Globally mobile workforce


Wondering if anyone can help.  I'm working for a large organisation who employ and train people in the UK for contracts in the UK and overseas, largely in the middle east.   Despite various recruitment changes and messaging, many of the people we train who signed up to an overseas scheme all decide at the end of the scheme that they do not want to work overseas. We've considered entering mobility clauses to the contracts but there are rarely enforceable.   Does anyone have any advice for creating a globally mobile workforce, both from a cultural and contractual point of view please?

Many thanks!

  • Ray Naylor

    | 2589 Posts

    Chartered Member

    7 Jun, 2017 17:32


    First of all, are you sure that your recruitment process is satisfactorily identfying identifying the underlying willingness to undertake overseas assignments? Some pretty in-depth questioning is required to establish whether they have really grapsed what it imples and thought it through - often people are attracted to the idea of going abroad, but have not really captured what it means in practice. When I worked in a major civil engineering and building company in the early days of my career, probably half of the recruitement interview was spent on this subject if the person had no overseas background.

    Secondly, once you've got people on board, then make sure you get them overseas on regular short projects as soon as is possible - preferably no later than 3-4 months into your scheme. This gets them into the habit of being overseas and seeing that this is the "normal" way of doing things in your company. It also gives them a chance to meet people in the 'real' overseas environment and these people can be your best salesmen for overseas work provided they are properly briefed on the role and the importaznce you attach to it

    Hope these simple ideas, based on my own experience, help you.

  • In reply to Ray Naylor:

    Thanks for your advice. You mention that you spend a good deal of the interview discussing overseas work; was this question based or did you use any tools to analyse people's ability to adapt to change and adapt to different cultures? what I seem to be strugglign with most is that many people sign up and genuinely want to work overseas but as time moves on, their circumstances and home life changes so when the time comes, they no longer want to work overseas. The industry involved means they need to complete approximately 4 years of training in the UK before they are allowed to work in the overseas locations.
  • Ray Naylor

    | 2589 Posts

    Chartered Member

    25 Jun, 2017 17:38

    In reply to Lauren Young:

    The company I worked with at the time trialed the DISC tool in the UK in the late 1970s and early 80s. It's real value was less about the descriptive personality content and more about using what it suggested in order to get people to talk about their behaviours and traits, giving concrete examples to support or refute the DISC analysis.
    If the time gap between arriving in your company and taking up an international activity is as much as four years, then by the time an assignment comes up, your recruits could well have become "entrenched" in a static working environment where "overseas" has become unreal. My suggestion would be, as in my original post, to find ways to expose them to the international side early and to ensure that this exposure is regular during the training and development.
    Not knowing your business (your profile is empty), I can't offer precise ideas, but maybe you could find ways to involve them in work supporting your overseas activities (projects? analysis?) with at least one operational support trip every 6 months. This will help to underline the reality of the overseas activities and remind them of where their future lies. It will also help them to better identify with your overseas staff and project themselves into the future role.
  • Keith

    | 10545 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    26 Jun, 2017 09:04

    In reply to Lauren Young:

    Just picking up on one point in your original post - if you recruit people to work overseas then I am struggling to see why you think a properly written contractual mobility clause wouldn't be enforceable? I would think any court would find it an entirely reasonable term (as that's why you recruited them).

    Of course you may lose a % along the way - but I wonder if part of the issue is that you easily allow people to stay in UK, and that's widely known now
  • Hi Lauren,
    I agree with Ray. I managed a Regional Team of Trainers, with varying commitment to travelling.
    In addition I think that training should only be provided to individuals who sign an agreement around scope of work/travel requirements and demonstrate commitment to contributing to team and the overall project objective. Also you could create a bond in the contract, so minimum travel requirement could be mandatory.
    Also recommend that you highlight that assignments are to be allocated as fairly as possible , would be negotiated as far as possible, but that service is demand-led , and travel responsibilities must be shared.

  • Mike Morrison

    | 4176 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    19 Jul, 2017 14:24

    In your recruitment process are you over selling the process? when I had to hire some internal people for a large global logistics firm that were to be treveling continously. My recruitment process was not to make the role seem interesting ,but to put people off. if they hesitated I did not select them!
    the process worked well. expectations were managed
  • Hi Lauren, Be more traspernet at the interview process with regards to the ovearseas contracts and also add that as a core requirement of the career development program if you have.
  • Glenys

    | 76 Posts

    Chartered Member

    17 Aug, 2017 12:09

    In reply to Don:

    Hi Lauren

    I had the experience of having to dismiss an employee who refused to travel, as an example for all staff.

    We had a similar set up 4 years training before being fully trained engineers. However there were some who preferred working abroad so it was left to them, rather than rotating all staff to spend some time abroad. The problems arose as people retired etc. and we didn't have enough willing staff. I reminded all staff that they would be required to travel, Held 1:1s to discuss concerns. The next time they were asked if they refused without good reason then disciplinary action was taken.
    Good luck
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