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Deloitte study reveals current global mobility strategies do not meet boardroom agendas

29 November 2012

  • A mere 2% of organisations see their global mobility function as world class;
  • 70% of business and HR stakeholders say global mobility in their organisation is underperforming or needs improvement;
  • A third of the organisations say they are planning on reviewing their global mobility strategies in the next 12 months;
  • Just 12% perform clear assessments of their mobility practices which leads to improvement.

Organisations are aware of both the requirements and the current limitations of their global mobility programmes, however they are not translating that awareness into improvement and change, according to a new report by Deloitte, the business advisory firm. This is based on the latest annual survey of almost 200 HR, talent and global mobility professionals from companies around the world, entitled Strategic Moves.

A mere 2% of organisations see their global mobility functions as world class, and only 12% perform assessments of their mobility practices and make clear links back to improvement efforts they need to make.

Rob Hodkinson, global mobility transformation practice leader at Deloitte, says: “Organisations clearly recognise the need for a global, mobile workforce to support their business strategies. However, despite a keen awareness of worldwide mobility issues, there seems to be little impetus to make the relevant improvements. Where organisations are taking steps, they appear to be aligning their international mobility strategies with functional needs, not with key business priorities. They are not using the golden opportunity to place their rising stars in overseas positions to develop the next generation of global leaders required to run the global organisations of tomorrow.

“The continuing disconnect between thinking and action on global mobility shows organisations are still at sea when it comes to embracing the idea of a global workforce. They have a sense of what must happen, but the majority are not taking steps to make it happen.”

Different requirements of global mobility
Organisations recognise global mobility as an important tool to support the top strategic business issues and support the business in addressing the top three strategy issues: emerging geographical markets (100%), increasing globalisation (99%), and increasing competition (98%). However, on average less than 30% are using mobility to completely address those issues.

Will Gosling, a human capital partner at Deloitte, says: “There are opportunities for the business and global mobility teams to deepen ties with each other and a large number of organisations are taking proactive steps to do this.

“A third of the organisations say they are planning on reviewing their global mobility strategies in the next 12 months, including alignment with business issues and goals. Alignment requires global mobility to be involved at strategy table discussions, so they can then explain the value that assignments can bring to developing talent. They also need to keep abreast of changing business drivers that may affect the way they structure their programmes and deliver services.”

Perception of the global mobility function
Survey respondents were asked whether they felt global mobility was a purely administrative function, a strategic value-add, or both. Those in business HR roles were most likely to see it as purely strategic (42%). However, in stark contrast, those tasked with high-level talent and reward responsibilities – the people with the power to elevate global mobility to the realm of strategy – were most likely to see it as just administrative (42%).

There is a widespread recognition of the need to improve the services that mobility practices provide, however the vast majority of organisations surveyed (88%) are undertaking only a limited assessment of the services that are currently being offered.

Rob Hodkinson adds: “Would other HR areas, such as reward, learning and development or talent management, experience similar neglect if they were found not to be up to a sufficient standard?  By failing to assess and measure global mobility practices in a planned and regular manner, organisations are missing the chance to fully understand their difficulties and learn how to overcome them.”

The way forward
In order to align global mobility strategies with a business’ issues and goals in the longer term, global mobility will need to support a business more effectively by providing global workforce management, where they manage an organisation’s global supply and demand of skills and talent.  This will require the mobility function to acquire new skills and capabilities but will lead to improvements across the entire organisation.

Will Gosling concludes: “If positioned appropriately, by adding global workforce management capabilities to its suite of services, global mobility can be the key player in solving an organisation’s long-term skill supply-and-demand talent gaps. This will create value for an organisation but will require the departure from the current model and a strong vision of the future.

“In order to achieve this, we believe organisations need to make two types of investments.  Firstly, they need to invest in their wider functional HR capabilities such as integrated HR, talent and global mobility technologies to facilitate global standard reporting across various employee metrics. Secondly, this initial investment will then allow them to invest ahead of the talent demand curve to create the required supply of talent to meet their future organisation growth aspirations.”


Notes to editor:
About the survey
Deloitte surveyed over 195 participants across all major regions across the world with Europe (44%) and North America (35%) as the main contributors. The survey was completed by senior HR professionals – heads of HR, talent, reward/C&B or mobility and senior HR business partners. More than a quarter of the organisations surveyed have an annual turnover of more than US$10 billion and virtually all industry sectors were accounted for. The organisations surveyed have an aggregate of 108,000 global assignments.

Following collation of the survey results, initial themes were developed and these findings were validated with input from major multinational organisations through in-depth discussions. This process enabled us to verify themes and to develop the background arguments in more detail. We have also used our experience working with multinational organisations to inform the commentary.

About Deloitte
In this press release references to Deloitte are references to Deloitte LLP, which is among the country's leading professional services firms.

Deloitte LLP is the United Kingdom member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (“DTTL”), a UK private company limited by guarantee, whose member firms are legally separate and independent entities. Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of DTTL and its member firms.

The information contained in this press release is correct at the time of going to press. 

Member of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited.

Media contacts

Laura Parsons
Deloitte LLP
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