How companies deal with rising global mobility demands

The number of employees with temporary overseas assignments has increased 25% in the past decade as companies entered rapid-growth markets, particularly in Brazil, Russia, India and China, PwC research showed.

By 2020, the population of mobile employees at large companies is likely to rise another 50%, PwC projected based on information from about 900 companies worldwide and surveys of chief executives, recent college graduates and mobility specialists.

Along with the frequency, the types of global assignments are also changing.

By 2020, global mobility is likely to require more short-term, project-based assignments and assignments that require no relocation, PwC found. It is also likely to require employees with an adjusted skillset.

“Skills gaps in overseas markets, the changing business world and preferences of a new generation of employees will force many organisations to increase global mobility opportunities for their staff,” Carol Stubbings, UK international assignment services leader at PwC, said in a statement.

Stubbings added: “New forms of global mobility are developing in response to business demands and employee preferences, many of which don’t involve relocation at all. Long-distance commuting, virtual mobility, project-based and assignee-led projects are all set to become the norm. These will offer greater flexibility for both employers and employees and should help to reduce global mobility costs.”

To respond to skills shortages, changing business needs and employee preferences, PwC found that:

  • Companies are making an extra effort to retain their best employees to develop well-rounded talent from within.
  • Assignment strategies are becoming more accommodating to employees’ family responsibilities.
  • Employees’ preferences and needs of different generations and groups of employees are beginning to shape assignments. 
  • Workers in emerging markets, particularly in China, are starting to favour domestic multinationals over Western multinationals.
  • Companies are adopting a standard global remuneration system for all overseas assignments.
  • Companies’ human resources and global mobility functions will shift from providing services to becoming strategic tools as they have to deal with an increasingly diverse and mobile workforce.

Related CGMA Magazine content:

Bring the Whole Family: Rising Demand for Globally Mobile Talent Drives Policy Changes”: The demand for globally mobile talent is increasing, and companies worldwide are expected to send more employees overseas in the next five years, but managers of international assignment programmes are already straining, a KPMG survey found.

Many Companies Unprepared for Risks That Go With Sending Employees to Emerging Markets”: To establish footholds in emerging markets, companies are sending more and more employees overseas, but many of their global mobility teams are ill-prepared for the financial and compliance risks that accompany such deployments.

Can You Succeed in Finance Without International Experience?”: The globalisation of business means that international experience has become a desirable quality for accounting and finance professionals.

Sabine Vollmer ( is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.