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Industry leaders' challenges for the year ahead

To mark the start of 2019, we asked several senior global mobility (GM) professionals what were likely to be their biggest challenges in the year ahead.

Talent management and employee experience

The biggest challenge for most GM managers remains the struggle to attract the right candidates for international assignments, particularly to locations seen as remote or challenging. Retaining existing talent also poses problems, prompting greater focus on talent development. Meanwhile, employee experience is becoming a key consideration for many mobility managers for the year ahead. 

Michelle Durkin, Senior Director Global Mobility at Teva said, “For Teva, one of the biggest challenges in 2019 (and beyond) will be to increase our talent management strategy.  Global mobility is an important part of Teva’s growth from within strategic direction, globalisation and talent initiatives.”

Likewise, Berna Anderson, Director of Global Mobility at BD said, “Given the continued talent shortage, I expect an increase in international foreign hires. And whilst many companies may have done the groundwork with solid policies, employee experience will be an area where global mobility can shine and provide the tools to the organization to attract & retain.”

Teams are keen to improve post-assignment retention rates too. One GM manager in Singapore commented, “The younger generation expect a promotion after they are back from assignment. They tend to resign if they are not promoted after their assignment has ended.”

With international assignments often seen as a career development opportunity, talent management and global mobility policies will become increasingly integrated.


For many GM teams, increasing use of technology in 2019 is seen as a key way of improving their employee experience. Many organisations are looking for software solutions to help GM provide a more efficient and effective service. Technology can help teams by providing accurate cost estimates quickly to support business decisions, enable more consistent application of policy, and provide automated reminders to support tax and immigration compliance. Automation can also provide opportunities for more streamlined processes for assignees and clearer communication with stakeholders.

Berna from BD sees this as a big opportunity for both GM teams and suppliers.

“The global mobility function and external vendors will need to up their game to meet expectations of a workforce that is becoming increasingly savvy with technology and expectations of it. Talking of technology, being able to produce meaningful data that ‘tells a story’ is going to be pivotal in the continued quest for that much desired ‘seat at the table’. Maybe 2019 will be the year.”

- Berna Anderson, Director of Global Mobility at BD

Business travel

At all our 2018 events, international business travel continued to be a hot topic of conversation, and it is a cause for concern for most mobility managers considering the year ahead. Nearly two-thirds of international organisations have reported an increase in the number of business trips taken and the same proportion expect them to increase again in future years. Companies have also seen growth in non-traditional assignment types such as commuter assignments and extended business trips. 

Berna from BD added, “With the rise in commuters and extended business travellers, compliance and cost will continue to be major topics.”

As international trips grow, GM teams are increasingly called upon to monitor business travel and manage immigration and tax compliance risks, providing a new challenge for managers. 

Tax and immigration compliance

Leading on from the issues surrounding business travel is keeping up with new immigration and taxation policies. Changing tax laws in China are a major issue for many of our clients, as are new tax and immigration policies in the United States. 

Catherine Jackson, Senior Global Mobility Adviser at Huntsman International said, “Other things include the tightening up of immigration, not only in the US, but in other countries, such as China.  Countries are adding new layers of taxation and bureaucracy that make international assignments less attractive and less cost efficient.”

Other countries have also introduced restrictions which can make accessing the right visas for assignees more difficult. 

Brunhilda Essoka, Head of Mobility at Sasol South Africa, said, “Acquiring work visas or work permits is a big challenge due to high national unemployment rates.

In today’s globalised world, assignees who work in multinational corporations are usually transferred between countries and need to apply for intra-company transfer visas. 

To encourage the employment of nationals, immigration laws can limit the time frame for these types of visas and they are often not extendable.

As a result, multinationals incur high costs related to taxes due to extended business travel done by assignees who are waiting to receive their work visas or who leave the host country when their work permits are not renewed but still travel there for business.”

Whatever challenges 2019 has in store for you and your team, ECA will be there to support you. 


If you are looking for a complete Assignment Management System or online calculators and tools, ECA has a solution to suit you. You can find information on our website about ECAEnterprise, our range of online calculators and tools for expatriates - or feel free to request a free demo or give us a call to discuss your requirements.

For support from our Consultancy & Advisory team, whether you are looking to implement a policy framework, benchmark assignment packages or review processes and stakeholder communication, please request a callback to speak with one of our experts.

  Please contact us to speak to a member of our team directly.

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