Buzzwords and New Concepts in Global Talent Mobility

Part 1 of 2

Global mobility always buzzes with new concepts and obscure acronyms that have become understandably confusing to some recruiters and companies, especially to people who may be just getting to know this industry, an effect of globalization that corporate housing providers like California Corporate Housing know only too well. After all, it provides corporate housing rentals for relocated employees in northern California.

For those not yet familiar with global mobility, what is it and why is it growing in popularity? Alchemy defines global mobility as a HR (human resources) function that refers to a multinational corporation’s ability to move its people to offices in different countries. When an employee is asked to move abroad as part of their job, this is called an International Assignment. This also applies to domestic assignments.

The term International Assignment Services refer to the HR processes that must be carried out to move and maintain employees in a new country. Services include expatriate payroll, compensation and benefits, rewards, immigration and tax issues.

That is the easy part. But as global mobility continues to grow because of globalization and the need to put structure in this business, neologisms will come up and persist. Whether it’s good or bad for the industry will be the question, though. How do you unpack questions littered with unfamiliar jargon: How do you manage millennials on lateral moves in a VUCA environment? Are you exploring ways to develop a flexible cafeteria model and local plus approaches?

As answered by Olivier Meier in her piece for Mercer, some of these trendy buzzwords are awkward neologisms (at best) that may never find their way into the dictionary, while others belong to the traditional HR terminology but have become more relevant in the current environment. In any case, Meier said these buzzwords tell us something about mobility developments and how companies perceive and address new challenges.

Lateral moves  

From a career management perspective, lateral moves are about moving between types of jobs as opposed to being promoted with the same job family. Movements between subsidiaries and emerging markets are also becoming more common. Lateral movements are gaining more complexity as more businesses cater to the world.


The Age of Talentism is upon us, a term coined by World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab in 2012 to acknowledge the human talent displacing capital as the decisive competitive factor. There’s this constant quest for allowing companies to tap into new sources of talent, which underpins the strategic value of global mobility and elevates it from a pure administrative tactical function to a key component of global business success.

On-demand talent

Acquiring talent from all over the world is no longer enough: the capacity to tap into international talent – on-demand expatriates – when needed and as needed is how companies prefer to stand out. This has been common among software engineers, but more jobs from other industries and fields of expertise are also getting noticed.

Locally hired foreigners

Hiring foreign employees already in the United States is happening more these days. They are residents or green card holders. If anyone has not noticed, mobility is also being driven more by individuals rather than by companies and the latter’s champions are taking notes, especially when they know that a foreign talent can help them reach out to other countries. Companies are becoming more global than ever.

Policy integration

From one size-fits-all policies, many mobility management professionals apply multiple policies that are not consistent or ambiguous. The challenge is now to bring the pieces of the puzzle together – not to return to a unique policy but to develop a more integrated and manageable set of policies. This will require more agile approaches to mobility management, including relying on different compensation approaches such as, well, local plus.

Local plus

Many companies find they are more cost effective than traditional, home-based assignments. It also helps ensure that the employee is paid in the same manner as the local workforce, reducing inequalities.

Cafeteria model

The cafeteria model is designed to provide flexibility to expatriate employees and management in the way assignment packages are set up. This is similar to the approach of cafeteria dining, where different options are available. Whether or not this type of cafeteria model will eventually win the Michelin star of mobility or become the fast food of talent management is still unclear.


This is an acronym coming from the military vocabulary and meaning “Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity.” According to Chief Executive, it has since been embraced by leaders in all sectors of society to describe the nature of the world in which they operate: the accelerating rate of change (volatility), the lack of predictability (uncertainty), the interconnectedness of cause-and-effect forces (complexity), and the strong potential for misreads (ambiguity). It’s more important than ever to transform companies into learning organizations with VUCA in mind.