In a global talent shortage, more and more companies are placing greater emphasis on their global mobility programs. Many companies have relied on such programs to develop capabilities a lot faster by providing diverse opportunities, as well as plugging gaps in talent pools where such skills are not easily found. In fact, for a large multi-national organization global mobility should be a key element in their desire for continued success. There are however two common problems that companies continually face when trying to run these programs successfully. The first is having a proper internal talent strategy to feed the program and the other is cost. But both can be easily overcome with some practical steps.

Talent Strategy

The reason talent strategy is a challenge for most firms, is because if they are being honest, most firms do not have one. I am yet to meet an organization, where more than 20% of the organization could tell me where their own specific team will be in 3 years, what capabilities, ways of working and new technology are required and how they plan to get there. There is of course a simple solution to this. This is to put in place specific plans for each team beyond just doing the tasks they have always done and map the capabilities of the current team to where it needs to be in 3 years’ time. Identify the gaps and the put in place a clear talent strategy to address them. You will find that maybe in Singapore the team’s digital capability is a lot stronger, than in London, therefore an opportunity exists for global mobility.

The second half of the challenge presented by the talent strategy can be in awareness. Most firm’s internal application process is far from transparent. It is usually hidden away on the intranet somewhere, and so unless an employee specifically goes looking for opportunities, most employees never know they existed. Therefore, most organisations struggle to find another available talent internally to participate in such programs. Simply ensuring that internal opportunities in other countries are broadly shared and promoted, the challenge around lack of talent should also disappear. Research shows up to 45% of a workforce would be willing to consider international relocation to benefit their career.


Another common challenge around global mobility is cost, moving people internationally is often seen as being expensive. But there is a key reason for this, global mobility teams are guilty of overspending by an incredible amount. I did not realise to what extent, until I moved from my home in London, to Singapore. When I moved, I joined on a local Singapore contract, so I received no accommodation expenses or the like. Singapore is a wealthy first world country, and a local Singapore salary is comparable to what I would receive in any other major city in the world. So, I did not require any additional add-ons.

However, I have now been in Singapore for almost 6 years, and I have no idea how Global Mobility teams seem to come up with the numbers they quote the local Singapore team for internal moves. It is far too common that they quote amounts that would be the equivalent of what a Senior Manager should be expected to receive for a normal mid-level employee. The solution again is quite simple, there needs to be a lot more collaboration with local teams when pricing an internal move. The average salary in London and the average salary in Singapore are similar, as is the cost of living, therefore mobility should be quick and simple.

Likewise, if the employee is moving to a less developed market, their current salary is likely to make them significantly better off in their new location, so they do not need a huge increase and add ons. Moreover, an employee moving from a less developed location to a more developed location, will be able to survive on a local salary which will be much higher than their previous salary, but some additional expenses may be needed to ensure they can rent an apartment a the beginning. But again, this is not a huge amount of money.

It is amazing at how overly inflated all these simple things become when global mobility teams get involved with corporately procured “partners”. The cost of living in Jakarta is less than half that of Singapore, yet global mobility teams sat in London have quoted me on multiple occasions that an employee would be nearly double their salary worse off if they moved to Jakarta, which is simply not true. So due to inefficient ways of working, overly expensive international partners and lack of understanding of on the ground local costs of living, global mobility often hinder rather than enable global mobility.