Sharon Quinn, senior reward professional and international and global mobility lead at Whitbread discusses how talent, role and the individual are the key points for a successful global mobility strategy.

What makes a successful global move? There are three considerations: talent, role and individual, at the intersection is the ‘Sweet Spot’ of success What are the key questions in each area? Taking the time and discipline to answer these questions will help you to deliver a successful global move.


Is there talent available in the host country, now or in the future? Will an assignment temporarily fill a talent gap until you can recruit and train locally? Is the role so specialist that you need to export the talent from another market and if so, for how long? Is there an option to recruit locally and ‘DNA dip’ the individual in your HQ country to meet the talent need in the host country? This last option not only gives an International travel opportunity to your International talent, it creates an ongoing in-market connection and relationships.
How will you measure the ROI in this talent move? This will depend on the purpose of the move – if it is a short term solution to meet a knowledge gap, then the ROI will be measured by successful knowledge transfer. Is the local team now self-sufficient? If the reason for the move is to develop a global mind-set within your organisation, the ROI will take longer to measure and may be harder to identify: Are you retaining your talent post assignment? Are they promoted or do they leave the organisation and take their experience elsewhere? Do you have role models at senior levels within your organisation that have experience of global mobility? What is the turnover amongst your global movers as compared to the general employee population?


What is the primary driver for the move? Answering this question will also help shape the terms and conditions for the move. Is this move to meet a business need, such as to deliver a project with a specific business objective or new market entry and broader business development? Or perhaps the move is to meet a development need, such as an ‘early career’ assignment aimed at giving International experience to support organisational development for the long term. Even a move that is self-initiated by the employee helps create an organisation that supports International opportunities.

If your organisation is in the early stages of growing internationally, a critical question is: who will benefit from the move and who funds the investment costs? When the project is complete, is it the host country that will benefit – such as delivering brand standards to a new market or, in the case of an ‘early career’ assignment, is it the organisation that will benefit in the longer term by increasing the International knowledge and experience amongst the workforce and develop a global mind-set? In the latter case, it may be that this type of programme is funded centrally (perhaps with the business units bidding for ‘early career’ assignees making this a valued option).

Another area for consideration is, what is the term of the role? Is the need for this role open-ended or is there an end date? A specific end date lends itself to a time defined assignment whereas an open-ended role may mean a permanent global move or a rotation position – where the role is used as a way of giving an International opportunity to your high potential talent.

Finally, how does the role differ in a different country – an experienced trainer in the UK may find that they have to adapt their delivery in China to suit the Chinese learning preference. Also, if the International business is in ‘start up’, roles will tend to be broader and less defined.


Finally, the individual. Are they (and their family) ready for the move? Timing can play a big part in the success of a global move: if children have started studying for exams or there are eldercare duties, this may prevent a move despite the motivation, skills and desire of the individual. Trying to initiate a move to start in January may create problems if there are children that need to finish the school year where they are. Ensure that the assignee considers carefully a compromise such as commuting. Over a long period of time, this could lead to a lack of connection with the host country, exhaustion and stressful tension in the family due to frequent absences.

Who sponsors and supports the move? Many assignees experience ‘out of sight, out of mind’ in organisations where the international business is small compared to the HQ location. Who will make sure that the individual remains part of the talent and succession process so that they may be the role model of the future, demonstrating the career and organisational benefits of an international move?

And finally, does the role opportunity fit the talent and potential rating of the individual? Beware of managers that line up their problem people for an international move. There is always an investment when moving someone internationally, make sure that the organisation and the individual will benefit – what selection process do you have in place to ensure the right fit?

Asking the right questions early on will create a successful global move and add value to your business.

Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.