International Assignments: A Marathon for HR; a Sprint for Global Mobility Managers

What is the role of the human resource management when it comes to corporate deployment of international assignments?

It is a question that global mobility managers will ask themselves at some point. With international boundaries almost disappearing and corporate structures adapting to new business demands, their roles and that of their colleagues can overlap.

As a company starts incorporating more global functionalities, especially including that of personnel, in its strategy, the lines must be made clear as soon as possible. Confusion down the road can disrupt or slow down processes, operations, and productivity.

There are two responsibilities that human resource managers and global mobility managers do share:  recruitment, and retention or engagement.

As soon as the company needs a position to fill, the CEO will usually turn to the human resource manager to start searching the field for qualified candidates. It is one job that they are good at. Complications, however, develop should the same CEO ask the human resource manager to start recruiting for international positions — especially if there is a global mobility manager in the same organization.

As points out, human resource managers’ expertise covers the local and national levels. They can formulate policies and comb into talent pools that are based in their home country. Pressed to look for more specific personalities, demographics, or skill sets, they can even categorize the hireability of their hires according to state, region, or city.

However, human resource managers are not trained to think on a multicultural level. Unlike global mobility managers, they are not deeply immersed in how the peoples of a certain country behave, think, or work. Given an economic development, like Brexit or a change in government, they would have to take a lot of time (and at such short notice) to grasp how these changes will impact their assignees and the profitability of their company.

This is where global mobility managers do come in. Their training and experience have equipped them to deal with the societal behavior of their partner countries. They can advise their assignees how to adapt and perform optimally in a new land with an entirely different culture. Should the assignee face a crisis, they have a ready network who can help them cope with it. Embassies can assist with immigration issues. Property developers like California Corporate Housing can make their accommodations more personal and therefore more relaxing. Heads of schools and business associations might also be a phone call away.

Thus, from the very start, the lines of recruitment must be made clear between global mobility manager and human resource head. The former deal with international assignees, while the latter are more focused on local and national hires.

On the other hand, global mobility managers can learn from their human resource colleagues when it comes to developing their assignees’ loyalty and staying power. Employee engagement is one core value that human resource prioritizes.

Business sustainability is made possible by a dedicated, hardworking, and motivated workforce who hang on especially when the going gets tough.

That is why HR looks at a candidate’s potential to stay with the company for a long time before signing him.

On the other hand, while also valuing stability and loyalty, the global mobility manager tends to think in short-term periods. The assignee might only be needed for a two-year contract; afterwards, they will return home, unless offered a new international assignment.

To HR, employee engagement is like a long marathon; to a global mobility manager, it is more like numerous successive short-term sprints.