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Global mobility – a critical priority

Dr Barbara Zesik

One-in-three business leaders believe a globally mobile workforce is critical to strategic objectives. USA now tops the list for most challenging location to send staff, ahead of China Over half of global mobility teams cite immigration rules as top challenge over next 5 years. However international work relocation opportunities are set to increase during next year. Input from Dr Barbara Zesik, Chief People Officer for Santa Fe Relocation Services.

Business leaders still view an international mobile workforce as key to meeting their strategic objectives, according to new research by global mobility specialists, Santa Fe Relocation Services. This is despite mounting concerns around immigration and an increasingly uncertain geopolitical climate following changes implemented by the new U.S administration and the anticipated impact of Brexit.

Santa Fe’s 7th annual Global Mobility Survey Report ‘Embedding Business Strategy in Global Mobility’, which surveyed nearly 1,000 global mobility teams and business leaders in 56 countries, found over a third (35 percent) of business leaders still believe empowering a globalized workforce was critical to meeting its strategic objectives – with 9 in ten (96 percent) saying it is important.

As a result, international assignments (work relocation opportunities) are expected to grow significantly over the next twelve months, with graduate programmes, short-term assignments and one-way relocations all set to increase significantly. Contrarily to previous years, even long term assignments are expected to see significant growth (17 percent) in the year ahead, which highlights both ongoing global economic growth and the crucial role that long term placements have in companies’ talent planning.

However, businesses are facing increased challenges in sending workers abroad due to growing complications around stringent immigration compliance and new legislation. The findings from Santa Fe reveal half (50 percent) of global mobility professionals cite immigration complications as the top challenge to achieving businesses’ objectives over the next five years – ahead of concerns around local political climates (42 percent) and staff safety or security (37 percent).

The USA now tops the charts for the most challenging location to send assignees, with nearly one in ten (9 percent) respondents stating it is the hardest to navigate from a global mobility perspective due to tightening immigration and visa restrictions for long term business relocations. But despite these challenges, the USA still remains the most common destination to send assignees, with nearly a fifth (18 percent) of respondents saying it was the most frequent destination for assignment opportunities – up from 16 percent in 2016. China was the second most popular at 11 percent (down from 12 percent in 2016), followed by the UK at 8 percent (up from 7 percent in 2016).

Commenting on the findings, Dr Barbara Zesik, Chief People Officer for Santa Fe Relocation Services, said: “Over the past year, we have witnessed exceptional levels of change and political uncertainty across the globe. However, seemingly unfazed by the increasingly protectionist rhetoric, business leaders continue to recognise the importance of fostering a diverse and globally mobile workforce to support long term business success and performance. In order to support the efforts espoused by the most senior leaders, organisations are encouraged to embed ‘global mobility’ at the heart of their business strategy: driving growth and mitigating potential complications associated with seconding employees abroad and being well-prepared and positioned to overcome the challenges of our complex but increasingly digitally connected world.” The report found that over half a million (500,000) employees from the companies surveyed are already internationally mobile.

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