International HR Administration: Global Mobility an Increasingly Strategic Function, Survey Finds

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By Ali Qassim

Dec. 3—Global mobility professionals are taking on an increasingly strategic role in large organizations, according to the Forum for Expatriate Management's fifth annual Managing Global Mobility Survey.

Today, “moving people overseas is being seen more as strategic and also part of the talent management agenda,” FEM’s founder Brian Friedman told Bloomberg BNA Nov. 27. In fact, larger companies now “take the view that you cannot get to board level if you have no overseas experience” and consequently any organization’s talent management “needs to have links with the global mobility program.”

Changing Relationships

This trend is resulting in changed reporting relationships.

“Historically, global mobility professionals reported into compensation and benefits,” said Friedman, formerly the chief executive officer of both Ernst & Young’s and Arthur Andersen’s Human Capital practice, but a growing number now believe they should report into Human Resources or Talent Management.

While nearly half (48 percent) of respondents to the FEM survey reported that global mobility professionals currently report into the compensation and benefits/reward unit, 38 percent and 22.1 percent said they should report into HR or Talent Management, respectively. Currently, fewer than a third (30.2 percent) actually report into HR and only 7.2 percent into talent management.

This shift in reporting is necessary “to provide better access to the strategy discussions,” Coca-Cola Co.'s global mobility manager Ginger Merrick was cited in the survey as saying.

No Longer a ‘Means to an End'

The evolving reporting structure reflects a desire for the global mobility function “to be viewed in a less tactical manner,” Merrick said.

Expatriates are no longer a “means to end, filling perhaps a skills gap or developmental need,” GE Healthcare global mobility manager Anne-Marie Bailey told FEM. They have become “integral to driving a necessary evolution: the right people, in the right place, at the right time creating the leaders of the future.”

While Bailey questions whether reporting into talent management is the best arrangement for global mobility professionals charged with guiding the development of expatriate employees' careers, she does believe that talent functions are going to play a “pivotal role” in “selecting, grooming and, importantly, retaining such precious commodities.”

Rise in Outsourcing

The growing strategic role of global mobility is leading more companies to outsource parts or all of the function, Friedman said.

“If you outsource administration, you take a workload off your desk and can be more focused on strategy,” Friedman told Bloomberg BNA.

FEM's survey found that the top three outsourced global mobility services are tax (outsourced by 88.9 percent of respondents), removals and household goods (84.3 percent) and cost of living data (80 percent).

To contact the reporter on this story: Ali Qassim in London at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Vollmar at mailto:%20rvollmar@bna.com

Additional information is available on FEM's website: http://totallyexpat.com/.