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How can HR maximise the value of global mobility?

Posted on by from PwC

Businesses are investing millions of pounds each year sending employees on global assignments with being able to quantify the cost or measure the value from their investment, therefore how can the value be maximised?

According to our modern mobility survey of nearly 200 global companies. This is leading to nearly six in 10 organisations saying their talent mobility programme does not deliver value for money. Today, just 8% are able to accurately put a cost on their global mobility programmes and just 9% can measure their return on investment from mobility.

Rising profile of global mobility

Global mobility is a good way for businesses to fill skills gaps, enter new growth markets, attract top talent and develop people. Indeed, for some businesses international experience is a must-have for anyone taking on a senior leadership post. So it’s unsurprising that nine in 10 companies say they aim to increase the amount of their people who work internationally in the next two years. But organisations’ failure to measure the cost and value of their programmes will cost them. Many businesses risk wasting money sending the wrong people into the wrong roles.

Feeling the strain

Too many HR teams lack information and investment to meet demands and manage the rising number of mobile employees. The percentage of the workforce who are internationally mobile is growing – our survey results show that, on average, 1.6% are on formal assignment – but 12.2% of the workforce is internationally mobile in any one year. This number is likely underplayed, as 31% of respondents told us they don’t know how many staff work internationally each year. Investment made in managing mobile employees has to rise. In two years only 34% of HR and mobility teams expect to focus on day-to-day operational activities, instead expecting to take on more strategic work such as supporting the development of global talent (62%).

Our surveys show there is a staggering disconnect between mobility teams’ aspirations, business expectations and the operational realities faced. So what actions can you take to close the gap?

Future-proofing your mobility programme

It’s vital to secure buy-in from the top by showing how valuable mobility can be in developing talent and realising business goals. Analysing current state outcomes can be a powerful way to secure a business case for change. Achieving this demands effective metrics to measure costs and return on investment, and benchmark performance against other global companies. Leading organisations told us they view mobility as a business investment in the same way as talent, rather than simply a cost to be contained.

Operational excellence is critical to run mobility activities more efficiently. To accomplish this we expect to see more operational responsibilities move to shared service centres and closer integration with HR systems as operational activities become increasingly automated and streamlined. This can free up a central mobility team to focus on more value-add activities.

Managing compliance effectively is the top priority for mobility teams – with 51% recognising that this is critical for a smooth-running mobility programme. Working with tax authorities to get this compliance right up front is predicted to be a revolutionary way to generate savings. ‘Cooperative compliance’ – where a company gains approval with local tax authorities that their tax withholding and reporting systems are robust enough to eliminate the need for personal tax returns – could be a game-changer for global organisations that spend significant money on employee tax compliance. But implementation depends on them being able to demonstrate effective compliance control systems.

Pioneering organisations are responding to the digital age by using technology such as apps to improve the mobility experience for end-users.

"There is a staggering disconnect between mobility teams' aspirations, business expectations and the operational realities faced"

The power of mobility

Our survey shows executives recognise the global economy brings opportunities and challenges, and that having a strong global talent mobility programme can put you ahead of the game. Businesses must have a strategy based on growth plans, the people and skills they will need, backed up by a framework for how they will source and manage staff who work internationally. How will you rise to this challenge and realise the transformational potential of modern mobility?

Clare  Hughes

By Clare Hughes

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