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Innovations in international working

by | Jun 16, 2023

The Innovation Festival for Global Working’s ‘Future of Global Mobility & Education Hub’ offered perspective-shifting insights into how to support all assignees achieve fulfilling and productive international moves that are geared to personal and economic growth.

In a lively interactive debate, guests collaborated with cross-sectoral colleagues and global leaders working on the frontiers of innovation in global mobility, international education and business support at this time of change around boosting productivity across the international management arena.

Praising the collaborative format and quality of the session takeaways, Sam McMillan of the Apartment Network, said:

“We are learning a lot about relocation, what that is and how many people are involved. I’ve never really thought about the education piece before.“We are all in the people industry. This is about spending time with and listening to others – and not in a conference room – in this lovely outside environment. It’s friendly and has the feel of a really great community. I’m in the room with competitors, but we are together.”

“Thanks to the pandemic, everybody has some experience of sudden transition, as well as how important it is to have the skills to manage transitions well so students can get the benefits of learning and global assignments.”

Valérie Besanceney, SPAN

The future workplace

The conversation showed that international and cross-border working is more prevalent than ever across all forms and is driven by employees’ demand for flexibility. For businesses, international managers, global mobility and educationalists, this presents a world of opportunities to manage the complexity and improve working lives for all – and nurture the next generation of talent in ways not previously widely understood.The Hub built on the keynote session with Demetra Marcantonio, director of KPMG Global Mobility Services, Ann Ellis, CEO and co-founder of Mauve Group and Valérie Besanceney, executive director of SPAN (Safe Passage Across Networks) on the future workplaces and global trends affecting diverse industry sectors.

Asked about the biggest changes impacting the world of work today, Demetra Marcantonio said it’s impossible not to mention the war for talent and employees’ demand to do work that matters to them. “There’s a shift in the mood of the workforce and people are calling for more flexibility. Now there is a real focus in the C-suite and among CEOs to look at the employee value proposition [EVP] and how it needs to evolve around purpose.”

Ann Ellis said growth in flexibility and remote working is affecting every business. “Even if colleagues are in the same country, it still creates problems around communication, making sure employees wherever they are, are safe in what they do. There are lots of issues that need to be addressed.“If these organisations are having people work remotely outside the country, then there are issues with compliance, how they are being employed in that country and where they pay their taxes. There’s a lot, especially for HR managers.”

Observing these issues through the lens of education and international assignments, and more widely about developing the skills to adapt to change and be in continuous transition, Valérie Besanceney said, “what we notice at SPAN is that we are aware of how good transitions care and mobility impacts learning.”“Thanks to the pandemic, everybody has some experience of sudden transition, as well as how important it is to have the skills to manage transitions well so students can get the benefits of learning and global assignments.”

Collaboration to boost innovation

The Keynote panel’s observations were taken forward into the two interactive Hub sessions. Here guests conversed directly with speakers and cross-sectoral peers in a relaxed space that lent itself perfectly to the sharing of ideas, experiences and problem-solving.The ‘Future of Global Mobility & Education Hub’ welcomed Agnieszka Leja, senior manager at KPMG Global Mobility Services; Georgina Hawkes, head of global mobility, performance and reward at HSBC Group Management Services; Claudine Hakim, head of advancement, transitions and student support at International School of London (ISL); and Susan Stewart, director of Articulate Multilingual Ltd.

“People want more. That means managing priorities around how we stay an attractive employer across the whole employee population and with fairness and consistency.”

Demetra Marcantonio, Director in the KPMG Global Mobility Service team

Speaking to the changes Ann Ellis and Demetra Marcantonio highlighted around the impact of employee demands and flexibility, for global mobility expertise like Georgina Hawkes, this means GM practitioners’ field of expertise, knowledge and relationships has expanded, especially since the pandemic.

