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Big global mobility trends to watch in 2019 and beyond

With Brexit’s future still being negotiated, trade tensions impacting global business, and nationalism emerging in a number of countries, it would be an interesting time to take stock of employee mobility trends that are affecting business strategies.

Crown World Mobility's whitepaper analyses the big global mobility trends to watch in 2019 and beyond, of which we have summarised three critical ones below:

Dual-career couples

There are two ways that companies are defining the dual-career couple:
  • Most frequently, it applies to an employee whose spouse or partner has a career in another organisation and perhaps a different field.
  • For some companies, the employee population includes a number of staff who are married, and therefore, it may mean an employee whose spouse or partner is working in the same company.
Given how common it is for both partners to contribute significantly to a family income, nowadays when an employee is asked to go on an international assignment or transfer , the economic and family impact of the decision is greater than in the past.

Another challenge for the dual-career family stems from changing immigration regulations and partner work authorisation regulations. Around the globe there are only 30 countries that allow accompanying partners to work.

So how are companies dealing with the dual-career factor?

  • Split-families, i.e. cases where the employee accepts an assignment but leaves the partner and family in the home location, are on the rise. As such, companies are offering split-family policies such as more frequent home leave, reverse home leave and other options. In many companies, eligibility for the split-leave status is limited to 12-24 months, due to the instability to the family, and the high potential for employee burnout and productivity in the long-term.
  • Commuter assignments have risen as a result of the high number of employees in dual-career relationships, especially in the EU, where there are fewer regulations and distances are shorter. The commuter status is normally limited to trips of four hours or less, and the company incurs the cost of weekly or frequent returns home.
  • For companies focused on increasing female employees and those with same-sex partners, the dual career dilemma is almost always part of the discussion – whether it is standing in the way of the employee accepting the assignment, requiring the company to offer alternative assignment types or creative solutions to make the assignment work.
  • Partner support will continue to become more central to the global mobility programme. Today more than half of policies (56%), address spouse/ partner assistance. The most standard support comes in the form of reimbursements for job search assistance, professional affiliations and credential maintenance.

The increasingly important employee experience

Employee experience is critical at pivotal moments, like recruiting, onboarding, career planning, exiting or, in this case, embarking on an international assignment/location change. Companies focused on the employee experience are putting infrastructure in place to provide support on this transition:
  • Even before the start of a move, some companies recognise the criticality of an informed decision-making process. Many are providing managers with selection guides to identify more qualified candidates, and self-assessments for employees and family members.
  • They are also developing formal and informal ways to get to know the destination, financial implications of a move, quality of life in the new location and relocation services made available to the employee.
  • There are many onboarding ideas, offering a “soft landing” to the employee and family at the start of an assignment or relocation – policy orientations, new location “Welcome Packs,” cross-cultural training or destination services.
  • A basic guide for the receiving manager and new destination team, that includes what needs to be ready for the employee’s arrival and any activities that should be scheduled to ensure the employee meets people quickly, gets up and running and is productive on the job.
  • Providing points of contact for the employee and accompanying partner. Be creative; one company recently used polaroids to introduce key team members in their welcome kit.
  • Exploring low-cost ways to help the employee/family get to know the new location and feel welcome. Set up popular local apps, download maps, use scavenger hunts, schedule a bike or foodie tour to celebrate the employee’s first 30 days, etc.
  • Some level of ongoing support during the life of the assignment. Minimally this can consist of information – perhaps on the company’s Intranet, in a text or an email reminder – on career planning, updating assignment objectives, repatriation preparation, or to capture new competencies and skills related to the experience that will become part of their annual performance review. Often a simple “how is it going?” could make a difference to the employee.
  • When is comes to repatriation, the key is to have information and support in a variety of forms, under the umbrella of personalisation and choice. Companies can start with engaging current and past “customers.” They may set up a simple way to get feedback (i.e., a polling or feedback app) at the entry or exit of each pivotal moment during the assignment lifecycle.

Global mobility in the advisor role

The increased use of flexible mobility policy, along with growing business and employee demands for choices, requires global mobility professionals to advise and support decision-makers in new ways. I

According to the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM), in 2019 “employees will depend on their employers for advice and help in understanding how to best leverage their specific needs.”

Similarly, in a Crown World Mobility survey of more than 125 global mobility professionals, 56% of companies indicated they use flexible policies and another 10% are planning to use the approach in the next 12 months.

Core-flex is the most popular flexible policy option available, since it gives companies a way to address differing business lines, location and employee needs via a consistent platform. Yet this benefit requires someone to take the role of advisor to the decision-makers, and that role is typically filled by global mobility.

Flexibility and choice of any kind add complexity and require new skills and practices. This year we will see global mobility teams re-writing job descriptions, upskilling team members, and hiring new talent with more consultative and strategic experience.

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