28 December 2018

Global Mobility Trends to Look Out For in 2019

Global Mobility
2019 global mobility trends



This time last year, Learnlight made some predictions about what the big Global Mobility trends would be in 2018. We predicted that privacy, diversity and talent development would dominate discussions. And we weren’t wrong. Looking at trends is always a little guesswork, but it seems the global mobility trends pretty much matched our prophecy. So what were the trends that took Global Mobility by storm in 2018 and what do we believea are the 2019 Global Mobility trends?

Diversity: Action Not Words

Not just the entertainment industry, but most organizations have been strongly impacted by the #MeToo movement. Diversity was the specter behind many key business decisions in 2018.

The D&I function is no longer seen as a “necessary evil”. Policies have been scrutinized and reviewed and organizations have been forced to go beyond lip-service to implementing measures not only to increase diversity statistics but to become inclusive through intentional measures.


Writing in November 2017, no one could have predicted the scale of the Cambridge Analytica scandal at Facebook. At an organizational level, the European GDPR regulations have revolutionized how organizations can use personal data.

Global Mobility in the Age of Diversity
Global Mobility in the Age of Diversity
The Role Global Mobility Can Play in Delivering a Diverse Workforce
Global Mobility in the Age of Diversity
Global Mobility in the Age of Diversity
The Role Global Mobility Can Play in Delivering a Diverse Workforce

In Global Mobility, we have had to change the way we share information about assignees, how we transfer data internationally and guarantee privacy.

Enforcement has not yet matched the hidden threats, but the Marriott Hotel Group suffered the loss of up to 500 million customer records and has offered a free subscription to a fraud protection service as compensation in an attempt to mitigate any future legal judgments.

The War on Talent

And finally, talent development. What was a steady hum about skills shortages in 2017, became consistent background noise in 2018. The nature of work is changing, the skills needed have changed and recruitment teams are struggling to find agile, flexible talent to meet the challenges of modern businesses.

In some organizations, global mobility has seen fewer moves as the right person for the job has not stepped up.

The nature of work is changing, the skills needed have changed and recruitment teams are struggling to find agile, flexible talent to meet the challenges of modern businesses.

2019 Global Mobility Trends

Is 2019 going to be as predictable?

The biggest known unknown for anyone moving, regardless of destination and origin, is Brexit. There is little value in trying to predict how that will impact global mobility – the greatest truism of 2018 is that anyone who says they know what will happen is deceiving themselves at best.

The Rise of Employee Experience

The biggest 2019 Global Mobility trends will be subtle, rather than dramatic. The US researchers, Forrester characterized 2018 as the year of widespread organizational culture change – not all successful.

They claim that this will lead to 2019 being the year that companies focus on Employee Experience (Ex). High attrition and low unemployment have meant that attracting and keeping the best talent is gaining higher priority.

Further reading

Historically, international experience has been a key differentiator in identifying top talent. 2019 global mobility trends will see the tide turn, and the offer of international experience will be used as a magnet to attract that talent. Millennials in particular, see themselves as “Citizens of the World”.

According to Forbes, travel has replaced houses, cars and golf as the most desirable status symbol. As Tara Cappel of For the Love of Travel puts it, “Louis Vitton is out, Vietnam is in”.

Travel – Shorter, But More Often

Companies that offer the opportunity to travel will be more equipped to retain Millennial talent by offering a better Ex. This will further cement the approach to international assignments from luxury to functional. Developments in virtual communications reduce the need to be constantly present physically in one location, so roles may not change, although the “office” may well be in a new country.

A shorter-term assignment, possibly four to six weeks may become much more common.

Rather than committing to three years in one location, the talent being wooed may be offered a series of much shorter “experience assignments”.

The Modern Assignee

This change mirrors the change in attitudes to learning – Josh Bersin at Deloitte has defined The Modern Learner. The Modern Assignee has a very similar profile:

  • Easily distracted
  • Craves new experiences and knowledge
  • Constantly mobile
  • Independent
  • Hard working

The Modern Assignee wants to experience many countries, but not as an outsider. They will be looking to immerse themselves into an authentic experience. This means being able to speak some of the local language, adopt (rather than adapt to) local culture and then move seamlessly to the next country.

