Millennials increasingly see global assignments as part of their career

But experts warn assumptions about what workers want leading to ‘expensive surprises’

Millennials, along with some of generation X, increasingly expect to take part in an overseas assignment to help meet their long-term career ambitions, according to research by the RES Forum, presented at the group’s annual report launch last week.  

The 2018 Annual Report for RES Forum –  an independent community for global mobility (GM) professionals with 1,500-plus members from more than 750 multinational organisations – showed a noticeable push for individualised talent management as younger generations joined the workforce. 

But Michael F Dickmann, professor of international HR management at Cranfield University and the report’s author, told meeting attendees that businesses tend to set up talent and career systems that are geared towards groups that go against the GM trends he observed.

“GM professionals will work with individuals who want a tailored solution in response to their goals and situations,” Dickmann said. “Millennials, and to some extent earlier generations, are already pushing an individualisation agenda quite hard.”

He warned that there was a “danger in assuming you know what your people want”, which can lead to “some big and expensive surprises”.

The report also explored Dickmann’s SAFE strategy – smart organisational development, agile strategic advice, flawless programme management and efficient GM people effectiveness – to global mobility, which aims to help businesses “design, execute and refine successful strategies, structures, policies and practices”.

The report also charted the major trends and explained how GM departments could increase their success while preparing for the future. Among the major trends explored, the speakers focused on employee experience. 

Andrea Piacentini, head of reward for the UK and Europe at Standard Life and co-founder of the RES Forum, said employee experience would be a key HR trend for 2018. 

“This drive towards employee experience is born out of the very real experiences people have as customers with companies like Amazon or Google, where the customer is truly at the centre of everything in all instances,” Piacentini explained, urging the gathered GM professionals to ask questions such as how it felt to interact with certain companies, and what those companies did to motivate them to in turn do things for the company.

Piacentini also argued that businesses could benefit from tweaking packages to support individual employee’s career aspirations, especially as the UK geared up to leave the EU. 

“I am thinking of the post-Brexit UK employee who commutes to the Netherlands for three days a week,” he said. “This is not impossible to manage, but some small support could go a long way in enabling this individual’s career aspirations.”

Scenarios like this, Pancentini said, could be relatively low cost, but small differences could go a long way in improving employee engagement. 

Brexit also featured in last year’s RES Forum report. 2017’s research revealed that more than a third (34 per cent) of multinational employers with UK operations were worried it would become more difficult to attract the right talent after the UK left the EU.