Using real data and metrics, such as the retention rate of international assignees, Nora Abd Manaf, group chief human capital officer/group EXCO, Maybank, proves why employee mobility is good for the business.

In line with our special Mobility Guide for Singapore, Human Resources reached out to Nora Abd Manaf, group chief human capital officer/group EXCO, Maybank, who is based in Malaysia, to zoom in on how recent trends in global mobility are impacting employers in the Malaysia market. Here's what she had to say.

Q What are three global mobility trends that could shape the industry in the coming months?

Demand for greater returns on investment, assignee-centric technology, and shorter-term, project based assignments seem to be predominant concerns across many global companies.

Increased competition and global economic volatility increases the need for impact from global assignments. We are also seeing transformations in workplace structures towards flatter, project and agile based ways of working which changes the traditional international assignment arrangements towards shorter durations as well.

Finally, recent developments in technology with the rising adoption of the 4.0 Industrial Revolution, has enabled a progressive step in managing the rather transactional nature of global mobility towards employee (assignee) centric approaches.

Q Are organisations driven by cost pressures or business needs first?

Both. Always, in good or bad times. Managing costs and business needs are really different sides of the same coin. Forward-looking organisations need to be mission driven and this would shape the talent management strategy including the talent mobility strategy that needs to be adopted.

Certainly, in many organisations today there is an even more tremendous need to secure profitability and returns to satisfy shareholder expectations, so companies would need to balance this need with what is thought to be those with longer-term returns such as building talent capabilities in their various footprint countries globally especially in emerging markets like in ASEAN where there is scarcity of local talents.

In this regard, Maybank operates in 20 countries and gives importance for talent to have global exposure and be effective in different environments.

Our international assignments continue to remain crucial to the competitiveness of our global presence and business.
Creating and then nurturing the environment for it to be enabling and empowering for individuals and organisational growth is a continuous one. We continue to aggressively enable Maybankers to be agile, adaptable, culturally competent, and gain exemplary and responsible leadership skills to deal with the new ways of working in these times of unprecedented change and uncertainty. More often than not, returns are delivered within the current financial year.

We recognised from the onset of our people transformation in 2009 that being a top quartile employer of talents requires us to make this a business critical initiative especially given our regionalisation agenda and the competitive landscape against which we are operating in.

Our Maybank global mobility programme cuts across all levels have five types of international assignments that are tailored according to mobility and business needs and categorised according to the duration of the assignment, the purpose and nature of job. It ranges from the shorter term ones that include commuter / frequent flyer, short term attachments, short term assignments to the longer term assignments that include long term explorer and assignments.

Since the introduction of our international mobility policy in 2009, we have seen a 386 Maybankers sent out on international assignments. Here are some statistics.

  • Out of these 386 Maybankers, 67% are males and 33% are females.
  • Outbound employees on international assignments were primarily from Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.
  • Malaysia topped as host country for international assignees followed by Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines.
  • Employees on international assignments include those from management at 51% and executives at 49%.
  • The types of international assignments were long term assignments at 38%, short term assignments at 23% and the rest which includes frequent flyers, explorers and short term attachments at 39%.
  • The retention rate of international assignees is at 90% as at December 2017.
  • Out of the 386 employees on international assignments, 147 were long term assignments with 53 still active to date. About half (51%) of the total long term assignees have since moved into higher roles / jobs.
Global mobility is a key feature in our Global Maybank Apprentice Programme (GMAP) specially designed to give our graduate entrants an opportunity to gain cross border exposure by understanding the different nuances of different markets whilst engaging and collaborating with colleagues across the globe for business advantage.
Since 2013, about 90% of our Global Maybank Apprentices (GMAs) have undergone international assignments.
Those who have not were because they have personally opted to be absorbed into departments instead of completing the entire 2 year Global Maybank Apprentice Programme. The retention rate for the GMAP talent pool is at 100% as at December 2017.

The GMAs' immersion to various rotations throughout their programme has also reduced their development time significantly by 2/3 as compared to direct entry hires with average of 1.5 years per rotation or role. We also track our young talents even after they have graduated from the programme. Close to 80% of our graduated GMAs are currently identified as successors to critical positions in the bank.

Q How much is the impact of tighter expatriation policies across Asia?

Although more stringent, countries are at the same time, more receptive and approves applications we've submitted.

It goes without saying that we are respectful of the operating nuances and regulatory requirements in each country that we are in, always understanding the intention behind tighter policies such as expatriation ones.

We have partnered with various experts such as tax consultants, regulatory bodies, mobility experts as well as our local office to ensure the compliance to all the requirements to protect the reputation and credibility of our business and talent.

We are however, exploring options of shorter term assignments or flex the various types of mobility depending on the criticality of the situation and this is done with the guidance and responsible navigation of the complexities. In these instances, prior consultation and approval is sought from the various authorities in the receiving countries to ensure that we continue to build trust with all our stakeholders.

Q Is there a bid to close the global gender diversity gap within expatriation?

There is a conscious bid to close the gender diversity gap for the benefit of the organisation, talents and society as a whole. Watching and closing the gender diversity gap is a priority across all talent programmes and initiatives to ensure that efforts are realised and that we truly embrace diversity and inclusion.

Progress cannot continue to be at glacial speed and needs to be accelerated - this can only happen if the discipline of levelling the playing field is instilled in the organisation as well as the ecosystem, and actions are taken to ensure inclusion.

We cannot assume that female talents may not be suitable for international assignments, instead, we need to ensure that the entire mobility programme and its policies are adjusted to include flexibility and support for family and spouse/partner needs.
Since 2013, 40% of our Global Maybank Apprentices on international assignments are female.

Q Technology's impact on relocation policies - how much is done virtually?

Quite a lot can and needs to be done virtually for speed and reach, but I strongly believe there will be diverse arrangements still in as far as the foreseeable future. Our four types of international assignments already offered in our international mobility policy are still relevant and appropriate.

We are in uncharted waters in the current IR4.0 times, and there is much more to be done to fully leverage on the benefits of technology as it rapidly evolves and augments to make lives better.

Q What is one new/innovative initiative your organisation is trying out in mobility this year?

We are developing an assignment management solution which enables us to collect and analyse group-wide live work/performance data, quantify assignment costs as well as conduct global equity tracking and on demand real-time data analytics to help us make real-time, better informed decisions in the interest of the talent and the organisation.

Photo / Maybank