Global Mobility – The Devil is in the Detail

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Global Mobility – The Devil is in the Detail

For many large, international companies Global Mobility is an established function handling a variety of assignment types. However, for companies that are growing and entering the ...

For many large, international companies Global Mobility is an established function handling a variety of assignment types. However, for companies that are growing and entering the world of global HR on a larger scale, Global Mobility still seems like an overcomplicated monster with way too many arms and legs to control.

Basically, Global Mobility is about getting the right employee to the right destination at the right time to explore a business opportunity, transfer knowledge or fill a management need.

That sounds easy, right?

The complexity in Global Mobility is not necessarily the individual steps in the process; it is the ability to manage a number of different (compliant) processes simultaneously and combine them with empathy, cultural awareness and good, old-fashioned consultancy and communication skills. In addition, Global Mobility is about supporting the business in terms of deciding who the right employee is, where the destination of the expatriation should be as well as timing the transfer with business needs, compliance processes and the needs and wishes of the accompanying family.

The job of the Global Mobility Consultant is to manage and coordinate stakeholders in the various processes such as immigration, tax, social security as well as relocation and settling-in, cultural awareness, security trainings and internal company processes. The Global Mobility Consultant should be able to support and guide the employee and their family on a more personal level (career, children and other personal concerns) as well as make sure that all stakeholders are informed sufficiently. The Global Mobility Consultant should also be given the mandate to challenge and guide the business’ leaders and the assignee when they make decisions that could potentially backfire.

Doing all of this easily becomes a full-time job, so where do you start when know-how and time are scarce resources in your company?

1: Start out with the business case – why, what, where, who and when. If you are a manager, do not underestimate the importance of this step! This step in the process will be the main driver for the assignment and most likely the start of repatriation discussions sometime in the future. Let your Global Mobility Consult ask questions and possibly challenge your preliminary decisions. By allowing this, you will be given a golden opportunity to adjust any challenges in the set-up upfront.

2: Before you promise your employee things you possibly can’t keep, make an overview of benefits, to-do’s, responsibilities and an attempted timeline for all stakeholders together with your Global Mobility Consultant. Ask your Global Mobility Consultant to provide the information in an easy-to-understand format and make sure you as a manager have a solid understanding of what is coming your way.

3: Invite the future assignee and partner for a briefing with a Global Mobility Consultant. Involve them from the beginning and make it clear that everything you do in the process concerns them! Focus on the employee experience and be pragmatic about compliance topics. Compliance topics such as tax, immigration and social security are hygiene factors in Global Mobility and do not as such provide motivation and happiness for the employee and his or her family. Compliance topics need to be handled professionally. Employee experience is about acknowledging and embracing the people aspect of an international assignment and all the feelings, dilemmas and compromises it entails.

4: Time to get started! Leave it to the Global Mobility Consultant to coordinate and manage the overall process together with the assignee and external providers. Too many chefs in the kitchen will spoil the broth – the same goes for Global Mobility processes.

From an expertise and knowledge perspective, Global Mobility requires a unique skill set. For many companies, it does not make sense to retain that skill set in-house. If you do not have an in-house Global Mobility Consultant with sufficient experience and knowledge, we recommend bringing in an external provider, who has the professional experience to ensure that you do not overlook important topics.

5: Once your assignee has left for the Host Country, make it a habit to stay in touch and start the repatriation discussions in due time. Although an employee has spent several years on international assignments, the repatriation often turns out to be the most difficult challenge of all. Ironically, many people are fully capable of adapting to their new Host Countries, but they have severe difficulties re-adapting when returning home. Here, professional coaching can be a help for the employee as well as for you as a manager.

Good luck with your international assignments. They are normally worth the effort and with smart management you will have a unique opportunity to grow business as well as global employees!


SlaterConsult provides strategic and operational Global Mobility Services via an integrated global network.

If you want to know more about Global Mobility or are interested in trainings of Global Mobility professionals together with other employees of large, Scandinavian companies, please contact Lone Skriver at or (+45) 7175 0442.