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EY survey: Three in four businesses failing to manage talent mobility effectively

Companies around the world could be at risk of losing out in the race for talent and driving business resilience because they are failing to mobilise their workforce effectively and create opportunities for flexible work experiences, according to the EY 2024 Mobility Reimagined Survey.

The survey canvassed the views of 1,059 mobility professionals across 21 countries on the benefits and challenges organisations can face when developing and building mobility strategies and functions.

It found that only one in four employers surveyed (25%) have a fully developed mobility function, with three-quarters (75%) failing to take advantage of a truly mobile and agile workforce.

Mobility strategy now central to talent attraction and retention

This is despite the fact that almost two-thirds (64%) of employee respondents around the world say they’re more likely to stay with their current employer after a long-term cross-border assignment, while (92%) believe such experiences can be “life-changing” and 89% say international mobility is essential for business continuity and resilience, edging up from 74% last year.

Organisations ill-prepared to deal with cross-border risks

Despite the significant benefits that mobility programs bring to companies, many are facing a growing number of risks and challenges when establishing international mobility functions. Seven in ten respondents (71%) say cross-border mobility risks – including tax/regulatory and data privacy risks – have increased over the last two years, mostly due to the pandemic and ongoing geopolitical and economic challenges, which saw employees move around the world and work in separate jurisdictions, heightening corporate exposure to tax, regulatory issues and diverse employment laws.

Worryingly, many organisations are not fully prepared to manage all the risks they face. For example, while 84% of employer respondents recognise data privacy risks from hybrid mobility arrangements, just 55% have policies in place to mitigate them — a moderate improvement from last year’s 47%. Similarly, although 87% of employer respondents are aware of cybersecurity risks, just 46% have policies to address them – down from 51% last year.

In addition, 46% of companies responding use a centralised mobility operating model, which is often siloed from the rest of the business, creating a raft of communication, collaboration, and technology-related challenges.

Successful organisations accelerate mobility with five key drivers

Nevertheless, many companies are taking action where it is needed. More than eight in 10 employer respondents (82%) have developed a policy or approach for hybrid mobility, up from 76% in 2023.

There is also clear recognition that mobility is growing in importance. Eight in 10 employer respondents (80%) say they plan to increase investment in mobility technology over the next five years, up from 67% in 2023. Two-thirds (66%) of respondents believe the scope of the mobility function will grow over the next three years.

The survey identifies five key drivers that are crucial to the development of a successful mobility function:

  1. Strategic alignment: Organisations should align their mobility strategy to broader organisational strategy.
  2. Talent linkage: An organisation’s mobility strategy should be used for talent acquisition and development.
  3. Digital focus: Organisations should have investment and maturity in the automation and digitisation of mobility processes.
  4. Flexibility: Organisations should be embedding flexibility in the selection of program benefits.
  5. External expertise: Organisations should be co-sourcing or outsourcing selected mobility processes for greater efficiency.

Commenting on the Survey, Panayiotis Thrasyvoulou, Partner, Head of People Consulting Services, and Riginos Polydefkis, Director, Head of Immigration Services at EY Cyprus, emphasise that: “Growing talent shortages, economic downturn and geopolitical volatility are rapidly changing employee expectations. In this new working environment, international mobility may offer life-changing opportunities to employees and present an opportunity for organisations to attract and retain talent, while strengthening wider business resilience. To leverage this opportunity and empower their workforce, companies need to invest in their mobility functions and set in place robust policies to deal with complex related challenges.”

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