“That’s the biggest shift. We are now required to be experts in all aspects of people management, risk, tax and immigration,” says Georgina Hawkes. “People want more. That means managing priorities around how we stay an attractive employer across the whole employee population and with fairness and consistency.”With technology such an intrinsic part of assignment management, the door is now open for global mobility and other international leaders to zero in on the human element of the workplace and collaborate more across all these areas. This includes the adoption of new practices, including offering assignees a “plus-one” to accompany them on assignments and innovating alongside global mobility service providers across the supply chain to make this happen.

Changing the language around international relocation in this way widens opportunities. Such policies also better represent and serve today’s multi-generational workforce. As part of evolving EVPs, these policies and practices appeal to a larger population of assignees, including single working parents, LGBTQ+ couples and those with elder care responsibilities.

“While most employers are adopting a wait-and-see approach, the world is still changing, particularly around legislation and logistics,” says Agnieszka Leja. “It’s about having a DEI mindset in global mobility and adopting the various ways to improve access to international assignments.”

Evolving the conversations around international assignments

Claudine Hakim works with internationally mobile families at the multi-award-winning International School of London. She also sees daily how this kind of personalised support is critical to what global employers are trying to achieve in the context of flexibility, complexity, equity and growth.

“Historically, there have been lots of failed assignments because of poor transitions care. For example, the trailing partner is not working and is unsupported in the host location. We can all learn a lot from each other about how creating a sense of belonging can turn the script.”

This includes how companies can increase acceptance rates for business-critical international assignments and development opportunities. The growth in global mobility options around the length of assignments, hybrid host-home arrangements, cross-border remote-working and commuting are positive developments in the wider conversation about filling talent gaps and driving more equitable economic growth.

However, as award-winning research by Santa Fe Relocation shows, there are still many cases where there is no substitute for presence for relationship and career building. At a global banking giant for example, its top 1% of talent participate in the international management programme. This is a 12-year programme based on six two-year assignments where cohorts can deploy at a moment’s notice. Remote working is often not a preferred option because the purpose of the assignment is to develop individual leadership, communication, cross-cultural understanding and team skills on location.

“It becomes a question of how to persuade talent to go on assignments,” says Georgina Hawkes. “Some people count themselves out before they’ve even explored the options. It means dialling up the offer and the benefits to people and their families through various programmes.”

Personalising support for transferable positive outcomes

By bringing together multi-disciplinary expertise all facing the same challenges, the Innovation Festival of Global Working and the Think Global People community are important forums for sharing knowledge around how to achieve all these goals.

Hub speaker Valérie Besanceney explained how in this context SPAN is enabling all parties involved in relocation to connect, equip and refresh practical knowledge around excellence in transitions care. This aligns with the shared goal of our community in ensuring the best possible outcome for employers, globally mobile employees and their families.

“It becomes a question of how to persuade talent to go on assignments.  It means dialling up the offer and the benefits to people and their families through various programmes.”

Head of Global Mobility, Performance & Reward, HSBC Group Management Services

 

“People learn and develop best when they feel safe, supported and seen, and when they feel valued and encouraged to work to their strengths,” says Valérie Besanceney. “What are we doing to make people feel like they belong? Mobility does have an impact on learning, but all transitions when well managed can add value for everyone and enhance the whole experience.”

This matters not only for employers and their mobile employees, but also for partners and children – especially children with specific educational or language needs – as schools like ISL and organisations like SPAN and FOCUS recognise.

Languages and multi-lingualism are already well-established as a necessity and a passport for international careers, as well as offering a foundational sense of belonging. Yet they are currently an under-represented factor playing into education and relocation decisions, says Susan Stewart.

Accessing expert knowledge on curriculum options for the long and short-term can help businesses tip the balance when offering international assignments. “The language piece is really important for employers to know about,” says Susan. “Knowing what language is spoken at home and planning for the future, perhaps a return to state schooling, are important for employers to be aware of. It shows the importance of collaboration between companies, global mobility and international educators and schools.”

Read more from the Innovation Festival for Global Working in the upcoming Summer issue of Think Global People magazine and about this year’s winners of Relocate and Think Global People Awards in the special supplement. Reserve your copy here.

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