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Putting the meaning back into Mobility – Creating a purpose-driven Mobility function

Nyhet   •   Aug 23, 2017 09:45 CEST

Mobility Thought Leadership – brought to you by Alfa – The Scandinavian Mobility Services Company

Several trends are pointing into the direction that Mobility teams need to remember again what they are here for. To thrive in the future, Mobility teams need to engage in the purpose of creating positive assignee experiences.

Let’s first look at the basic orientation of a Mobility team and how it is shaped by business demands and trends. Then, we will examine the employee engagement crisis and how purpose can positively influence engagement. Last, but not least, how to define the purpose of your Mobility team and put the meaning back into Mobility.

Basic orientation

Why are companies sending their employees around the world?

  • Leadership and management development
  • Resourcing – when a skill or experience is not locally available
  • Talent development.

All these reasons are based on company strategies to sustain and grow their business, for developing their talent, and for creating a global mindset.

This is the baseline that needs to be understood, because this is the reason for the existence of Mobility functions in organizations. The meaning of Mobility is to support the business in getting the right talent to the right place at the right time and cost, whilst providing the assignees and their families with a meaningful and positive experience.

I have come across a lot of companies, where Mobility teams saw their meaning predominantly as a struggle for compliance or something that needed to be done quicker at a lower cost. In many cases, the wellbeing of their assignees and their families were not at the top of their priority list. Their orientation shifted off the baseline.

I will never forget when I once witnessed the acceptance speech of a winner of a lifetime Mobility award. The lady praised and thanked the industry and how great it was to have spent nearly 40 years in different Mobility roles. And then came the moment that terrified me, when she added: “If there would have just not been these bloody expats”.

Let’s take a closer look at what shapes the meaning of Mobility.

Mobility faces multiple demands from various stakeholders and in addition several trends that need to be observed. Currently, the overarching ones I see are:

Recently many are talking about the increasing importance of “EX”, which is the employee experience and the new focus on talent. Becoming more strategic means engaging with other functions and being flexible in agile in organizations. While based on my observations awareness for compliance exists by now in almost all Mobility functions.

In this article, I do not want to elaborate on these demands and trends mentioned above, because you will have experienced, heard and read your share about them. Please follow the links above if you want more insights, as I prefer to you show a way to establish the right orientation for Mobility, and to be able to better cope with these demands and to excel in what you are doing.

The employee engagement crisis

Let’s look at the reality we face. Employee engagement figures have reached an all-time low, with Gallup claiming that only 13% of the global workforce are fully engaged. A recent survey of 3’000 HR leaders by Leadership IQ have shown that only 22% of companies experience better results in their employee engagement surveys years on year, showcasing that the issue of low engagement is likely not to vanish overnight.

Teams with engaged employees are known to be more successful while creating meaningful experiences for their team members. This is not only supported by research, but likely something that we have all experienced at times in our careers.

The purpose economy

Purpose is increasingly seen as something that has the unique ability to improve employee engagement besides other measures. We live in a purpose economy and the LinkedIn Workforce Purpose Index 2016 shows that 85% of companies who had a clearly articulated and understood purpose enjoyed growth while 42% of companies who did not have a purpose showed a drop in revenue.

This should not come as a surprise, because it also states that 73% of employees are satisfied with their jobs when working for a purpose-oriented company. Connecting your employees to jobs that bring out their sense of purpose will benefit not only your company but also your employees. Employees that are more satisfied and have perceived a sense of meaning in their jobs are higher performers, more productive, and likely to stay longer.

Companies have started to give themselves a purpose for customers and employees to identify with. Below are a few examples of purpose statements in various industries:

NikeTo bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world

StarbucksTo inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time

GE – Invent the next industrial area, to build, move, power and cure the world

EY – Creating a better working world

IAGTo help people manage risk and recover from the hardship of unexpected loss


Airlines – To connect people to what's important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel

Roche – Doing now what patients need next

The difference of a purpose statement to a companies’ mission statement and vision is that a purpose statement transports something meaningful, that customers and employees can agree on and identify with. The purpose statement helps these companies to increase the identification of their customers and employees, therefore supporting the attraction, engagement and retention of these people.

I was once wondering if a company’s purpose is also able to have the same effect on employees of a support function, like Mobility, to create identification with the brand and engage them in their jobs. Are some of these meaningful ideas not too far away from the daily reality of sending employees around the globe?

I decided to reach out to the undisputed thought leader for the Purpose economy, AaronHurst, CEO of Imperative and author of the book The purpose economy, and asked him if it was a fair point to develop a separate purpose for such teams in organizations wholeheartedly confirmed that this makes a lot of sense.

Purposeful Mobility Management

Putting the meaning back into Mobility suggests developing a purpose for your Mobility team to create higher engagement and performance, fostering a better employee experience and therefore increasing attraction while decreasing attrition.

While a company cannot involve all its employees in shaping a company purpose, developing a purpose for the Mobility function allows for including the whole team in the development effort. From a change management perspective, you will boost the acceptance rate and speed up the implementation having the team involved in the formulation of a purpose for themselves.

When you start developing your purpose consider that the core of a Mobility purpose statement should be based on the basic orientation of a Mobility function. If you look for something meaningful, creating a positive employee experience is likely the one to choose to be at the core of your purpose statement. It needs to be about the employees, remembering that compliance won’t make people happy, it’s a hygiene factor. Today the focus in leading companies has clearly shifted towards employee experience.

Think of the employee experience, and what during the entire employee lifecycle creates the biggest impact for employees. It’s not the recruiting process or the salary negotiations…it’s the time when they are going on an international assignment, being uprooted with their families to move into a different culture.

Having the biggest impact during the assignment process, supporting the employee experience is a crucial contribution from the Mobility team to support HR and Business Strategies. Putting employee experience at the core of the Mobility purpose statement should be a logical consequence.

Here is one example of the core of such a purpose statement:

Creating positive experiences for assignees and their families.

Consider the basic orientation of the Mobility function and then start to own it by creating your unique purpose statement. For that look at your company’s/role’s priorities, what suits your company culture and even have a look at what purpose your company has given itself (in case they have already moved beyond mission statements). Then add details to the core, decorate it. e.g. add in careers or mention the process. But make sure that they are meaningful by your team.

Having defined your own purpose as a Mobility team, also creates opportunities to communicate to the business and other internal and external stakeholders, who also have a great impact on the employee experience created.

A sound team purpose for your Mobility function/team will be appreciated by the business and support your strategic orientation.

The exercise is in the end is an opportunity to remember something that might have been forgotten. The reason why Mobility teams are there.

About the author

Chris Debner is an award-winning Mobility Expert who is providing Strategic Global Mobility Advisory and Coaching Services. He has 20 years of experience in Mobility advisory and worked in over 30 countries across all industries. Chris runs his own consultancy for Strategic Global Mobility Advisory out of Zurich, Switzerland.