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Global employee mobility trends for 2024 point to building talent capabilities in Asia
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Global employee mobility trends for 2024 point to building talent capabilities in Asia

Talent mobility is no longer just about importing talent to fill in roles but requires a more thoughtful and holistic approach across the employee lifecycle.

This article is brought to you by Cartus.

“We observe the emergence of a new type of employee that has been educated in one country, lives in another, and works for a company located in a third country.”

This was the observation of Professor Arturo Bris, Director of IMD’s World Competitiveness Center (WCC), during the launch of the 2023 edition of the World Talent Ranking.

One thing that has become clear in today’s globalised world is the need for countries and their talent pool to go beyond borders to see what they can bring to the global stage. Talent in Asia has indeed been stepping up its game – as of 2023, Singapore, Indonesia, and South Korea have all moved up in their talent rankings, which includes criteria such as investment and development to cultivate homegrown talent; market appeal to attract and retain talent from both international and domestic markets; and the quality of the available skills and competencies in the talent pool.

This ability and willingness of talented workers to live and work in various markets signals a shift in priorities for talent mobility teams across regions, giving them access to a broader and more diverse pool of talent.

At the same time, with the impetus by nationwide agenda to ‘go local’, companies are being pushed to seriously devote resources to developing local successors, as opposed to looking outwards as ‘an easier option’. Instead of buying ready-made talent, more progressive employers are setting in place timelines and KPIs around transfer of knowledge and skills to the local workforce, who have the added advantage of a working knowledge of the region’s varied nuances.

The trends discussed so far reflects the region's burgeoning talent pool and the markets’ attractiveness to global firms - Singapore, in particular, has emerged as a magnet for multinational companies, serving as a regional headquarters for global giants such as Grab, BioNTech, and Dyson, to name a few.

Let's hear an expert’s viewpoint on what we make of these developments. Danniella Ng, Senior Manager, Global Talent Mobility, Cartus, agrees with the above trend: “Asia’s growing share of global GDP has led to more companies establishing regional hubs and offices in this continent. This trend is also driven by the expansion of Asia-based MNCs, who are seeking to internationalise their business.”

Singapore, Ng points out, remains a popular choice for the Asia headquarters, but other locations such as Japan, China, Indonesia and India are also attracting companies to set up offices and plants. This, she shares, has resulted in more talent mobility within Asia, as well as the return of home nationals.

“Moreover, there are more cross-region exchange or rotational programmes, especially between Europe, North America and Asia,” she says, adding, “These programmes are usually short-term assignments with the aim of developing capabilities and transferring knowledge and skills. We have also noticed an increased demand from clients to design or benchmark commuter and rotational policies that suit their business needs.”

Leaders today would agree that as the landscape evolves, the talent mobility function is no longer just about importing talent to fill roles but requires a more thoughtful and holistic approach. The more progressive path forward would require HR and mobility leaders to look at the end-to-end employment life cycle of an employee, from talent recruitment to career development, and talent retention – and particularly, how talent mobility can support this.

Cut from the same cloth: Talent mobility and talent management

Identifying the challenges currently plaguing talent mobility professionals will help us move a step closer to making the most of upcoming trends. The first and most wide-ranging challenge is that talent mobility and talent management strategies simply don’t talk to each other – when in reality, the inputs from both functions are critical in building internal talent.

In an ideal world, mobility needs to have a seat as part of the HR talent strategy from the outset. This mutual reliance will go on to create the need for connectivity in order to support business planning and enable the execution of critical business projects.

Data on the ground, however, shows this joint-up approach isn’t happening yet. Ng shares with us: “Most of our clients agree on the benefits and the need to have a more holistic approach, integrating talent mobility with HR recruitment and retention strategies; however, the level of involvement varies depending on how sophisticated their mobility programmes are.

“We have some clients whose mobility team works very closely with recruitment and HRBPs on talent planning and development, while some clients are just embarking on this aspect of the engagement and would look towards Cartus to help expand their mobility footprint and influence within the organisation.”

Ng goes on to highlight some of the additional challenges keeping mobility professionals across APAC up at night, taking into account experiences from Cartus’ wide client pool.

“One consistent challenge is the change in mindsets and behaviour to accept a mobility programme revamp as this is often perceived as a cost-reduction exercise,” she explains.

