Future of Mobility

The Future of Global Mobility: The Silver Revolution

“Millennials in mobility” has been a popular topic, as expected, since Millennials occupy a large part of the talent group which qualify for overseas assignments.  However, with the millennial demographic comes a host of high expectations. 

Millennial Match

They are particular in their choice of destinations as well as in the other needs they expect employers to meet.  Global hubs and trendy cities rank high with this younger set – London, Dubai, Singapore and Shanghai are among their top picks.  However, the more challenging locations, in fact where they might be needed the most, may not be popular, even if these locations have lower costs of living.  A relocation’s value to a millennial rests in the experience and not necessarily in the size of the package.  Work-life balance, job availability for spouse or partner and potential for career enhancement are all high on their list of expectations.  So, while they are the up-and-coming talent pool, companies must adjust to meeting their needs or risk failing to attract this new generation of workers.

Millennials are somewhat flexible in their outlook by not necessarily requiring the high salary to entice them to new adventures and overseas assignments, compared to their older colleagues.  However, the millennial flexibility also extends to their commitment to the assignment itself.  This means while older workers comfortably commit to a three- or four-year assignment, millennials are more realistically willing to commit to one or two years.  The impact they have on the duration of assignments is such that the line between extended business trips and short-term assignments is getting blurred.  So, with an aging population what choice do employers have but to capitulate to meeting the millennial demands.

Beyond the Millennial Talent Pool

Consider the Silver Revolution, or the older worker who is not yet willing to hang up their coat and are happy to be considered for an overseas assignment.

The aging worker occupies a large portion of the talent pool and is still a viable option for companies.  They may even represent an increasingly important choice to the employer.  Though this generation can be technically challenged, with age, has come wisdom, adaptability due to maturity and valuable experience as well as interpersonal or people skills – something not readily available with a younger placement. 

Older professionals are available, and it seems, willing to continue making a valuable contribution depending on the industry.  The qualified silver haired are very willing to extend their careers in response to demand.  In fact, they may be even more suited to an expat lifestyle, at this stage of their lives, than the millennials. 

Older workers have more in the way of flexibility and availability going for them.  At the tail end of their child-rearing years, having achieved financial stability and freedom from mortgages and other encumbrances, this generation may be more open to consider an overseas post than the millennial who is now starting their family and possibly just purchased a home.

As far as the issue of adapting to new cultures and open to any location, studies show that older assignees are more ready to embrace the new norm and integrate into the culture of their host country.

While this appears as a winning solution to companies who need a mature employee committed to a longer haul internationally in a less attractive part of the world, their policies may not be suited to what the older worker needs.  A bias may exist in the company against older workers – whether it is recognised or not – and young professionals considered a priority.  In order to benefit and take advantage of a still vibrant and valuable talent pool, this value system should be identified and modified, if the company is to get the most out of its mobility management strategies.  Obviously, the millennials have a different career approach to the silver generation, and each demographic needs to be treated accordingly.

Flexing your Mobility Programs

Mobility policies and terms like family support and career enhancement all need to be redefined depending on the age of the assignee.  Older assignees, while free of dependents to educate or accommodate, may have elderly parents who need their care.   Not taking this into consideration, may severely impact the recruiting success.

The older assignees are more financially stable in the sense that they are no longer in debt, however, they will be actively planning for their retirement, something not even on the far horizon of millennials.  In order to achieve their financial goals, address pension shortfalls and handle savings possibly in different currencies, while staying compliant in a specific geographic area, older workers will need support and guidance.

Healthcare is also a factor to be weighed considerably, as chronic issues or ongoing medical challenges may be an issue due to age.  Assignees would require health coverage and assistance in organising this program in the foreign country.  However, millennials with young and possibly growing families would also have this need.

Best of Both Groups

So how do companies resolve the disparity between these two, sometimes polar opposites, in their available talent pool and avoid missing out on what could be a valuable contributor to the growth of their organisation?

Recognise that diversity does not only deal with race or gender but also with age.  Fostering an attitude open to a variety of age groups being included in your talent pool and adapt the packages or mobility programs to suit the individual.

Recognise that each age group requires a different type of training and provide this so as to get the most out of your talent.  Older professionals may need to have their tech skills sharpened while the younger generation may need to develop their soft skills.  A mutual mentoring program can be arranged so as to engage the two generations with each other while skill sharing.

Review the packages on offer to the older talent ensuring that the provisions are suited to helping them towards retiring with a sense of security.  This may involve the approach of knowing the worker’s plans for retiring and preferred destination for retirement, and driving the compensation package with this in mind.  Offer financial advice or planning to facilitate the individual’s goals.

Redefining family support would go a long way.  Funds normally allocated to childcare or early education can be redirected to elderly parent care.  And depending on the country of assignment, if feasible, consider including the elderly parents in the assignment package.

Review the new forms of mobility when considering the older candidate, since virtual assignments and third-country assignments, or even hiring foreign workers, do not need to be limited to millennials.

And finally, the gig assignment can work for the older worker as well.  Freelance flexibility may be ideal for the older professional who is looking to get back into the game, after retiring.

So what can we expect in the future of global mobility?  A Silver Revolution. The ageing workforce would be easy to overlook by simply focusing on the up-and-coming talent but what an error that would be and possibly with immeasurable loss to the organisation.  Underestimating the impact of this older, wiser, freer and culturally savvy generation is an error companies should not be willing to make. 

This article was informed by the following sources:

Seven Dilemmas Facing the Future of Global Mobility | Mercer

FUTURE OF MOBILITY – Radically simplified + Experience-centered (pwc.com)

Looking into the Future of Global Mobility | BGRS talent ∫ mobility

The future of global mobility and immigration (rsmus.com)

Five new trends of relocation that are changing the face of expat assignments | ACS International Schools (acs-schools.com)

The Forum for Expatriate Management | FEM is the only home to bring together all the news and information about global mobility in order to share, learn and grow as a community. (forum-expat-management.com)