Going global: the right talent in the wrong place

Aug 28 2013 by Brian Amble Print This Article

The emergence of new markets will see a big increase in the number of workers taking on global assignments over the next decade. But a mismatch between where talent is needed and where people actually want to go is set to be something of a headache for global corporations.

Research from PwC predicts the number of workers taking on global assignments is set to increase by 50 per cent over the next decade as companies re-think where their talent needs to be based to fulfil their growth ambitions.

But PwC's 'Talent Mobility: 2020 and beyond' report, based on data from over 900 global companies, also reveals that companies face a real headache in persuading staff to relocate to the countries where their talents are most needed.

The report found that new graduates Ė the millennial generation - see international opportunities as a key part of their career advancement. But while seven out of 10 millennials want an overseas assignment during their career, they have very clear preferences about where they want to work.

Almost six out to 10 (58 per cent) want to work in the US, half (48 per cent) in the UK and four out of 10 (39 per cent) in Australia firmly at the top of their wish list. In contrast, only one in 10 (11 per cent) are willing to work in India and a mere two per cent in mainland China.

And that reluctance matters because as PwC also found, some 15 per cent of organisations have been unable to achieve growth forecasts in overseas markets due to talent constraints, leading nearly two thirds to change their approach to global mobility.

Another notable finding from the research is that the traditional overseas assignment Ė a three year posting to a different country before returning home Ė is falling out of favour, with only one per cent of employees now working in that way.

Instead, the number of mobile workers, including long-distance commuters (who spend a week or two at a time in another country), has increased and now accounts for around some eight per cent of the working population.

The research reveals that the average length of a posting has now dropped to 18 months and the number of females taking on global assignments is predicted to increase. Women are projected to make up over a quarter of all assignees by 2020.

"Many companies are facing the reality that they don't have the right talent in the right places to fulfil their global growth ambitions," said Carol Stubbings, UK international assignment services leader at PwC.

"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."

The problem, she added comes when trying to align employees' expectations and companies' needs and growth prospects.

"Companies are likely to need workers to go to fast-growing emerging economies and new urban hotspots, rather than the more popular and developed locations favoured by graduates," she said.

But as PwC's McCluskey pointed out, changing demographics and the growing importance of emerging markets means that the traditional flow of talent from West to East is likely to be reversed. Instead, skilled workers from emerging economies will increasingly be moved into developed markets, often on short-term assignments, to gain valuable experience which can then be used in their home market.

"The historically high value placed on experience earned in the West looks set to be overtaken by demand for skilled workers from emerging markets. Local workers with international experience will be much more attractive to domestic employers than foreign workers in the same market," he said.