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Three in four businesses failing to manage talent mobility effectively, as demand for international work experience soars

by | Apr 26, 2024

Companies around the world could be at risk of losing out in the race for talent and driving business resilience because they are failing to mobilize their workforce effectively and create opportunities for flexible work experiences, according to the EY 2024 Mobility Reimagined Survey.

  • EY survey shows 75% of employers do not have fully developed mobility functions vital for meeting modern business and talent demands.
  • Companies could be neglecting a crucial opportunity to retain key talent – 64% say international assignments would encourage them to consider staying in current job.
  • 71% of firms say mobility risks and scope have increased over past two years, but many don’t have policies in place to manage them.

The survey canvassed the views of 1,059 mobility professionals across 21 countries on the benefits and challenges organisations can face when developing and building mobility strategies and functions.

It found that only one in four employers surveyed (25%) have a fully developed mobility function, with three-quarters (75%) failing to take advantage of a truly mobile and agile workforce. 

Mobility strategy now central to talent attraction and retention

This is despite the fact that almost two-thirds (64%) of employee respondents around the world say they’re more likely to stay with their current employer after a long-term cross-border assignment, while (92%) believe such experiences can be “life-changing” and 89% say international mobility is essential for business continuity and resilience, edging up from 74% last year.

Gerard Osei-Bonsu, EY Global People Advisory Services Tax Leader, says:

“From economic volatility and geopolitical crises to talent shortages and rapidly changing employee demands, companies are having to navigate an unprecedented number of complex challenges.

“If organisations want to survive and thrive in this new working environment, they need to attract and retain top talent. Having an effective international mobility function and program in place is critical to creating a dynamic and empowered workforce.”

Organisations ill-prepared to deal with cross-border risks

Despite the significant benefits that mobility programs bring to companies, many are facing a growing number of risks and challenges when establishing international mobility functions.  Seven in ten respondents (71%) say cross-border mobility risks – including tax/regulatory and data privacy risks – have increased over the last two years, mostly due to the pandemic and ongoing geopolitical and economic challenges, which saw employees move around the world and work in separate jurisdictions, heightening corporate exposure to tax, regulatory issues and diverse employment laws.

Worryingly, many organisations are not fully prepared to manage all the risks they face. For example, while 84% of employer respondents recognize data privacy risks from hybrid mobility arrangements, just 55% have policies in place to mitigate them — a moderate improvement from last year’s 47%. Similarly, although 87% of employer respondents are aware of cybersecurity risks, just 46% have policies to address them – down from 51% last year.

In addition, 46% of companies responding use a centralized mobility operating model, which is often siloed from the rest of the business, creating a raft of communication, collaboration, and technology-related challenges.

Successful organisations accelerate mobility with five key drivers

Nevertheless, many companies are taking action where it is needed. More than eight in 10 employer respondents (82%) have developed a policy or approach for hybrid mobility, up from 76% in 2023.

There is also clear recognition that mobility is growing in importance. Eight in 10 employer respondents (80%) say they plan to increase investment in mobility technology over the next five years, up from 67% in 2023. Two-thirds (66%) of respondents believe the scope of the mobility function will grow over the next three years.

The survey identifies five key drivers that are crucial to the development of a successful mobility function:

  1. Strategic alignment: Organisations should align their mobility strategy to broader organizational strategy.
  2. Talent linkage: An organisation’s mobility strategy should be used for talent acquisition and development.
  3. Digital focus: Organisations should have investment and maturity in the automation and digitization of mobility processes.
  4. Flexibility: Organisations should be embedding flexibility in the selection of program benefits.
  5. External expertise: Organisations should be co-sourcing or outsourcing selected mobility processes for greater efficiency.

Maureen Flood, EY Global Mobility Reimagined Leader, says:

“It’s clear that businesses do understand the value of international mobility, not least for the impact it can have on the workforce and wider business resilience. With robust polices in place to address risks, the right level of investment, and by ensuring that the function isn’t siloed, mobility can propel businesses forward and help them face the many challenges that the future surely holds. When organisations adopt an evolved mobility approach, they reap much greater rewards.”

Read about award-winning global mobility, leadership and education in the upcoming Summer issue of Think Global People magazine, which will reveal the teams and organisations being celebrated in the Relocate Think Global People Awards 2024. Secure your copy here.

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