, reduced fixed costs, and the capacity to react much faster to market changes. It is also an opportunity to tap into a new international talent pool (experts who might not wish to join the company on a permanent long-term contract) and access expertise on demand.

From the employee perspective the gig model can offer more flexibility, a better life balance, and more autonomy. The rise of the gig economy coincides with a change of generation: millennials, who are much more likely than their predecessors to join the gig economy and thrive in flexible work environment. Technology developments are allowing workers to market themselves globally and are reinforcing the trend.

The capacity to attract and retain this new type of flexible and mobile talent will become more important for companies and will force HR and mobility managers to review their policies, compensation models, and processes. Highly qualified internationally mobile gig workers can be in high demand. Attracting them and retaining them for future gigs can be a difficult and costly exercise. The rise of expatriate gig workers also raise a host of compliance questions and potential duty of care issues.


Mobility policies need to be adapted for gig workers. Managing an international gig worker is less about moving someone from one country to another and more about dealing with the consequence of a move that already happened. Highly skilled international gig workers are more likely to be either locally hired foreigners or on virtual assignments, rather than fitting in the traditional long-term assignment model.

Adapting remuneration packages. In a gig economy, organizations are increasingly paying for skills rather for jobs as such. This implies understanding the relevance of the skills of potential candidates and their experience (skill depth). Furthermore, remuneration of gig workers is impacted by the duration of the tasks performed, the business requirements (and urgency), and the global competitive environment (skill supply).

Remuneration options to consider include various forms of lump-sum payments to reflect the preference of gig workers for cash amount over benefits in kind. If benefits are provided, the question of portability (i.e. transferability) of these benefits will be essential for gig workers.

The basic relocation package itself might be irrelevant as international gig workers might already be in the host location or prefer to make their own arrangements. The per diem approach commonly used for short-term assignment can be tailored for gig workers on project assignments.

For longer projects, different forms of local plus packages include a competitive local salary, various incentives, and whenever possible, portable benefits could be provided. The rise of the gig workers will reinforce the trend to adopt more flexible approaches and processes.

Reconsidering career incentives. The sum of all gigs doesn’t always constitute a career.  HR teams are not equipped to follow the careers and evaluate the performance of this new category of professionals. This raises questions about the relevance and consistency of performance review and career management processes.

One of the main goals of gig workers is not to be promoted within the organization

but to increase their employability

and capacity to win additional gigs.

Training considerations and

future skill development

needs to be taken into account.

Replacing developmental moves with project-based assignments done by gig workers and more generally a greater reliance on gig workers, as opposed to building up the internal workforce, could lead to a less skilled talent pool in the long run. This is one of the paradoxes of the global gig economy: it allows companies to tap into new talent pools without helping replenish them.

Engagement and communication. Companies need to avoid having a fragmented workforce with employees on one side and the gig workers on the other side. How does one motivate a gig worker to go the extra mile, convey the official messages, and uphold the values of the company? Gig worker engagement is important because a company’s reputation influences its attractiveness to top gig worker talent. Whenever possible, incentivize top talent to perform recurring gigs for the company with the objective to position it as an employer of choice for gig workers.

Compliance and liability: the risks of venturing into gray areas. The concept of a gig worker is not always well-defined and encompasses different realities that means that company risks operating in gray areas. Legal definitions and contractual agreements vary by country. If the contractual obligations have not been clearly defined or if the local employment law is subject to interpretation (due to rapid changes and new questions brought up by the gig economy), companies could find themselves facing legal complications. Do not automatically assume that gig workers are independent from the company or the company has no liability and duty of care towards them.

Written by  Olivier Meier, Principal with Mercer

Munich, Germany….  Helping Companies Go Global  Consulting, Data and Technology to Support Talent Mobility


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FocusEconomics analysts are unanimous in expecting that NAFTA will survive negotiations but are divided on the nature of any expected changes to the original agreement. Most argue that modifications to the existing deal will be relatively minor, while some see more major changes as a prerequisite to a successful update:

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..been said before — HR is the place to be for growth opportunities. There are so many inspiring changes happening in the HR industry. We see incredible potential for HR managers who have the desire to implement developing best practices in their HR departments and  organizations.

