3 Mobility Trends that Keep Assignees Awake at Night

Expect the next few years to be a very mad and mobile world. That is, if it is not already. Ironic as it sounds, mobility is a permanent fixture of our ever-evolving workplace. About 1.8 billion members of the global workforce will soon be spending most of their hours outside the steel-and-glass offices by 2022.

About 89 percent of American adults keep checking their email at a frequency of at least once a day to make sure they don’t miss out on the latest business developments. And on a global scale, 71 percent of millennial professionals believe that an international assignment will help keep them competitive, desirable even.

Global mobility managers will generally welcome this new openness because it will make their jobs easier. Younger and more driven talents have stopped thinking of the traditional expatriate assignment as an out-of-the-way post in a tougher no man’s land. Higher management may lower their resistance and usual reservations once the global mobility managers start asking them to invest in international recruitment and onboarding projects, come budgeting time.

Still, not all of those who say they want to join the global mobility bandwagon — or the equivalent of Elon Musk’s SpaceX — are signing up starry-eyed. Many of these assignees, regardless of their age or country of origin, do have unspoken concerns that they might want to be addressed before they sign the dotted line. These issues go beyond the usual priorities of a paycheck, a long-lasting career, family welfare, and health insurance. As analyzed by a Mercer report, they sprung up based on the assignees’ own observations of the changing business landscape, and the fluidity has triggered certain insecurities.

The first concern has to do with the speed of their professional advancement. Assignees already know that a global assignment is already a feather in their cap. What they would like to know is not so much as, “Will I get promoted?”, but rather “How fast will I get promoted?”

The second question has to do with remaining in touch with the home base. Assignees may feel the privilege, perks, and professional power of being a big fish in a small pond in their new country of employment. However, they still want to keep strong ties with the home office. They don’t want to get cut out of the greater corporate loop. They may be where the action is — outside the country — but they also know that a lot of the significant decision-making happens in headquarters. Thanks to technology which can make them virtually present, they want to maintain that connection at all times.

Finally, assignees who want to jump up the career ladder may want to know their options as far as lateral transfers are concerned. Some of them might have studied the competition, the steep ladder that all of them might have to climb, and the length of time it can take to reach the top.

One opportunity that they are thinking of availing of is a lateral transfer to another sector, location, or branch within the company’s corporate network where they can shine. It may not be a promotion per se, but it can become a tougher training ground where they can learn new skills and expand their network. One example is the group of tech hubs in Northern California: assignees who had already spent considerable time building new offices overseas still recognize that if they want to remain on the competitive edge of this industry, Silicon Valley is still the way to go.

There are no easy answers to the assignees’ above questions, especially because mobility is always changing the rules of the game. What the global mobility manager can do is to understand these concerns, and sit down with upper management or human resources to come up with policies and programs that can address them in the long run. And equally important, they have to keep in constant communication with the assignees to maintain their trust and boost their morale.

Mobility might be the rising tide that sweeps the assignees to various opportunities, while overwhelming them with their suddenness and changes that they bring. But it’s still the global mobility manager who must remain the vessel of calmness, security, and confidence that keep them focused and strong.