Welcome to global mobility: It’s not just what you’re doing—it’s where you’re going...

28 January 2015

By Peter Clarke, Global Mobility Leader

To say I was a global neophyte when I joined PwC’s expatriate tax practice 33 years ago is a dramatic understatement. The day I walked into our office at 530 Fifth Avenue in New York City, I didn’t have a passport, I had never been out of the country, and I had never been on a plane! Less than a year later, PwC sent this kid from the Bronx on a 16-hour flight from JFK to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Tucked away in the cargo area was the ”excess baggage” I brought to the terminal that afternoon – 16 steamer trunks filled with office supplies and expatriate tax files belonging to our clients’ assignees in the Kingdom. An oil worker from Texas had befriended a very anxious me on the flight and told me that the Dhahran compound was the biggest town he ever lived in. After landing, the Pan Am 747 parked on the tarmac. As we walked out of the plane, I was hit by a wave of intense heat, infused with the most unique odor. My oil patch friend saw my reaction and poked me saying “that’s the smell of money, boy.” Thus began my global mobility journey.

Years later – with one long-term posting to London, several short-term assignments and countless business trips under my belt – my career has been enriched and shaped by my mobility experiences. As I reflect on these travels, it strikes me that I have experienced the wide diversity of mobility experiences we see in business today. The difference is that I started as a wide-eyed, global newbie with no expectations of foreign travel, much less plans to raise my young family in another country. However, today’s young professionals enter the global workforce expecting a diversity of international experiences. Many have studied or traveled abroad before starting their careers. PwC’s research shows that 71 percent of millennials expect to work outside their home country during their career and 66 percent think they need international experience to further their career.

And the organizations that I’m working with are starting to think about their longer term global talent needs. They are tapping into talent pools in emerging locations and developing new talent models – with the goal to develop an agile global workforce that can thrive in an increasingly global landscape. A one-size fits all approach is no longer valid. Traditional 3-5 year secondments are still being used, but short-term assignments and frequent business travel are increasing. Global enterprises recognize that development, mobilization and acquisition of new talent are crucial to their future success.

Since that day I first landed in Dhahran, I have been fortunate to travel the world …to live in different cultures and experience the rich diversity of the global business community. Millennials will experience a different mobility experience than I had, but it will be no less thrilling. To read more about how mobility is going mainstream, visit our new publication, Moving people with purpose: Modern mobility survey 2014.

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