Talent mobility: the future of recruitment and retention

Shifting demographics, rapidly emerging markets, and new digital technologies have fundamentally reshaped the way the world does business – but if you think change in the last decade has been acute, then the next few years are likely to blow your mind.

The future is set to look ever more different, particularly in the way the global workforce is sourced, organised, and managed. By 2020, PwC predicts that twice as many employees as today will need to be ‘mobile’ within a business to ensure it has the flexibility to react to shifting times.

“Explosive growth in emerging markets is creating a huge increase in the number of employees working outside their home location and critical shortages in talent in specific markets and disciplines have pushed mobility up the boardroom agenda,” says the PwC Talent Mobility study.

In short, firms are going to have to get smart about mobility as it seems to be one of the keys to the future of recruitment. Research by Deloitte claims that three quarters of firms expect to increase their number of mobile employees in the next three to five years. However, only two per cent currently think their mobility function is up to speed.

One of the essential changes that firms will have to embrace is the need for greater flexibility. The days of the old three-four year assignments in an overseas office have gone, says PwC, replaced by new destinations and the requirement of new skills and abilities across different territories.

One of the key factors contributing to the growing mobility of a workforce is the expectation of an overseas assignment – 71 per cent of the millennial generation now expect at least one foreign posting during their career. According to PwC, the number of female assignees has also doubled in the past 10 years to 20 per cent.

But along with new destinations and new talent, a shifting set of business demands and employee preferences mean that in some circumstances relocation won’t be necessary at all, even when a staff member assumes responsibility for a new territory or overseas team.

Naturally, this new reality is likely to cause havoc for hiring managers and those responsible for managing in-house talent and teams.

In a new age of a global talent pool, technology will have a huge part to play to help firms manage and predict the type or working arrangements that will need to be put in place, and – perhaps equally importantly – helping provide statistical evidence on which to base strategic decisions.

The ultimate change, however, is for businesses to become open to the agile and sophisticated ways of working demanded by a younger generation and a rapidly changing world. Then, once that is established, the challenge becomes marrying this new work pattern with the ‘rooted’ traditions of a business and the differing expectations of employees born into a more rigid working world.