We spent the past week at the Worldwide ERC conference in Washington, DC. The conference attracted more than 1,500 attendees from around the world to discuss the global mobility industry. Through the three days of conference seminars, events and discussions, we observed some key industry trends.
1. Global mobility is growing strategic
As the world becomes more globalized and challenges matching skills and labour demand grow, global mobility is moving from a transactional to strategic role in organizations. Companies now view global mobility as a key part of employee talent acquisition, retention and development. The result is an increasing focus on selecting the right candidates for international assignment and providing assignments for talent development. Mercer shared data that 55% of organizations expect assignments for talent development to increase going forward. At MOVE Guides, we see Gen Y increasingly prioritizing international experience above particular organizations -– resulting in global job searches and resignations if a specific organizations cannot offer an international assignment.
2. There are strong intergenerational differences
Gen Y behaves, interacts and views its career very differently than any generation before it. Nearly all of the academic research shows they are more connected, tech savvy and empowered than any other generation. They have grown up with the transparency of price comparison, connectivity of Facebook and career control of LinkedIn. Yet, there was surprisingly little discussion of these differences at Worldwide ERC. Relative to other industries, both technological innovation and understanding of the demographic differences are nascent. Global mobility needs new business models to retain, engage and move Gen Y employees.
3. Many more people are moving abroad
Nearly everyone at the conference agreed that assignment volumes are increasing. Mercer presented data that 70% of companies expect short- term assignments to increase and 55% of companies expect long-term assignments to increase. As cost pressure continues to mount, we are seeing an increasing use of tiered assignment policies and a growing need for organizational agility. The corollary is the growing ‘normalization’ of previously developing marketing such as Singapore, Shanghai and Sao Paulo. Gen Y is more connected to and comfortable in these markets than any before it. This will facilitate a reduction in monetary incentives for assignments and in expensive cultural training programs pre-departure.
4. Global mobility is really global
Though Worldwide ERC still had a majority of western attendees, the evidence is clear that global mobility is becoming increasingly global. The most poignant example of this was the case study on Saudi Aramco in the World Economic Forum report on talent mobility. Saudi Aramco is a state- owned oil company that is, by nearly all western standards, headquartered in a conservative culture. Yet their talent mobility practices are cutting edge. Supported by large data sets and sophisticated workforce models, Saudi Aramco has one of the most progressive talent management and mobility policies in the world. 15% of their 55,000 employees are expatriates and they frequently move people between countries, subsidiaries and roles. We heard similar anecdotes from state-owned Thai and Chinese companies, an indication that the future of global mobility and talent development will indeed be very global.
5. Technology innovation is needed
Global mobility remains behind in technology adoption. In a world where travel, elderly care and medical records can all be arranged online, global mobility remains fundamentally offline. There are signs of progress from the large relocation management companies who are churning out mobile apps. However, there must be a far more systemic adoption of technology to move the industry forward and genuinely support tech-savvy assignees.
There have definitely been some informative takeaways from this year's ERC conference . As Gen Y employees expect to use technology more commonly in relocation, MOVE Guides are perfectly placed to revolutionize the industry.
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