“Life will return to normal”, a thought now mostly abandoned, except by a handful of die-hard optimists. I have to confess, however, that I hope it will not, which may sound strange given my passion for global mobility, travel and all things foreign. Let me rewind for a moment near the beginning of the first lockdown.
I recently met a lady for a charity dog walk and instead of the usual blank look at the mention of global mobility, she immediately responded with “how very unfortunate”. My ego was bruised but I recovered quickly and reluctantly admitted this was a perfectly reasonable conclusion given the current pandemic. After all, in terms of physical displacements, Covid-19 has pretty much brought the world to a standstill.
The conversation made me reflect on how global mobility will evolve and I embarked on a lively debate with myself: what purpose does it serve? Could less be more? – after all, too much jetting around the world is not good for our health, our wallets or the planet.
Here are some highlights and crystal ball predictions that ensued from those reflections:
- For years to come we will travel less. People and organisations will think much harder before jumping on a plane. I predict a greater and longer-lasting impact on business travel. Tourism is more likely to (eventually) resume to pre-pandemic levels.
- Long term assignments will be more selective – let’s be honest, some of these roles could/should be performed by local talent. This is an opportunity for GM to collaborate strategically with our talent development and acquisition teams. Business travel will also reduce, perhaps drastically.
- Remote/virtual assignments will increase – for companies to be successful on a global scale, this means developing awareness in softer skills such as emotional intelligence and cross-cultural skills, as well as remote leadership training. This is a skill set all individuals working with international colleagues would benefit from. It can be the make or break of a project or deal.
Many of these predictions are now backed up by solid data from insightful surveys, which is reassuring, but doesn’t really tell us what global mobility should be doing now?
Each organisation is unique and the fundamental question has to be, to ask ourselves what purpose global mobility serves. Does it further our business strategy or does it serve as a ‘stay out of jail’ function. Despite the talk, few organisations have made radical changes for the good reason that GM allows us few moments to come up for air. For once, we don’t have to change the oil at 10,000 metres, we have momentarily landed and can dismantle the pieces of the airplane to have a proper look. The pandemic gives us that opportunity, a rare-afforded luxury in global mobility. Are you ready for some deep, radical thinking and to challenge your very identity?
As a first step, it means understanding our organisations well and getting much closer to our business leaders. Rather than our current ‘disaster prevention’ function, can we add more value to our organisations? If I were to redefine the function I would call it ‘global growth’ – it’s about growing the business, growing the talent, growing the mindset and that impacts much more than just the bottom line. That is a mission not a function.
Many of us fundamentally believe that international experience is a good thing yet we know that there are downsides to our health, to the world at large. So, how do we square this circle? Can we have our cake and eat it? I have plenty of ideas and will be sharing them on this blog (cue, follow us here).
If anyone out there is reading this 😉 let me know what you think? What would you re-name global mobility? Are you ready for a new identity?