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During the pandemic, secondments have declined sharply, and new forms of global mobility, such as cross-border remote working, have gained importance. Our study shows that these trends will persist. It describes the challenges faced by the Global Mobility departments and presents preliminary solutions.

The coronavirus situation has greatly changed the international use of employees. The number of secondments declined significantly, and new forms of global mobility, such as cross-border remote working, gained importance. During the pandemic, many organisations have advanced the transformation of their mobility function.

How will global mobility evolve in the coming years? What will remain of the innovations and to what extent? We answer these questions in our study “There has never been so much travel: The future of mobility”, for which we conducted a quantitative survey and qualitative interviews in the first half of 2021. The participants are global mobility managers or executives, mostly from companies with more than 10,000 employees.

Key study results

Virtual mobility was already used as an alternative to physical secondment before the coronavirus. This trend has increased during the pandemic. The number of long- and short-term assignments has decreased noticeably. More than half of respondents expect the number to remain low for now or even to continue to decline.

The trend with classic business trips is even clearer: 86 percent say their number has decreased or decreased sharply. This trend will also be permanent, according to 55 percent of respondents. International remote working is becoming a sustainable part of business entities’ mobility ecosystem. Overall, about three-quarters of respondents see a growing need for flexibility in the global mobility of their employees. This requires realignment of forms of secondment and secondment policies.

Slow digitisation

The mobility function is required to maintain the balance between the business strategy and increasingly complex forms of secondment, stricter regulations, new risks, as well as new requirements of the employees amidst increased cost pressure. As a result, the role of the Global Mobility department is increasingly changing from that of an operational service provider to that of a strategic business partner.

With these difficult tasks, digital technologies will become more relevant. Nevertheless, the digitalisation of processes is much slower in Global Mobility departments than in other areas. For example, only 21 percent of respondents use an overarching mobility management technology. Many use digital tool solutions only in isolation for specific tasks.

Our “There has never been so much travel: The future of mobility” study describes how cross-border mobility is changing and what capabilities Global Mobility departments need to transform into a strategic partner in the organisation. Our experts also provide recommendations for action, for example, to reduce the risk of compliance violations in connection with secondments and to develop an effective international remote working strategy. We also discuss the topic of global payroll in detail.