Mobility and millennials

With millennials now dominating the workforce, it’s time for organisations to align their mobility approach with the unique demands of this generation
By: | June 19, 2018 • 6 min read


The millennials have arrived in the workforce, and they aren’t going anywhere — at present, they comprise the largest demographic of most workforces around the world. They have certainly already changed much about the way we work, with their digital savvy and preference for flexible working.

“This year, we expect millennials to have an even greater influence on mobility trends,” says Lisa Johnson, Global Practice Leader – Consulting Services of Crown World Mobility. “Talent has arguably never been more globally mobile than it is today, and millennials are hungry for international experiences.”

With this new generation comes the need for a fresh approach to old ways of doing things. In the area of mobility, several millennial-driven trends have already emerged – such as the rise of employee-initiated moves.

Even as multinational companies use international assignments as a way to groom leaders, workers themselves are taking the initiative to gain overseas experience. Millennials are even taking it into their own hands, as online travel platforms such as Airbnb and Kayak make do-it-yourself and low-cost adventure moves all the more reachable for the average person.

But with this comes an increased focus on risk management – Johnson says that more than half of multinational companies now have employee-initiated mobility policies. These can provide updated provisions for lump sums and cash allowances, and also go hand-in-hand with risk management steps such as the use of security or travel-tracking technology.


A smaller world

Medium-term international assignments are also on the rise. Millennials, after all, are well known for their preferences for accelerated career progression; frequently spending two or so years in a role or organisation before moving on. Expecting the younger generation of workers to spend five years on an overseas assignment might, as such, be a tall order. Beyond just shortening such assignments to two or three years, companies can start to consider short-term assignments that last anywhere from one to six months.

“[Organisations should] expand the mobility team’s activities into new areas, including frequent business travellers, commuters, and extended business trips. These types of moves are difficult to track and often managed at local or regional levels, but in the mind of millennials, the barrier between extended business trips and short-term and between a short term and a long term assignment is tenuous,” suggests Olivier Meier of Mercer in the advisory firm’s The Future of Global Mobility: Seven Dilemmas report.

Given the millennial focus on career progression, it’s worth taking the time to integrate development plans with overseas moves and assignments. Milestones and learning targets are straightforward ways to provide a sense of structure.

Millennials are also frequently labelled as ‘digital natives’. Whether this is accurate or not, it’s certainly true that digitalisation and digitisation are unavoidable in this day and age. Technology has helped the world become a smaller, more connected place. In this context, digital transformation needs to also integrate with the mobility function.

“Reactive communication pushed via email will no longer meet the needs of a generation used to instant 24/7 access to information via smartphones, chat-bots, and self-service solutions,” suggests Meier.

Even as the world has become smaller, workers have become more knowledgeable about lands beyond their shores – Google Maps and Instagram make it seemingly easy to find out more about other countries and cultures.

Unfortunately, this might lead to some level of a mismatch between locations that workers want to experience, versus where they are needed by their organisations. As such, organisations should expect to do some amount of storytelling and narrative-crafting to detail what employees can and will get out of an overseas assignment.

“The appeal of an assignment destination can stem from various factors: direct career and learning opportunities, business networking (for example, being at the heart of operations and involvement in critical projects – an indirect boost for the career and a way to accelerate learning), financial benefits (such as pay, tax, and saving opportunities), quality of living, the possibility to integrate into local life and contribute to the society, lifestyle, and personal family considerations,” says Meier.


Moving jobs to people

A PwC survey of 9,000 women in more than 70 countries showed that more than seven out of 10 female millennials (including 82% in Singapore) want to work abroad during their career – but only 20% of the current internationally mobile population are women.

In PwC’s subsequent Modern Mobility: Moving Women with Purpose report from 2016, the top three barriers cited for this phenomenon were: women with children not wanting to take on international assignments, organisations not having a clear view of which employees are willing to be mobile, and women not wanting to risk losing their spouse’s higher income.

Yet making international assignments friendlier to female needs might prove helpful for everyone, not just women. Yvonne McNulty, a researcher at the Singapore University of Social Sciences, recently told Quartz that the most successful relocations for couples happen when it is the woman who has been offered the job.

“Women expats look at it far more holistically in terms of money and relationships or family wellbeing and career. If one of those is off, they don’t do the relocation, because they know that success will only happen when all three are in place,” she said.

