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Here's How to Resolve the Two Biggest Challenges Facing Global Mobility

Heather Darby
Heather Darby

Overcome the two biggest hurdles to international relocation.

The annual global mobility survey conducted by AIRINC revealed interesting insights into both the successes and failures of businesses operating international relocation projects. Of particular interest was data identifying the most common problems faced by those carrying out global relocation programs. Two challenges in particular – difficulties implementing talent strategy and international relocation costs – impact the majority of businesses operating global mobility programs. Both of these problems, however, can be overcome. In this article, we examine how this can be done.

Leveraging mobility to impact talent strategy

First, though, what is talent strategy?

Talent strategy is the use of business resources to attract, develop, and retain employees with integral skills and value to the company. Any business's goal is to acquire, grow and hold onto the most exceptional talent working within their sector. This often involves standard practices like competitive wages, benefits, and perks, or more non-traditional structures like flexible working, opportunities outside of the workplace, and even creative working environments, such as Innocent Drinks' Fruit Towers in London. Many businesses see global mobility as a benefit that can help their talent strategies, yet over half of corporations (53 percent) admit to facing challenges when it comes to utilizing relocation programs to entice, evolve or retain talent.

So what is the solution? The answer lies simply in awareness.

At least 66 percent of companies undertake some form of global mobility as part of their corporate operations. The fact that over half of those companies are aware that they aren't taking advantage of this resource properly is a testament to the influence global mobility can have when it comes to both attracting employees and a providing career development.

Given the popularity of moving people abroad, utilization of global mobility into corporate talent strategy is all about bringing the process into the foreground, rather than establishing something new. So how do you build awareness in a way that impacts talent strategy?

  • Be clear on what is available: If you aren't monitoring opportunities and keeping employees and prospects aware of what is an offer (and potential upcoming opportunities for mobility), you can't use them to improve talent management. Keeping close tabs on this resource (and making information about current and future projects readily available) is key to integrating it into your talent strategy.

  • Know your audience: Upwards of 55 percent of your employees are likely to reject offers for global mobility, which means building awareness among these individuals is counterproductive to talent strategy and can actually be detrimental. Attempting to utilize international relocation amongst said workers could actually scare them away from employment, as they can be dead set against the concept. Instead, it is important to focus on leveraging global mobility with those who are interested in, or have the most to gain from, such career progression. Conduct open discussions with prospects (and your workforce) to identify those for whom relocation would be a viable and attractive option and then use said data to improve your talent strategy by marketing opportunities to specific people.

  • Open your mobility to adaptation: Stringent mobility projects don't necessarily offer the most attractive or beneficial circumstances for employees. Talent strategy is all about providing something that is of value to a member of staff or prospect, which means to leverage them for the most gain, corporations may need to adapt what is on offer to present it in the best possible package for talent. This might mean considering different locations, improving job roles on international assignments or providing bespoke support structures. Tailoring global mobility to your talent allows them to get the most out of assignments thereby boosting the chances of attracting new staff, developing current talent pools and retaining crucial team members.

Reducing the costs of relocation

On average, corporations invest around $300,000 annually into global mobility programs, but these costs are not judged to be appropriate for the given results. Half of the companies in AIRINC's survey identified costs as a major challenge facing their projects.

This isn't much of a surprise. Overspending is commonplace in the international moving world, but there is a reason for the problem.

The data from AIRINC also reveals widespread failure among corporations when it comes to management of global mobility economics. Only 23 percent of businesses operate comprehensive reconciliation of financial information for their mobility projects, resulting in major disparities between pre-move estimates and actual spends.  

The current process followed by too many businesses is that projections are calculated during the initial planning stages, when the case for business relocation is being made, but once the project is signed off, those figures are no longer taken into consideration.

Keeping costs down and reducing the occurrence of an issue that is currently plaguing mobility programs is all about control. International assignments can be completed on a budget if proper money management is made a priority. Methods to follow for more cost-effective global mobility programs include:

  • Updating figures and planning for readjustments: Relocation is, by nature, unpredictable, which means projections can mean very little by the time the project is completed. As the process moves forward, new elements may be added or circumstances may change. Dates shift, accommodations fall through, etc. Finances need to be monitored and referred back to original budgets and projections. With alterations, do the numbers still make the mobility project viable? If not, are there other elements that can be left out or adapted to bring costs in line with initial budgets? Without knowledge of what is being spent and how it compares to projections, it is far too easy to lose control and let spending get out of hand.

  • Reducing failure rates: Forty percent of relocation projects fail, many leading to early repatriation. This results in massive costs without much in the way of benefits. Ensuring success helps keep costs down, so how can businesses protect against failed projects? Research has shown that family issues, cultural difficulties and lack of preparation are the primary causes behind failed international relocation. Combat these causes by working with staff to overcome barriers to success – such as engaging in personal move elements more and offering cultural training – and you'll experience more cost-effective mobility programs.

  • Streamlining moves processes:  A quick path to overspending and excessive relocation costs is poor management of the global relocation process. Keeping costs down is all about efficient practices and only investing resources in necessary tasks. Keep your path to relocation success clearly defined through thorough planning and strategy phases before projects begin, identifying what relocation tasks need be carried out and, just as importantly, which do not. It is also likely that you will need the support of third-party companies for specific services, from accommodation acquisition to shipping. Attempt to streamline your global mobility process. Keep costs down by using partners that offer comprehensive relocation and moving services. Bringing all your outsourced tasks together under one roof can have major benefits to cost reductions, rather than paying a number of different companies to perform separate tasks.

Image Credit: Africa Studio/Shutterstock
Heather Darby
Heather Darby Member
Experienced contributor to HR and Business publications, expert in international relocation projects, dealing with everything from personal moves to full-scale corporate relocation. Heather has been working in the industry for many years and is keen to share her knowledge and insight with other members of the business community.