Monday, 11 March 2013

Global Mobility Programmes

Profs. Shruti Jain and Shweta Dixit write...

The authors can be contacted at:,

Success today, for all companies requires talented workforce with a global mindset. With companies trying to make a move towards expansion of global operations, it is very important to seek opportunities outside one’s country and send their talent to train themselves in the work patterns of other economies. It is thus a major challenge these days for companies to have employees who have truly global outlook.

As business activities are becoming increasingly global, it has become an essential practice to hire workforce with global orientation. Moreover, companies have also noticed intrinsic and extrinsic values of sending employees beyond their national borders for a fixed period of time. Therefore nurturing truly global workforce is need of the hour. Keeping this in mind leading companies worldwide have devised many strategies for training employees for taking up challenging global assignments and Global Mobility Programs is one of the move in this direction.

For many multinational companies, global mobility programs have been around since the start of the business. For others new to the world of corporate relocation, it may be a foreign territory. Before a company begins to send executives on short term or long term international relocation assignments, it would be essential for them to put together a solid global mobility program.

Global Mobility Programme

One such most successful strategy implemented by leading global companies is the Global Mobility Program which aims at providing learning opportunities abroad which will not only help in overall development of an individual, but will also help in nurturing the employee for more important positions in future.

Bentley, A., in his research article “Global Mobility: Managing costs to maintain a successful international assignments programme in line with corporate strategy”, outlines the relevant strategic reasons for corporate having global mobility programs in place:

Key strategic reasons for operating an International Assignments Programme:
  •  Troubleshooting
  • Project delivery/technical need
  •  Skills gap/transfer of skills
  •  Personal/Career development
  •  Talent management
  •  Imposing the company culture (e.g. following a merger or acquisition)
  • Personal request of the individual employee

Benefits of Global Mobility Program

The Global Mobility Program is a very effective tool used by leading global companies in managing their diverse international operations. The Program helps them to build and maintain a global firm while fostering individual development, shared values, innovation, diversity and many other similar strategic benefits. Some of the advantages of Global Mobility Program are highlighted below:

  • helps organizations to develop efficient teams with global frame of mind
  • helps in holistic development of employees
  • provides opportunity to work in a cross cultural environment
  • in certain cases global mobility programme provides unparalleled opportunities for partners and children
  • cost effective compared to other strategies for providing international assignments
  • high-potential employees benefit from such programs as it helps develop competencies
  • helps in filling the gap in local skills
  • these strategies not only help in overall development of the individual, but also facilitate the nurturing process for more important positions
  • effective retention strategy in most of the companies
  • employees perceive an overseas posting as a step up the career ladder

Constraints & Challenges

Even though Global Mobility Programmes have manifold advantages, but organizations face many challenges while implementing such programs:

  • With employees deployed throughout the world, there is a need to track their progress and establish regular communication to ensure this talent remains aligned with the company and doesn’t feel excluded from a corporate vision.

  • Global Mobility Programme which is aimed primarily at younger employees but these Generation Y employees prefer to travel to developed economies and the more affluent APAC countries such as Australia compared with less developed markets. Thus it is challenging to ask any young employee to take up international assignments in less affluent markets. 
  • Poses new challenges professionally and personally, for example, at times the employee finds it difficult to adjust in the new cultural environment or candidate’s spouse may be reluctant to move because they have a steady career in the home country or there is a reluctance to move children because of the difference in education systems or employees may not want to move their families to the host country because there is insufficient domestic support. 
  • Problems with immigration, currency differences, spouse or dual-career issues and the ability to get assignees to understand a tax equalisation approach. 
  • Peer comparisons with expatriates and local employees doing the same role, but with vastly different levels of compensation. 
  • Relocation of employees on their return is a major problem as the employees assume more important positions on their return. 
  • At times it becomes difficult to adhere to clauses in the contract. For example, the employee will not be able to back out of the assignment until the contract ends. 
  • Employees also have concerns related to housing and living conditions on offer in the host country. Their expectations of accommodation may differ in size, location and facilities. Their transportation needs may also be different. 
  • Employees at times are reluctant to accept postings in rural areas and the third world countries or developing economies. 
  • Employees expect attractive compensation packages while accepting foreign postings. 
  • Administrative complexity. For instance, at times it becomes difficult to devise appropriate compensation and benefits packages. 
  • The selected employee returning from the assignment will add further value to the organisation in the long run. 
  • But make the same offer to a high-potential talent, they will gladly take up the job. They may even put up their hands first for a transfer to developing economies because they can see the potential in working in those markets compared with the successful ones.

There may be many variations of the Global Mobility Programs offered by different organizations but the objective is always to create a workforce with global orientation. The program provides an opportunity to the employees to work on different assortment of engagements in a truly cross-cultural environment. The program has many advantages, but we cannot ignore its limitations. The organizations while working on strategies to create global workforce should also keep in mind the constraints mentioned above to ensure that they are able to address most of the problems faced by the employees who are part of the Global Mobility Programs.

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