A low down shot across a wide grassy field that becomes a line of trees about halfway up the image. A light frost along the ground and a low mist that obscures the background makes the image feel wintery. The low sun, peering out about the trees, combined with the frost suggests it’s early morning. In the top right corner, it says “Global Mobility – a never-ending game of whack-a-mole.” In the bottom right corner, it says “Mastering New Work with SAFE(R) Global Mobility.” The RES Forum

by Nicky Taylor, Head of Corporate Global Mobility at Nestlé


As the world emerges from the uncertainty and volatility of the last few years, GM functions are feeling the pressure. Nothing new there, mobility teams have always been under pressure, right? Well yes. Perhaps we didn’t appreciate it at the time, but on reflection our biggest challenges used to be how we would align talent and mobility, or how we could best measure return on investment. These, along with a sprinkling of business traveller compliance - plus Brexit - were the hot topics of industry conferences and seminars, and seemed to be the nuts that none of us could really crack. Nowadays, it feels more like a never-ending game of “whack-a-mole” on a scale that would’ve been hard to imagine five years ago. All the pre-pandemic themes still exist, but there are new and mounting challenges and complexities being thrown at GM teams around the world on what feels like a daily basis.


Are we ready for change?

Everything has changed since COVID-19 graced our shores. And continues to change with the geopolitical events that keep unfolding. Employee appetite for international career experience still exists.  Perhaps with more wariness than before and definitely with increased demands on flexibility for personal situations, as well as a stronger expectation that expatriation really will be the career accelerator it is sold to be. Again, nothing new (or wrong) here. Living and working abroad should enhance an employee’s personal and professional life, but it means that global mobility teams must reflect on whether their policies and operating models are delivering on this, given the evolving external context.


Business appetite for mobility has shifted too. Local talent pipelines are stronger these days, and the need to send an expensive expat is under greater scrutiny when home-grown talent is more readily available, often at a lower cost, in many jurisdictions. Industry surveys consistently reflect growing demand for shorter-term or project-based assignments, suggesting mobility is increasingly used for development purposes. So, while GM was previously all about taking the people to the work, it’s also important to see how we’re able to take the work to the people. Are we really ready to drive this forward?


Keeping a human approach

There are too many changing and diverging elements pushing down on mobility to call them and their impacts out individually, and some will be more significant for some organisations than others. However, ensuring our GM policies and practices enable the business, meet compliance requirements, respect cost pressures, and support the talent agenda - all while grappling with this new world of work - is a nice ask of GM. I’m sure most mobility functions are embracing this with an equal share of enthusiasm and overwhelm.


The updated SAFE(R) Model from the RES Forum highlights the multiple facets required of a GM function. These are no longer nice-to-haves; they are essential elements for managing an effective, and resilient mobility function. The self-assessment tool is a great way to reflect on whether there is a need to take a sharper focus on any particular area. GM has always been a microcosm of other HR areas as it spills over into resourcing and recruitment, talent management, and compensation and benefits. The eight roles defined by the SAFE(R) model quite rightly also underline overlaps with finance, compliance, legal, tax, and IT teams.


On top of reflecting on whether our GM functions offer the right balance of Smart, Agile, Flexible and Efficient, we must keep a human approach front-and-centre to everything we do – including how we manage our mobility teams. Many mobility professionals are living abroad themselves. Many have had their own heart-breaking experiences with COVID-19 or various conflicts. Many are still smiling through these trying times.


Our resilience will serve us well

So yes, mobility is under pressure. And yes, we need to pay attention to our ability to weather these storms. But we should also be proud of what has been achieved and overcome in light of this additional pressure. After all, our innate resilience stands us in good stead to face and manage whatever mole needs whacking next.


SAFE(R) Global Mobility

This piece is from our research paper – Mastering New Work with SAFE(R) Global Mobility. The paper is available to download from our website for free.


Get your copy, here: theresforum.com/annual-report