The Modern Assignee needs a light touch and will reject bureaucratic approaches to global mobility that have been traditional: multiple forms and briefings.

Global Mobility in the Age of Diversity
Global Mobility in the Age of Diversity
The Role Global Mobility Can Play in Delivering a Diverse Workforce
Global Mobility in the Age of Diversity
Global Mobility in the Age of Diversity
The Role Global Mobility Can Play in Delivering a Diverse Workforce

Overworked, overstretched and over here!

Everything needs to be online, accessible and available 24/7. Self-service assignments, policies, travel arrangements. Millennials are much later to commit to personal relationships and families, so are most frequently traveling as single status – this lifestyle leaves them free to move at short notice and keep their social life in their backpacks.

This desire to travel comes with a desire to learn – to fill their heads with cultural knowledge and skills.

Not in a traditional format, but in flexible, digital and virtual channels. Informal and social learning outside the classroom is not only the most effective way to learn, but it is reinforced by a travel-hungry, curious population.

Practical Inclusivity

The rise of this Modern Assignee is going to have the unintended consequence of going a long way towards addressing the gender and race imbalance in assignee statistics. As the war for talent becomes more active, unconscious bias will be overcome by the practicality of seeking undiscovered talent.

The gender balance among younger employees has always been more equal (not equal, but more equal). As the age of assignees comes down, more representatives of currently disempowered groups will have better experience, better international skills and higher internal and external profiles. It will lead to more representative and inclusive leadership potential across organizations.

Assignments and Robots

2019 global mobility trends will also see a big rise in the use of AI and automation to manage assignments.

Automation may make some assignments redundant completely, but this will not impact significantly in the next twelve months.

The bigger issue will be around systems and platforms that the assignees use to organize and manage assignments.

Whether a hand-holding Global Mobility team is involved or whether a more self-service approach, behind the scenes AI and automation are changing the mechanics of assignments.

This means that assignees will have more passwords and usernames than air miles. The big challenge of 2019 is to get the different systems used by different parts of the mobility supply chain to talk to each other without breaching GDPR regulations (Data protection).

A separate login for language and cultural training is a step too far; an immigration service login that doesn’t work for the tax advisor will cause GM and assignees to question the inefficiencies.

Further reading


Although promising not to mention Brexit, it is Brexit that may dampen dramatic changes to the GM world in 2019. Although seen by many in the UK as a local issue, the ramifications are huge.

It has the potential to shift Europe’s financial and business heartlands – France, German, Spain, and Italy are scrambling to create a market ready for the big financial institutions; Asian manufacturers are reconsidering the UK plants; trans-European joint ventures are re-assessing their competitiveness.

As business rethink their locations and markets, they also re-think their human capital: rather than relocating people, could a virtual solution work better?

Rather than send an assignee, can we train a local? The answers to these questions will be Brexit’s legacy to Global Mobility well beyond the reach of the UK and EU. As you can see outside factors such as Brexit can have a major impact on any list of 2019 Global Mobility trends.

World Affairs

There are no answers until we see what the final deal is like and how the transition arrangements play out. However, the knock-on effect is that we can expect 2019 must be a year of consolidation and conservatism while we wait in expectation.

Writing in London, Brexit is the big topic, but Merkel’s decline in Germany, Trump’s impact in the US, Putin’s influence in Ukraine and Central Asia, the continuing growth of China and India’s influence on realpolitik – any one of those by themselves has the power to change the landscape dramatically. All together they create the VUCA conditions (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) that have characterized this decade.

2019 is the Chinese year of the Pig – a lazy, clumsy and slow year. It is often associated with bringing wealth and peace. Let’s hope that the Pig is the antidote to the volatility of 2018We’ll see as the year progresses if our 2019 global mobility trends come true or not.

Share this article

Latest Insights

Ready to start?

Take your business on the first step to transformative learning today. We look forward to being part of your journey.