  1. Brand development from a hiring perspective: HR managers are being pulled into brand management based on who they hire and if they are able to hire top talent. Millennials are the growing employee base and they cannot be bribed by money alone. They are looking for company culture, job satisfaction, the ability to give back and flexibility. It is up to the HR managers to communicate company culture to prospective talent in a way that allows them to hire top candidates. This article by Undercover Recruiter has a great list of tools to help with employer branding.
  2. Engaging workforce using gamification: We see gamification becoming more prevalent as a means to increase employee engagement and to understand more about employees, how they think, and what they are motivated by. See this link for examples of how companies are using gamification as an informative tool.
  3. Employee Experience: Retaining employees is more cost effective than recruiting new people. Retaining employees makes for a more cohesive company culture. Think of your employee career stages as your marketing department would consider your company customer buying stages: Employees want individualized tailored career paths and experiences. Understand your employees from a personna perspective in order to better serve them and retain them. Know what path they will take along their employment journey and you will be better able to serve them. We found this article in HBR on this subject to be interesting and thought provoking.
  4. Human Resources is being asked to contribute to overall company strategy because HR is at the epicenter of everything going on within the company. This is where many career opportunities for HR will be found. Payroll and some types compliance are being automated. We are seeing a need for HR to strategize more deeply with C-Suite executives on issues like brand management, company strategies.
  5. HR should understand technology advances that relate to HR and company goals. It will be important to stay on top of technology that the company can use to manage employees. A large portion of the queries made by staff are the same, they most often relate to vacation, benefits and policy questions that a HR computerized bot can handle. Bots will be used more and more to help with HR related questions from employees. 
  6. Fast paced changes call for constant retraining and continuous employee reviews based on those changes. This will place new demands on HR. You will need to train your mind to be comfortable with constant change and also educate employees to do the same. Flexibility and willingness to see things from all angles and perspectives as the company grows and changes will be key. Having access to training programs, preferably online with some support is essential so new skills can be added quickly and inexpensively. CHECK-OUT and … examples of companies that provide training with a flexible schedule.
  7. Workplace diversity demands requires upgraded communication skills and understandings. Social media influences on recruitment are drastically changing the way new potential hires are recruited and retained. Compassion and understanding of differences will be much needed traits for HR.
  8. HR needs to be trained in understanding how to compile and communicate statistics for upper management. Traditional HR is continually evolving into evidence & people-based analytics, which will be driven by HR. HR is now able to use facts compiled by technology programs to push for HR intervention when needed and follow up with fact driven results. Statistical references also help HR to move into their more strategic role with top management by providing important data about the company that is needed during conversations regarding future planning.
  9. Contingent teams are increasing causing companies to be able to train on a dime to get part-timers and remote employees up to speed quickly during a crunch time. Also it will be important to communicate the company culture to these contingent teams so there is a tight company culture across teams no matter where they work in the world and whether they are full time or part time employees.
  10. Harassment Prevention needs to be ingrained into company culture in the HR department. Enforcing a company culture that does not tolerate harassment or discrimination can be challenging for some companies but if the company HR team states this intent right from the get-go there is a greater chance of success.
  11. HR digitized resource centers are increasing in popularity. It will be HR’s responsibility to create a happy medium between self service and customer service for employees.

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Guest Editorial: European view



Geoffrey Matthews, recently retired Vice-President, Head of Corporate Total Rewards; Nestlé Group

In various countries there have been different initiatives to ensure that workers receive a Living Wage, but progress remains stubbornly slow. Just in the UK alone, only one-third of the top 100 listed companies have signed up with the Living Wage Foundation, and much more generally needs to be done across the globe. The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls for countries to “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.”

A Living Wage can contribute significantly to this. Without it, workers cannot provide for their own basic needs and those of their families, leaving them to face poverty and hardship.

Nestlé’s recent 2017 Nestlé in Society report shows how the company has made a Living Wage a reality for its employees across the world, through an exhaustive 3-year exercise covering 111 countries where it operates. This was a tremendous project, and I’m proud to have been part of this initiative while working at Nestlé.

Local legislation may be absent or insufficient to deliver a Living Wage, so if progress is to be made, employers need to take the lead in filling this gap. Paying a Living Wage not only shows that employers want to ensure better lives for their workers, it also shows consumers the organisation’s fairness in dealing with others. It makes business sense too in stimulating consumer demand and economic growth, so benefiting society as a whole.

While shareholder return is a focus for many companies, it’s vital that other stakeholders are not overlooked, especially those on the lowest incomes.

So far Nestlé and a few other pioneering companies have tackled this globally, but isn’t it time more employers took action here too?   (Editor’s note: 1st published on LinkedIn March 28, 2018)

Guest Editorial: European View
Why Xpat Gender Diversity Matters

… do something about it … it’s time to accelerate

While some companies are making progress, the percentage of women in the expatriate workforce globally is still a paltry 14%, with best performing industries and countries lingering in the 20–30% range. Parity is a long way off.

  • Having international experience is a pre-condition to reaching top managerial levels within many multinational companies. Furthermore, international assignments allow employees to develop essential skills and build a network that can boost their career.
  • It’s not just a mobility question: the low participation of women in the assignee talent pool can put a brake on gender equality at leadership levels. It’s a strategic talent issue.
  • Global Mobility should be part of the solution and help women break the glass ceiling rather than be part of the problem.


  • There are unconscious biases in management and HR thinking that can influence the assignee selection process.
  • The real degree of hardship for women in each location should be assessed objectively.
  • Issues should be discussed when the talent pool is being created, not later in the selection process.



Bring the discussion about gender parity to the front and discuss how to move away from the traditional long-term male expatriate model.


Without completely changing your policies, make sure that they include specific measures such as day care or spousal support to facilitate global mobility of women. Alternatively, provide the flexibility to re-purpose existing allowances or lump-sums that can used to address the needs of female assignees or minorities.


All too often employees and their spouses are not aware of the support offered by the company. Talk openly about diversity in your policies and encourage internal discussion on this topic. Communicate about role models and success stories.


Make sure that the mobility team is in contact with the diversity team and can provide input on mobility issues. Gender parity and diversity are important topics for companies. It’s an opportunity for mobility teams to play a strategic role and help solve a major talent management issue.


Use workforce progression analyses to measure the career progression of female assignees, employee attitude surveys to capture female assignee feedback, as well as other indicators such as pay progression analyses that could indicate that there are gender gap issues in general.

—  Written by Olivier Meier, Principal with Mercer in Munich, Germany


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