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Case study: Jabil

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Putting a global mobility policy together is hard work, but the key is communicating your goals and gaining buy-in from across the organisation for it to be successful. John Lackey, director of global mobility at Jabil, shares his views with Aditi Sharma Kalra.

Respect, recognition and rewards are the three buzzwords this manufacturing services company lives by – and one of the ways it rewards its employees is through a strong employee mobility programme.

Having spent 15 years in the mobility function, John Lackey has been part of the human capital management shared services, and at Jabil, mobility falls under the domain of rewards.

“At Jabil, we want to have globally consistent policies in place. Part of that lies in wanting to communicate these policies effectively to the business, so they know that the policies are not there to slow them down or to be less flexible, but from a compliance and governance standpoint.”

Lackey feels consistency will allow Jabil to become more nimble, “managing from a common foundation as opposed to managing by exception”.

Another priority for him in the coming year is to focus on integrating talent development and career development within the mobility platform.

“We have diverse groups of expatriates, and we want to have the right opportunities and career paths for them once they complete their assignment,” he says.

He cites the efforts of his past employer, Cisco, in starting to recognise this link between talent and mobility. Just before he left, the company had put in place a framework where would-be expatriates had to have sponsors in the host location, clearly outlined objectives from a personal and professional development standpoint, and a succession plan.

“I think it is fairly early for a lot of companies, but such initiatives are a step in the right direction.”

Setting up shop

When it comes to drafting a policy, the first thing, Lackey says, is to identify the company’s needs by assignment type – is it an international assignment or local-plus, short or long-term?

Next comes an understanding of the company’s culture, strategy and needs, and to frame that against best practices. Here, Lackey takes an unconventional approach.

“I believe benchmarking and best practices are very important, but they do not mean much if not fitted in context of the culture of your company.”

He cites the example of a financial services firm he worked at previously. “They liked to be the leader at everything. One of their practices was certainly not industry best practice, but it worked for them. Best practice does not always mean it is best for your particular company.”

I believe benchmarking and best practices are very important, but they do not mean much if not fitted in context of the culture of your company.
The next step is communication of the policies. Not clearly listing out the reasons for new policies or changes in existing policies can create a lot of ill will within the business and the assignee population, he points out.

On the other hand, “if you take the time to fully explain the change, even though they may not fully agree, they will accept it”.

Hence, communication is key, and Lackey discusses the stakeholders for this exercise. “If you can get buy-in from the executive management team, it makes it much easier to administer the policy.”

In addition, he lists “the usual suspects” – payroll, finance, tax. “Anyone else that you work with internally and it is going to impact their work, needs to be on board.”

He also advises soliciting employee feedback, and to the extent possible, designing policies or benefits that take that into consideration. “Employees may have aspirational goals, but there is a fine line in terms of managing their aspirations versus market reality.”

A local flavour

While Lackey is a firm believer in a globally consistent policy, he says it is also important to note the nuances in different regions. “What works well in the US may not work well in Asia or other regions.”

These are not major, but the smaller things companies need to keep in mind when localising a policy, he says.

For example, the issue of a car allowance. Most companies based in the US do not compensate their expatriates for hiring a car or a driver. But in countries such as China and India, where there are safety issues around expatriates driving, it would be prudent to make an exception to companies’ no-driver and no-car rules, and include those as allowances.

Another example, he says, is housing, where many companies have a policy not to sign corporate leases, instead preferring to give cash to the expatriate. But there are certain locations, such as China, where allowances can be delivered in a more tax-efficient manner for both the employer and employee.

“Mobility teams will not realise this if they have not lived in these countries.”

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