Is There a Crystal Ball for Talent Planning and Global Mobility?

Guest Author:
Nikki Goodstein – Cisco Systems

[Editor’s Note:  We are happy to welcome Nikki Goodstein as a Guest Author.  Nikki is a leader in Compensation & Benefits at Cisco Systems, Inc. and has a depth of experience designing and implementing global mobility programs. Before establishing the strategy and redesigning the program at Cisco, she led Global Mobility at The Coca-Cola Company. Nikki began her international HR career at Johnson & Johnson as part of their international compensation organization and has held HR roles in both the business as a generalist and in centers of excellence.]

Sorry, there is no talent planning “crystal ball,” but that does not mean you don’t need a plan!

Many companies with mature global mobility programs have evolved to measuring assignment success by leveraging available data across several key employment metrics:  performance over time, promotions/career opportunities, years with the company post repatriation, engagement scores reflecting manager performance, etc.  When consolidated into a dashboard, these metrics can help tell the story of success or challenges in your global mobility program.

But what about companies with smaller programs or less mature environments?  Many do not yet have employment metrics, or their population is too small to effectively use metrics as a tool.  What can be done to ensure that these organizations are effectively managing their talent, and properly leveraging their global mobility program as a talent strategy?

There is a simple solution: They can create a planning tool.  I favor one that is talent focused and simple – it is called “What’s Next?”  A “What’s Next?” planning tool should first gather the all of the known data on a transferring employee.

Here are the simple steps:

  • Begin by looking at past roles and discover where the employee has  been and how they progressed in their career.  Remember to consider their work history prior to joining your company, since it probably is relevant in planning their future.
  • Look at their existing role.  What was the catalyst for the move to this role?  What are some of the key competencies and skills that allow them to be successful in their current job?
  • Create some context.  In partnership with the hiring and/or sending manager, create some context around their assignment role.  Why are they going and what will they be doing?  How long should it take?  What skills will the candidate leverage and what skills do they need to acquire?  With this data, establish assignment objectives.  Assignment objectives are not the same as annual performance goals/objectives, although at times they may overlap.  Assignment objectives should be two to three concrete statements that describe success at the end of the assignment.  They can be developmental for the assignee (build an understanding of the growth opportunity in second tier China cities), they can be a critical milestone for the business (grow market share and revenue in existing markets in the Mediterranean Division by X%), or suggest an exit strategy (identify and train a successor for the General Manager role).
  • Develop “What’s Next.”  Now that you have the assignment objectives and a time frame, you can start to develop “What’s Next”.  Again in partnership with the sending and hiring manager, identify 2-3 roles that could be appropriate for the assignee when they complete the current assignment, taking in consideration the skills and competencies they have and those that they will gain.  For example, one future role might be a lateral move that gives them exposure to another product or a complex customer, another might be a promotion to lead the division that they left, and a third could be another assignment.  The key is to have 2-3 viable options.

Making It Work
Over the course of the assignment, set up periodic check-ins with the employee and the manager so you can revisit the plan and test the viability of “What’s Next” in the context of a constantly evolving organization and business environment.  Make necessary changes and keep the plan alive!  Although business climates and leadership changes can alter a plan significantly, if you have a plan, you will be able to move more effectively through the changes and ensure an assignment is successful for both the company and the employee.

What techniques have you found to be effective in managing your mobile talent?  Please share your thoughts in a comment.

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