Dolly Ng, head of HR at Foo Kon Tan Grant Thornton LLP, talks about how exchanges and secondment programmes can give your organisation a competitive edge in today's globalised world.

Singapore - Grant Thornton Singapore is a member firm of Grant Thornton International Ltd (GTIL), one of the world's leading organisations of independently owned and managed accounting and consulting firms. Established in Singapore in 1973 as Foo Kon Tan Grant Thornton, today the company has grown to a multi-service group of public accountants and specialist advisers.

With more than 35,000 employees worldwide, opportunities for mobility on a centralised global site platform helps interested employees apply for mobility programmes in a country of their choice.

Our mobility programmes operate in two ways - outbound programmes for our people who wish to participate in secondments out of the country, and inbound programmes where employees from other offices are seconded to Singapore.

The duration of the mobility programmes may range anywhere from six months on a short-term basis to two years or more on a long-term basis.

We implemented these programmes because they provided an additional avenue to attract, retain and inspire our best people. We encourage staff to participate in such programmes because it is good for their personal development.

Mobility programmes help build the capabilities of our employees and create an environment that provides deeper cross-cultural training, something that is very important in today's globalised world. Such programmes enrich the lives of our employees.

For each employee personally, the existence of mobility programmes can help them to not only develop their careers, but also create self-development. In terms of career, it allows the employee to have more meaningful interactions with others from a different country, while also expanding their learning horizon.

With differences in working culture and business practices, an employee can learn new skills or processes that can be applied back home - skills which would otherwise not be picked up. One learns to appreciate the efficiencies in the working style and operations of the country, adopt best practices, as well as provide feedback or share stories and experiences with others whom they are able to learn from.

In terms of personal development, mobility is a good training ground for independence, especially if one is going on these programmes in an unfamiliar country. You may be staying on your own, so the "setting up" process, if accommodation is not provided for, requires some research to be done in advance.

This is not to be taken for granted because infrastructure and transportation links may not be as good and as easily accessible as they are in Singapore. One has to train to be mentally strong, especially if one is likely to get homesick or is unable to fit into the culture or living environment in a foreign land.

For HR leaders planning to put their staff on a mobility programme, I would advise them to create a checklist for them, especially for those who have not travelled before. It would be good to do a web meeting with the host country to clarify any issues the employee might face.

Provide as much help as possible by helping them with visa applications (if required), work pass applications, and connecting them with the host country where they will be attached to.

Help negotiate in terms of their mobility package, accommodation and transport, availability on banking facilities, appropriate clothing for the seasons and insurance cover during their travels.

If the employee's family members are going to accompany them, make necessary arrangements such as education of children and schools. Stay in touch with them regularly during the secondment and connect them with a buddy - a local person who can familiarise them to the new environment and culture.

As organisations expand beyond their shores, it is critical for employees to experience the global environment to gain a competitive edge.

As the global talent shortage continues to intensify, finding staff with the right skills and competency may take a longer time, but mobility porgrammes can help to develop the right people with global organisations.