Understanding the Dilemma of Job Mobility Versus Employee Mobility

The way recruiters think global mobility as a small part of its hiring process is different from the way companies perceive it, but there’s one thing they agree on: Whether a company has to move operations to get the right talents or have the talents relocate to their location.

The traditional approach of mobility, moving people to jobs, has allowed companies to support and accelerate their move to become global. Yet, the traditional barriers to mobility and the cost associated with traditional expatriate assignments remain a significant burden for companies.

Mercer’s Olivier Meier raises the following issues that limit traditional global mobility:

Assignment costs. How long can companies continue to increase the mobility of their employees while not inflating their budget? The answer can only come from new approaches to global mobility. Budget constraints have already forced companies to consider new compensation approach (local plus and various forms of reduced packages) and introduced more segmentation in their policies. They might need to go one step further and rethink their entire mobility approach.

Hardship locations. Location is always an issue. Even a medium or even low level of hardship can pose challenges for assignees for a variety of reasons. This includes their gender, ethnicity, religious background, or sexual orientation. The preference of mobility for millennials also means that even destinations with limited level of hardship can be viewed as not desirable compared to more trendy locations.

Dual career issues. This is one of the top reasons for turning down assignments for a long time with no resolution in sight. There are ways to alleviate the concerns of the spouse (for example by providing assistance with the job search, coaching, or a contribution to training/education costs) but the loss of the dual income and career opportunity for the spouse cannot always be fully compensated.

Family issues. Aside from dual career issues, questions concerning family, such as schooling can result in huge costs for the company and force families to make difficult decision about the future of their children.

Emigration issues. There is a disconnect between the increasing willingness of people to move and the international mobility limitations due to visas, work permit restrictions, quotas, and other legal restrictions.

Moving individual jobs to people is about developing synergies between employees’ aspirations and business needs: achieving lower mobility costs and higher satisfaction. It is also about acknowledging the fact that working arrangements are changing fast in response to technology and generation changes.

Here are some examples:

Generational changes imply changes in mentalities. Millennials are more mobile than their predecessors but also have high expectations and preferences in terms of how and where they want to live.

Changing work arrangements. New models including working from home and the rise of the gig workers are progressively changing the way employees and companies plan to set up working arrangements.

Technology is a major enabler of mobility. Its impact has sometimes been exaggerated but the advent of cloud computing, collaborative tools, and real time reporting dashboards is changing this.

Mobility policies have been evolving. Companies have begun segmenting their policies and introducing more flexibility. The traditional boundaries between expats and locals and between traditional long-term assignments and other types of moves are falling down.

Still, the following ways individual jobs are moved to people can serve as good reminders:

  • There is a need to reflect on company culture and assess the talent pool and the mobility of jobs, taking into account several dimensions, including the importance of a link to a specific geography, time needed on the ground, and technical constraints and work practice.
  • Evaluate the constraints and issues in locations where the move could hypothetically take place, paying a special attention to visas, contract, tax, and cost issues.
  • Allowing employees to build up a relationship with their peers in the host location.
  • Training remote virtual teams as much as assignees relocated to a host location.

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