One of the key trends of the last 12 months, was the move to work from anywhere. This also means ‘hire from anywhere’ for many organizations. But does an increase in the mobility of your workforce talent mean it’s a harder task to nurture a workplace culture?
We talked to KPMG’s head of global mobility services, Marc Burrows, to get his thoughts on this and many other aspects of the talent mobility opportunity as laid out in their recent Global Assignment Policies and Practices Survey. Here’s what he had to say…
There are two main aspects of ‘work from anywhere’. One is that on the ‘hire from anywhere’ side of things, which is taking the restrictions off companies from purely thinking about the talent market that’s right in front of them. And the other side of it is more flexibility to choose, within some parameters, where workers would like to do their work for at least some part of the year.
So, is it more difficult to create a workplace culture in a ‘work from anywhere’ or distributed talent environment? I don’t think the cross-border workplace culture challenge is any different from the remote work or domestic hybrid work challenge when it comes to creating an identifiable culture.
Does the office hinder talent mobility?
I think there’s a difference between people connecting virtually, and people connecting in a three-dimensional physical environment where they have a lot more of those unstructured, less deliberate interactions, that we all experience as a normal part of the office work environment, pre-pandemic.
There are some challenges to find the way to stop a ‘schedule’ of interactions being the only way that people interact as a team, particularly in large organizations where that cross-pollination between departments and divisions can be a really, really important hotbed of innovation; ways to improve customer service, for example.
Adjusting your mindset
We all reacted to a crisis last year; we did some things that were focused on people in their connection in a virtual environment. And then we got a bit tired of many of those things that seemed early-crisis-relevant and then just a bit tedious. I don’t know about you, but the Friday night teams or Zoom quiz got quite weary quite quickly.
But, tactical interactions between teams will continue to be important. I think that the prospect of even a domestic team being in the office all at the same time to try and concentrate these in-person interactions or these less structured interactions, is probably going to prove to be quite a challenge, given everyone’s version of flexibility is different.
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There are conversations around this at the moment turning towards pay and benefits and the ESG (environmental, social, governance) objectives of the overall organization and how their entire reward structure fits within those objectives.
This is a progression from some of the conversations we’ve been having with accountability around ESG in the past, which had primarily focused on measuring the carbon impact of business travel, for example, and looking at reduction or offset schemes, which was a very small sliver of what the ESG landscape looks like when it comes to talent mobility.
It’s about looking at things like benefits programs, and whether the benefits that are provided fit with environmental goals that the company has subscribed for their net-zero program. That’ll be an area that talent mobility needs to focus quite carefully on.
Given many of the benefits and allowances and support programs around talent mobility are discharged by third-party providers, it’ll need to fit into that whole mobility ecosystem where there’s an evaluation of company-level controls and benefits.
Making the data work for you
The thing that’s happened with talent mobility fairly steadily over the past 10 plus years is that the proportion of the company’s global employee population that mobility has come into contact with and needed to play some role in managing or enabling has just grown wider and wider, as more non-traditional versions of mobility have come to the fore.
First, the number of employees with some form of managed mobility is many multiples of what it was, for example, in 2008. But with that, we haven’t seen an exponential increase in the number of talent mobility heads sitting within those companies to manage the compliance and logistical support that these employees need.
This means that there does need to be a much, much greater focus on using the data available to you and using technology to automate and facilitate efficient processes wherever possible.
The best recent example of that is requests to work from another country that isn’t your country of employment. We’ve had experience of quite large global companies trying to crunch applications and spreadsheets manually for hundreds and in some cases, thousands of requests for work from another country, and trying tirelessly to work through all of the income tax, personal tax, payroll, immigration, and cyber risks that need to be considered before giving approval to these things simply wasn’t possible.
It simply wasn’t a good use of some really quite talented people’s time, given the value they pose to the organization. So, the answer to that is that companies really need to embrace the technology that’s available to automate their policy when they establish one.
Next steps for D,E&I
It’s been a well-accepted fact that as you start moving people around the world between cultures that you get more accepting, more diverse, more open groups of people that generate better ideas and are more open to those that might be brought to them by others.
A really key role for talent mobility is to capture the data on relevant D,E&I (diversity, equity, and inclusion) metrics for their programs and report that up through the leadership of their organization, so it’s absolutely clear how that mobility program is performing against company standards and company objectives so that we can make sure there isn’t a gap.
The other area that is a really practical way for talent mobility to make an impact on D,E&I is to ensure that they are considering their relationships with third-party vendors and the role that those external companies have in the D,E&I footprint of their organization overall.
Having more open, more specific conversations with those vendors about their own D,E&I programs and how those will align with the company’s objectives is essential.
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