Interview with Chris Debner : How to organise your Global Mobility Function ?


Award-winning Global Mobility Thought Leader, Chris Debner, has helped more than 100 Mobility functions in over 30 countries to overcome their Mobility challenges and increase their strategic relevance.


Didier Hoff, UniMobility's Head of Center of Excellence, sat down with Chris to discuss the need for companies to organise their Global Mobility function in light of the rise of on demand workforce. As a reminder, according to a 2016 Accenture Study 43% of the US workforce will be comprised of freelancers in 2020 and this trend is quite markedly impacting HR departments and internal Global Mobility functions across the globe. 1) How do you see the rise in flexible workforce affecting the way Global Mobility departments are being organised ?


If HR were athletics, Mobility would be the decathlon. As a consequence of so many different skillsets being required, Mobility today typically already uses more specialist external providers than HR (e.g. tax, relocation, immigration, language, culture etc.). Given the volatility of the Mobility business (changing assignee numbers, busy compliance seasons) it makes good sense for Mobility to increase their outsourcing degree. If you ask yourself the 3B question - Buy (hire), build (develop) or borrow (flexible workforce), you will likely come to the conclusion that the use of freelancers or providers makes the most sense. This will become evident in terms of assignment management outsourcing as well as with the use of specialist freelancers to help you during a busy season or during a Mobility transformation to become more efficient and cost-effective.

A collateral result is that while the entire company increases their use of a contingent workforce, some of it will also be cross-border. Thus in this case Mobility will have to take care of the compliance requirements of the cross-border freelancer, acting as contractors.

2) So, do you think that a Head of Global Mobility can be a contractor ?


The answer depends on the size of the organisation. For a multinational with a large number of expatriates, since a Head of Mobility is in charge of the execution of the company’s Mobility Strategy, it makes little sense to outsource this position. However, for small organisations with a fewer number of expatriates, it may make sense to have an external experienced contractor managing the expatriates on behalf of the company.

3) How do we maintain cohesion within an organisation when employees work with external contractors ?


I see a shift towards stronger provider partnerships in the future, where finger pointing will become a thing of the past. In a project meeting, for example, you may have a 50 / 50 mix of in-house Mobility sitting and providers and freelancers. Focusing on the same goal, the fact that half of the participants are not on the same payroll will be quickly forgotten. There are numerous examples of companies who successfully increase their use of flexible workforce without encountering any issues.

4) What advice should be given to a Head of Global Mobility to better facilitate the staffing of his/ her department ?

A Head of Mobility should consider the whole assignee life cycle and decompose the work that is being done by Mobility around that. He/she should then ask himself/herself the buy, build or borrow question. The Head of Mobility should decide on the best approach for each activity focusing on determining whether it needs a specialist input and/or is volatile. He then must decide on whether to maintain an in-house versus using external workforce.


In addition it will be important to gain a thorough understanding of the growing market of freelancers and providers in Mobility.



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