As such, compensation packages are a vital aspect to re-examine. Crown World Mobility’s 2018 Global Mobility Trends also points out that “family” means different things to different cultures, and that companies should be open-minded in this respect. In Asia, particularly, it might be beneficial to include the parents of employees when crafting mobility policies.

But the conversation about diversity and mobility has larger implications for the contemporary understanding of what it means to work.

“Whether or not to move jobs to people and how to do it is an entire dilemma in itself… This is something that needs to be considered as part of the decision process when an assignment is planned. The equivalent of working from home for globally mobile millennials is allowing assignees to work from a third country that might not be either the home country or a host location,” notes Meier.

During a panel discussion at HR Summit & Expo Asia last month, Stephen Brown, HR Director for Asia-Pacific at Rolls-Royce, highlighted that organisations need to start seriously thinking about “bringing jobs to people”, rather than the reverse.

“The days when you could tell someone to pack their suitcase and move to Outer Mongolia tomorrow are gone. We’ve got to be more open-minded about where global roles and regional roles can be done from. We talk a lot about how digital enables us and is changing the workforce, but still insist on certain jobs being done in certain locations,” he said.

“I’ve been in organisations where one of the tick boxes when applying asks, “Are you mobile?”. But with the way the world is moving, you need to go where the talent is and create jobs that can be done pretty much from everywhere,” agreed Aditi Madhok-Naarden, another panellist at the session, and HR Director for Asia-Pacific at The Body Shop,

“Obviously you can’t do that with every job, such as one in a factory, but if you find someone who is really talented, instead of thinking, ‘we can’t hire them because they can’t be mobile’, I think it’s time for organisations to start thinking, ‘Does this job really need to be done in Singapore? Can it be done where the talent is?’” she added.

At the end of the day, it’s all about bringing on, and keeping talent – and companies that can recognise the changing needs and preferences of the millennial workforce are likely to stay on top of the game.

Marketplace – Mobility

SIRVA Worldwide

SIRVA delivers customised relocation and moving solutions that satisfy the needs of clients and their people in the highest quality and most efficient way – wherever they do business. Offering an extensive portfolio of mobility services across 204 countries and territories, Sirva provides end-to-end solutions and delivers an enhanced mobility experience for clients and their people.

Sirva has a portfolio of well-known and recognisable brands including Allied, northAmerican, Smartbox, and Allied Pickfords.


Cartus Relocation Services

Cartus has more than 60 years of demonstrated solutions and satisfied clients. Our services cover every phase of the relocation process, from selling a home, and shipping household goods, to settling in and adjusting to new communities. And our relocation services are as flexible as they are varied. We understand that relocation, can be a stressful experience. So no matter which of Cartus’ many levels of assistance you select for your employees, they’ll have one-on-one support from a personal relocation consultant throughout.


Fraser Suites Singapore

Nestled in a prime residential district, Fraser Suites Singapore is only a short distance from Orchard Road, Singapore’s renowned shopping destination, as well as the Central Business District. The vibrant riverside corridor of Clarke Quay and Boat Quay hosts of a myriad of theme restaurants, al fresco dining, chic cafes, pubs and specialty shops are also located close by, while Changi International Airport is only a 30-minute car ride away.

The location, service, and hospitality make Fraser Suites an ideal accommodation option for any assignee in Singapore.


Winsland Serviced Suites

Winsland Serviced Suites offers a relaxing, tranquil environment for travellers seeking short- or long-term accommodation in the heart of Singapore. Inside, you’ll find newly renovated, spacious suites with a modern look inspired by nature. Outside, an abundance of exciting shopping, dining, and entertainment options wait just a block away on Orchard Road, while the nearby Somerset MRT Station offers easy access to the rest of the city. For a relaxing home away from home for your staff, look no further than Winsland Serviced Suites.


The Ascott Limited

The Ascott Limited is a member of CapitaLand. It is one of the leading international serviced residence owner-operators with more than 500 properties in over 130 cities spanning more than 30 countries across the Americas, Asia-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East. Its portfolio of brands includes Ascott, Citadines, Somerset, Quest, The Crest Collection and lyf.

In Singapore, Ascott currently operates six serviced residences including Ascott Orchard, Ascott Raffles Place, Citadines Fusionopolis, Citadines Mount Sophia, Somerset Bencoolen and Somerset Liang Court.