The 3 Bs of Talent Mobility Are No BS Game Changers

The term “talent mobility” has been redefined, shaking global mobility managers who think they might have mastered the term from their complacency. Its meaning has gone beyond the continuous movement of talent to actually represent the creation of a workforce who can adjust to the rapid changes of the times.

As Forbes describes it, the onus for companies is to develop talents who can continue to contribute to their organizational goals, despite — or maybe even because of — the disruptions that suddenly erupt in their respective industries.

If the talents concerned are adequately prepared, they can become the game changers who can determine whether the company can surf the tides of change, or be submerged under them. The mobility that they need to develop, and which their global mobility managers must be aware of, can be summarized as 3 Bs:  their business roles, the boundaries that used to separate the siloes, and borders (national and/or global).

Business roles

Valuable, high-performing talents or assignees will be expected to evolve with the company as it grows, expands, and transforms. While many companies do invest in training, it still behooves the assignee to learn on their own, and quickly. The rapid development of technology is creating new skills that are needed by the marketplace, and requiring at least a basic understanding of digital tools.

The assignee who is a star in personally wheeling-and-dealing with big-name clients might still need to learn how to integrate his sales strategy into the marketing department’s online sales funnel. The global mobility manager themselves who excel in recruiting would have to think as a business executive — since these days they are always asked to justify the ROI of their newly hired international talents.

Boundaries that used to separate the silos

The current business environment can be ruthless; a customer’s beloved brand or service today might be the industry has-been of tomorrow. Company owners will always be looking to sharpen their competitive edge and discard dead-wood products and business units that no longer draw in the sales.

In this context, talent mobility means the agility of the talent to learn new skills outside their comfort zone,  because they are literally moved to other teams or units.

For example, an assignee who might have excelled in training customer service reps might find their role reduced if chatbots are brought in to handle customer inquiries and complaints. Fortunately, executives want to retain them because of their consistent high performance and leadership skills.

One way to do this is transfer them from the now-automated customer service department to the training department in human resources. Their new role would be to teach communication skills and empathy to a diverse range of personnel, from the more extroverted marketing teams to the more reclusive IT geniuses.

The question remains: will that assignee be able to rise to the challenge? What skills do they need to learn in order to be effective? How much of a learning curve do they need in order to understand fully these other aspects of the organization, to which they might not have been exposed to, previously? How do they communicate more effectively with their new colleagues?


There are so many options now available to assignees. Aside from the usual years-long contract offered to senior expatriates, there are short-term less-than-a-year stints or a more thorough cultural immersion which has the talent living in the house of a local. That means that the assignee must be adaptable to change at any given time.

They must also be able to acclimatize to a foreign culture quickly and at the least amount of stress. For example, an IT manager assigned to assist start-ups in California might be asked to manage a more diverse team in an emerging city in Asia — and within less than the comfortable two years.

In managing their assignee’s transitions throughout these 3 Bs, the global mobility manager must always be forward looking enough to always take three steps ahead. What skills and competencies are essential for the assignee to develop in this new normal?  How can the transfer to another department (or more) be made smoother?

What career development programs can motivate their assignee to excel amid the pressure, as they go from one foreign employment to another? The answers might never be permanent, as the circumstances are always changing and subject to disruption. But create a solid foundation that still allows a bit of flexibility, and these more mobile talents just might truly rise to become their company’s winners.