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7 Hot Focus Areas for Global Talent Mobility in 2019

For the first Ask the Expert of 2019, InterNations Business Solutions asked the global mobility expert and influencer Andy Smailes what he considers, in his own view, the seven most important focus areas for global talent mobility to be in 2019. Here are his insights:

It can be argued that 2018 saw a changing face of global mobility. The political and economic changes created a series of challenges which drove to the heart of global mobility’s core, accentuating its importance. As we travel into 2019, we shall further see the importance of global mobility increase. There are so many potential factors which could affect global mobility and trying to filter down to a small number is a rather momentous task. That being said, herewith a little over a handful of focus areas which may become even more prominent in 2019 — or at least offer pause for thought.

1. Drive Innovation

Innovation was one of the key drivers of 2018. Throughout the year, in almost every conference or networking group innovation was discussed. The importance of using technology effectively and wisely to manage a global mobility program compliantly is a fundamental demand we are going to see more of without a doubt as the rigors of 2019 become more evident.

Pioneering global mobility technology and software are some of the key reasons I am pleased to be with Ineo, as I firmly believe technology is instrumental to both global mobility’s successful growth and perseverance in the face of an ever more changing global landscape. I could, and have upon many occasions, happily talked about technology for hours, so before I do, I shall conclude: Good technology bends to the will of the business rather than the business having to bend to the technology.

2. Embrace Change

Effecting change is rewarding but can by no means be easily implemented within a business, as any global mobility manager will tell you. The ‘change journey’ often starts with realizing that there is a better way and concluding that there are always possibilities. Fostering buy-in can improve your chances. This can be achieved by highlighting the benefits of the change but also the risks of not changing — sharing enlightening horror stories can be an effective tool.

It is also important to demonstrate how this change is being adopted by the rest of the industry and that this should not be viewed as a change but a standardization away from the road leading to future problems. An example is mobility programs moving from Excel to manage their mobility programs to dedicated mobility program software applications, as this is an accepted standard now for programs of a certain size. 

3. Focus on Emerging Destinations

India, China, Brazil and Thailand — these four countries have many things in common. They are not simply promising vacation destinations but are noted by many as being key emerging markets for 2019 and as such a key focus for global mobility. Sending assignees to these countries present unique challenges and equally unique rewards.

The importance of such countries for global mobility is reflected in the ever-growing demand for global mobility professionals worldwide and those who are based in such regions. The recent Worldwide ERC conferences in São Paulo and Bengaluru are testaments to this, with educational programs focusing on the unique challenges these types of destinations present. The adoption of these and similar emerging destinations for assignments and global mobility will undoubtedly be another key feature in 2019.

4. Prepare for Political and Tax Changes

This year will certainly see the effect of changes in tax regimes, as well as the political changes on the horizon and the continued rise of national thinking within nations compared to the global mindset. There is not a day that goes by when we do not see possible ramifications of these changes.

With the various tax regime and political changes placing obvious question marks over the stability of assignments, I would certainly recommend staying informed by listening to industry experts, as well as immigration and tax providers. They will ensure that you are prepared as much as practically possible. 

5. Adapt Support to Suit Different Generations

Looking back to 2018, Millennials were potentially one of the biggest influencers in global mobility. As the mobility population becomes younger, we are seeing the ‘typical’ assignee (obviously there is no typical assignee — but let’s imagine for a moment if we can) change. The change is from a person with a partner and family with possessions who expects a high level of service and comfort, to the younger, junior professional who does not have that many possessions and little to no ties.

Millennials typically do not expect gated expat communities away from the local population. They are happy, and in fact want to be in the host destination in the same streets and neighborhoods as the locals to experience the culture. As Millennials become a greater proportion of the ‘global assignment population’, and as Generation Z start to look to working abroad, we shall further see a shift in assignment population demographics. This may indeed result in a dynamic paradigm shift in the way global mobility supports them. An exciting time indeed!

6. Keep an Eye on the Gig Economy

Agree or disagree, the gig economy is here to stay. In the UK it is estimated that around five million people are employed as gig workers. These are people who instead of regular work get paid for gigs they do such as a car journey or food delivery. But how and when will gig workers affect international assignments? There is the movement to have gig workers to be classed as ‘dependent contractors’ making them more connected to the overarching company. This could create a connection to mobility as a result — possibly?

Currently, it is unclear how these will manifest themselves into global mobility, but there have been a lot of discussions at various roundtables due to the size and impact this has had on the global workforce. This may be one to at least keep an eye on going forward.

7. Strengthen Global Employees

In many corporations it is now becoming a requirement for those applying for senior positions to have been on at least one international assignment. As a result, talent management is far more invested in that once quirky global mobility department. Expanding internationally and having a fluid mobile pool of talent yields many benefits for employees and employers.

Looking to both company goals and employee career goals are essential to build up talent potential and retain this post assignment. This has resulted in global mobility having a greater weight in the boardroom as more senior and board-level personnel have come through assignments and thus recognize the value of international assignments as career paths early in the career. This rise in the importance of global mobility has created a need for greater support networks for mobility professionals — such as the mobility events group Next Gen GM who dedicate events to those with ten years or less experience. The global employee is certainly an attractive proposition for a multinational company, as well as a worthwhile investment. It should certainly be recognized as a notable factor in 2019.

To Conclude: Change Places

This year has the potential to certainly provide the level of change that the Mad Hatter brings forth in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland with the cry of ‘Change Places!’. Whether or not many of these come to pass is something that we shall see in the fullness of time. But my key message is to stay informed and look to experts for information and guidance as the excitement and challenges of 2019 unfold.


Andy SmailesAbout the Expert: Andy Smailes is Director of Global Business Development at Ineo, a premier provider of global mobility software and services. At Ineo, he is responsible for nurturing and developing new and existing client relationships in the European market and across the globe. His extensive experience in the global mobility industry has been focused on the implementation of technology and events. Independently, he actively supports the global mobility community Next Gen GM and he is a firm believer in the positive benefits of global mobility. 

The opinion expressed in this article is solely that of the expert as an individual.

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