08 Aug 2019  ·  5 min read

Stefan van Tulder Lucas Wilegoda

Attracting global talent in the age of employee relocations

International status and a global stream of revenue are key goals of the modern company. Workforce mobility can allow an organization to meet such targets while making the most out of their talent pool at the same time. However, leaving the city and office where they are based is no easy choice for employees. Some weeks ago, we discussed how cultural and geographical factors play a role in shaping relocation decisions. But how do companies make sure that they are able to attract and retain workers with an international profile?

The career goals of internationally-oriented talent

We tried to answer this question by looking into our data. We found that mobile workers (i.e. those who are willing to relocate for their job) differ substantially from grounded ones in the way they think about their career, and in what they expect from their professional lives. To begin with, it appears that when asking employees with an international profile about their ultimate career goals they will give significantly different answers compared to their counterparts.


With more than twice as many mobile workers wishing to become the owners of their own businesses, and grounded workers almost three times more likely to be waiting for the day in which they will quit working for good, the contrasts between the two groups appear striking.

Mobile workers, a larger proportion of which is also interested in becoming an executive manager (31.25% against 27.52% for grounded employees), appear to be characterized by stronger ambition. They are professionals who seek to reach the top of the corporate hierarchy or to become entrepreneurs.

What do mobile workers want from their job?

The correlation between being willing to relocate and the desire to start a business is a sign of mobile workers’ inclination to make the most out of the growth opportunities offered by their employers, in order to reach the necessary maturity to achieve their professional goals. This chart, showing reported interest in some development opportunities, provides some evidence in favor of this theory.


Figure 1. Share of respondents that are “Extremely interested” or “Very interested” in the offering of “learning opportunities”, “internal networks”, and “mentorship programs”.

“Learning” and “internal networking” opportunities interest a larger proportion of the mobile workers. The difference between the two groups’ interest for “mentorship programs” is the widest. As mobile workers have high expectations for their careers, they value the guidance of senior employees who might know how to prepare them for the next steps of their professional lives. We therefore recommend organizations willing to attract mobile talent to make sure they can offer opportunities for professional growth that appeal to these ambitious workers.

Which specific characteristics should a job have in order to attract mobile workers?

Again, data is here to help us. We asked the professionals in our dataset to distribute 100 points across ten job characteristics so that we could observe what they value the most. Here is what we have found.

At the top of the list, we find “compensation and financial benefits”. Mobile workers are not afraid of challenges and they are on a constant process of professional growth. They create value for their employers and they want their salary to reflect that. At the second and third spot of the standing, we find “autonomy” and “creativity”. Employees who are willing to relocate see the office as a place where they can sharpen their skills, and in order to do so they want to be free to figure out things by themselves and to apply creativity and be innovative.

Creating a workplace tailored to mobile workers’ needs

Ambition, together with a predisposition for change and a hunger for professional development, is what distinguishes mobile workers. Their positive attitude towards relocation stems from the desire to measure themselves in new and challenging environments and, ultimately, become better professionals. Mobile workers are dedicated employees who are willing to move away from family and friends in order to have a fulfilling and successful professional life. Our data shows that mobile workers are beasts of burden, sacrificing part of their personal lives in exchange for acquiring new knowledge and skills. Companies wishing to attract these talented individuals should make sure they can reward this. A good compensation package and a clear and meritocratic way to the top of the organization are excellent ways to do so. Furthermore, providing mobile workers with the right development opportunities will help.

In sum, if you want to attract people wishing to trade their home for yours you should make sure you have the right facilities and attraction factors for them.

This article is one of many examples of how data analytics can be used to draw useful insights in the talent management field. If you wish to know more on how you can start building and implementing a data strategy within your company, you can reach us at [email protected]

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