11/09/2012 12:34 pm ET Updated Jan 09, 2013

Why Your Organization Needs a Global Talent Mobility Strategy

The success, and even survival, of multinationals over the next 20 years or so will depend on their ability to form a global talent mobility strategy that reflects the changing world and is nimble enough to adapt to new developments.

Why? Talent management has become the top priority for CEOs - 97% say that having the right talent in place is the most critical factor for growth of their business.1

This has transformed the way the global workforce is sourced, organized and managed. Knowledge, trade, technology, capital and goods are more globally connected than ever before. Coupled with explosive growth in emerging markets, global worker mobility is expected to swell by as much as 50% by 2020. Companies that understand the critical nature of this need to move talent around the globe will be poised to conquer that challenge.

While multinational companies have long needed to move their best talent around the world to ensure they are in the right place at the right time, what has changed is how they accomplish this goal. Forward-looking companies are using specific strategies and tactics to manage their talent on a global basis -- which is enabling them not only to recruit and retain the best people, but also to enhance their employees' career satisfaction.

International assignments will continue to be critical in developing talent, but this traditional approach is no longer the only path to achieve this goal. A number of factors have caused companies to rethink their approach to moving people across the globe to acquire the right skills:

  • The need to supplement talent shortages in particular regions and disciplines
  • The recognition that an organization can benefit from a two-way transfer of knowledge, skills and experience, and that every market is a fertile ground for new ideas
  • The need to offer exciting career opportunities to the best talent as competition to attract and retain the best intensifies
  • The need to develop well-rounded leaders with a truly international perspective
  • The demographic and generational changes in today's workforce

Talent mobility has evolved from a straightforward transfer of skills, generally from the headquarter country to new and less developed markets, to far more complex approaches designed to meet these needs.

Organizations have had to innovate in their approach to global mobility, partly through necessity as they adapt to the requirements of the changing business world and partly to adapt to the preferences of a new generation of employees.

While moving experienced workers from their home market to new market is still a common way of plugging a skills gap, some multinationals have designed talent mobility strategies for today's business realities. They include:

Reverse transfers, where top performers from emerging markets are moved for a period of time into developed markets. These companies recognize that knowledge, skills and experience transfer works both ways.

Short-duration assignments of less than a year, which allow employees to share knowledge and experience across borders while simultaneously developing a more global perspective on the business.

Project-based assignments, where companies bring together selected employees from different parts of the organization for a specific project. Employees may relocate temporarily or travel frequently during the project. In other situations, companies will employ skilled workers on an as-needed basis and send them overseas on temporary contracts.

"Commuter" and extended business travel, which allow assignees to work in a specific location by traveling there regularly, much like a traditional commuter does to an office, or making extended business trips for long periods to the assignment without actually relocating there.

Rotational employee programs often are used in the development of high-potential employees, and in certain industries rotational programs are becoming increasingly international.

Intra-country mobility is on the rise, often as a remedy to the costs involved in cultural adjustments and immigration problems. It may be easier, for instance, for a US company to transfer skilled workers from Shenzhen to Huangshan or from Mumbai to Ahmadabad than to move workers from the US or other mature markets.

Virtual mobility is also becoming more commonplace, because technological innovation has allowed employers to bring the best people, wherever they may be, to work and train together.

Companies that are employing a diverse selection of approaches to talent mobility like these are already well ahead of others that are not. If your organization is not already employing some of these approaches, it may find talent going elsewhere for better career opportunities and flexibility in the growth of their careers.

1 - PwC 15th Annual CEO Survey