“For example, a revamp from the traditional relocation policy to a core/flex policy can be perceived as a reduction in employer-given benefits. In reality, this allows employees the flexibility to choose what relocation support is most meaningful or helpful for them while keeping to the same spending as a traditional programme.”

Another challenge that Ng highlights is the excessive local market variations in a relocation policy, which may initially be intended to accommodate local norms, but often end up creating unnecessary complexity. Such variations are time-consuming to administer and often require a lot of manual work and local resources to manage. This can pose difficulties for policy governance.

“From experience, policy design and principles aside, businesses operating in Asia have always been more sensitive to cost pressures, and are more inclined than their global peers to have cost considerations influence their talent decisions,” Ng observes.

Ng’s on-the-ground experience tallies with topics covered in the recent Worldwide ERC regional summit around global mobility priorities in 2024, the three stand-out areas being; programme optimisation, employee experience, and compliance. With this, Cartus had released a brand new survey, Global Talent Mobility 2024, to its prospective clients and the wider mobility industry, with the aim to put together a more in-depth analysis on this data.

Talent mobility trends shaping the future landscape

Having discussed the shifting dynamics of global workforces, examining the prevailing trends in talent mobility becomes imperative. These trends not only underscore the transformation of traditional employment paradigms but also play a pivotal role in tapping into the full potential of today's diverse and mobile talent pool.

Demand for inclusivity and market competitiveness

There are many intricacies of managing a workforce that spans three to four generations within a single organisational framework, calling out a need for cohesive policies that seamlessly integrate HR practices with mobility strategies across employee segments.

This convergence of different backgrounds within the workplace has propelled organisations towards an intensified focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within mobility programmes. Acknowledging the inherent differences in experiences, family structures, and personal circumstances among employees, companies are reengineering their mobility frameworks to be more inclusive and adaptable. It's no longer just about facilitating physical movement; rather it is about fostering an environment where the diverse needs of every family nucleus feel accepted.

This call for mobility policies to be more inclusive takes into account various factors, from flexible relocation packages to recognising diverse family structures, such as single-parent households, or multi-generational families.

Companies are recalibrating their mobility policies to provide comprehensive support, with some companies even having a silent policy on the side to provide the added support for single-parent employees who are moving with their children. Not only does this shift happen at the policy level, but at a language level as well – the trend is underway to update mobility policies with more suitable DEI verbiage. "Spouse", for example, becomes "partner".

This deliberate shift towards inclusivity in mobility is expected to foster a more harmonious and engaged workforce, as well as position employers as champions of equity and fairness, giving them an edge when attracting talent within and beyond borders.

The rise of the core/flex mobility package

With more than half of respondents (56%), according to Cartus, indicating they were considering a policy redesign, an increase of 17 percentage points from the previous year, naturally the focus is on building stronger talent capabilities through mobility.

One such consideration would be the introduction of core/flex programmes, whereby employers can easily introduce more flexibility into their relocation programmes, while transferees and assignees can personalise their moves by selecting the benefits that best suit their needs.

In the past, core/flex was most typically adopted by high-tech companies, thankfully that is changing as we are seeing an increase in adoption from other industries such as banking as well.

The appeal of core/flex lies in its versatility. It serves as an effective strategy for meeting diverse organisational goals, be it optimising costs, enhancing employee satisfaction, or fostering agility in talent deployment.

By adopting a flexible, employee-first approach, companies are seeing increased employee satisfaction with fewer exception requests and less administrative burden. A happy coincidence is that this approach also helps to manage costs and provide more visibility to the most-used, and least-used benefits, to inform future decision making. Per Cartus’ experience with Benefit Builder, a core/flex approach can lead to average programme savings of up to 20%.

By adopting core/flex programmes, organisations are poised to offer a more personalised and tailored approach to mobility. This marks a departure from the one-size-fits-all approach, empowering companies to craft mobility strategies that resonate with both their organisational imperatives and the individual needs of their diverse workforce.

As you look to integrate talent mobility into the broader employee experience, please download the new white paper by Cartus, titled Effective Policy Design: Tips for Global Mobility Managers, to assess whether your organisation is in need of a large-scale global policy redesign or a smaller-scale adjustment of only a few policy elements.

Lead image / 123rf 

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