long-term planning

Why Long-term Planning for Global Mobility Should Be the Norm

Is long-term planning still relevant and useful to businesses who constantly find themselves adapting to sudden change? Why spend time and effort crafting a five-year strategy, for example, when the next disruption in the economy just might lay that to waste?

Sam Keller’s blog raises these uncomfortable questions, claiming that formulating an industrial blueprint or road map for the next five years just might prove impractical. Instead, he challenges business owners and company heads to develop the capability to be agile. He maintains that in order to cope with constant change, businesses must be able to maneuver and improvise to respond to the challenges. Because of that perpetual need to pivot and adapt, Keller suggests that businesses should develop short-term strategies, and ditch the long-term ones.

Global mobility managers might be able to relate to this predicament and even accept his recommendation, to an extent. They too now face a volatile world filled with unprecedented challenges and which can usher in radical change without a moment’s notice.

The trends and developments of the times have also compelled them to consider short-term programs that would have been unthinkable only a decade ago; one example is the brief professional contract of assignees compared to the expatriate standard which could last a lifetime. Younger millennial assignees sometimes prefer per-project contracts. Other options that persuade them to sign the dotted line are travel perks in lieu of competitive compensation packages.

While these new and (which some say are) revolutionary approaches can and do work, they are almost always applied on a case-to-case basis. Global mobility managers must still ask themselves whether they should follow the footsteps of executives in other industries and forego long-term planning for short-term flexible solutions.

A recent study by Pulse Relocation argues in favor of long-term  planning, and in fact points out that it is something that global mobility managers and their companies must adopt as a matter of rule.

According to their study, a road map that charts international recruitment, assignee career planning, and talent development for more than two years is still unknown to most of them. It must be the norm and not the exception, if global mobility managers are to become more successful than they are now.

The numbers do seem to prove it. Only an alarming 17 percent of the global mobility managers who participated in the study say that they have laid out a years-long blueprint for the hiring, education, skill sharpening, and career advancement of their assignees. This blueprint also aligns these programs with their own companies’ overall business plans, and makes them integral to their projected growth.

This 17 percent also report that their global mobility programs do achieve consistent success; they recruit top-of-the-line foreign talent who do perform, their expenses yield significant return-on-investment in the form of quality hires, and their executives are happy with the results and thus become supportive of their goals.

Meanwhile, the other global mobility managers who make up the 83 percent admit that their programs yield inconsistent returns. Because they could not identify what works and what is ineffective, their next plans become a hit-and-miss affair.

Quality talent are not always hired on time, and those who do get hired do not always have a high retention rate. Many of these global mobility managers acknowledge that their current approach is either insufficient or “lacking,” made even weaker and ineffective by “poor” processes.

If long-term planning is indeed the way to go, we might as well take a page from the book of the successful 17 percent, and study what makes their approach work. There are three components that make up its structure and are integral to its effectiveness.

First, enough time has to be allotted for planning global recruitment. Qualifications of hiring talent have to be ironed out and finalized. Global cities that teem with them have to be identified.

And then there is the actual recruitment process which will see the global mobility manager diving in headlong into the recruitment pool, searching for leads, interviewing and screening them, assessing their fit with the organization, and finally coming to a decision whether to hire them, or move on to the next talent location.

The study says that four to five months are simply not enough preparation. That position alone skewers a mere two-year short-term strategy. The Society for Human Resource Management further adds that dealing with the requirements of immigration can be a complicated process.

Securing a U.S. work visa on the side of the global mobility manager, and the documents to get its approval on the side of the talent, can take months. While it takes 42 days to fill a job opening that is limited only to homegrown talent, doing the same for one that requires assignees or foreign nationals can take up to 252 days or eight months. Again this time frame is an argument for long-term planning.

The second component that makes the programs of the 17 percent successful is their use of candidate assessment tools that they have already established. These include but are not limited to talent databases they had built over the years, a proven end-to-end selection process, and a competent use of analytics.

They make long-term planning work because they can regularly analyze the dynamics of the market, take a look at the overall picture, and forecast developments such as their own companies’ hiring requirements and the growth of talent in certain areas.

Big data and analytics are becoming fixtures in the candidate selection process, as global mobility managers can use them to filter out talents long before an interview, or gauge the future performance or overall suitability of a promising hire.

Entrepreneur says that tech companies in  Silicon Valley like Google are using big data to look for and select top-of-the-line talent, and global mobility managers might find it wise to follow in their footsteps.

The third component is the actual preparation of the assignee prior to his actual departure to his new country or region of employment.

This process includes his cultural immersion in his new home, acclimatizing him to the company’s corporate culture, and fixing the hundred details that will make his transition smoother, from establishing connections with his family back in his home country to designing his new furnished apartment that will make him feel more welcome.

These three components alone show that careful and successful planning in global mobility can take more than a couple of years. Short-term strategies, while useful in certain areas, may not work in achieving the company’s overall goals. Long-term planning, even in the age of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, is still the way to go.