Mobility Matters

Is it time to perform a health check of your global talent mobility program?

October 2021 | by Glen Collins, Global Mobility Services, Washington D.C.

The global talent mobility function has expanded dramatically from its past focus on assisting international talent with the logistical aspects of longer-term assignment relocations, moves that frequently started and ended in the location of the organization’s corporate headquarters. The evolution of global mobility is very much in motion as functional accountabilities develop in tandem with a wide range of virtual and remote work arrangements and international business needs. 

This article provides insights into how global talent mobility (GTM) functions can adopt a more strategic role in the organization, refining GTM operating models to optimize that role, and perform a “health check” to assess where the function stands on the maturity curve.

From logistical administrator to strategic partner

Whether to mitigate risk or gain competitive advantage, the most successful companies continually adapt their own business models to meet global business needs. These adaptations often require significant shifts in workforce and in the workplace, a need that has only intensified during the current  global COVID-19 pandemic. 

The shifts that occur have direct impacts on GTM functions, which in turn, must transform in the following ways:

  • Become leaner by outsourcing high-volume administrative transactions such as tax, immigration, payroll, compensation, equity, as well as business traveler activity;
  • Adopt digital, automation, and other technologies to streamline operations and service delivery and enhance the employee experience; 
  • Collaborate with human resources on diversity initiatives, talent planning, and workforce shaping; and
  • Demonstrate to senior management and the board that there has been a significant return on investment for the company’s mobility spend.

Taking this strategic approach, the GTM function will likely be recognized as an indispensable advisor and partner to the business, playing a critical role in attracting, mobilizing, engaging, developing, and retaining global talent.

An optimized target operating model for GTM

To support a transformation from logistics administrator to strategic business partner, GTM functions should adopt a multi-layered target operating model that aligns to the organization’s overall business and talent management strategies. In our experience, such a target operating model should encompass and integrate the following six layers: 

The service-delivery layer

Involving decisions about where the global mobility function’s work is performed and by whom, this layer seeks to transition the organization from a decentralized model with staff dedicated to each business unit to a centralized and optimized model.

The people layer


As the function transitions from an administrative/transactional role to a strategic one, this layer specifies how the function will deliver services within the target operating model


The functional process layer

Going hand-in-hand with the service delivery and people layers, this layer focuses on which internal and external stakeholders will support talent mobility needs.

The supporting technology layer


This layer will examine how technology can enable a more strategic approach to global talent mobility, streamline defined processes, support policy compliance, enable internal controls, and generate on demand functional reports. 

The data and reporting layer


Talent mobility functions need to be able to rely on accurate and accessible data to support daily operations, generate key management reporting, and, together with analytics technologies, drive key talent and business decisions.


The governance and risk layer


The new target operating model will come with its own set of financial and operational risks, which must be mitigated through controls that limit potential exposure and policies that specify how the organization will manage data, processes, and reports.

Global Mobility Operating Model Maturity: A Focus on Talent Not Transactions

Fast-moving companies do not want to be bogged down in administrative transactions and therefore will typically outsource high-volume complex transactions like tax, immigration, payroll, compensation, equity, and business traveler activity, so global mobility functional members can:

— focus on providing an extraordinary employee experience, 

— participate in talent planning and workforce shaping with HR, and 

— demonstrate the strategic and operational value that the GTM function provides globally to the organization.

Further, with increasingly mobile, virtually connected workforces creating risk in areas such as tax, social security, immigration and employment laws, managing compliance will be even more challenging and the stakes will be higher for organizations to ensure global compliance. 

It will be crucial for GTM teams to monitor local country laws and keep up with any changes in their interpretation by tax and other regulatory authorities. They can then help their companies understand the compliance risks and set clear policies for employee movements, supported with clear guidance on the do’s and don’ts for avoiding exposures.

When beginning a program maturity assessment, consider the following questions:

  • How mature is your global mobility operating model in terms of meeting current and future business and talent mobility needs? 
  • Where does the global mobility function currently stand in your organization?
  • Is global mobility currently aligned to the broader talent agenda?
  • What skill sets will you need to support an optimized, digitized global mobility function?
  • What technology solutions have you considered to engage, support, and enhance your mobile talent’s experience?
  • Have you implemented automation or robotics to streamline and improve administration?
  • When was the last time that your global mobility policies were reviewed and benchmarked against current leading practices?
  • Do you have sufficient payroll system functionality to support your globally mobile talent?
  • How robust is your global-compensation collection and reporting process?
  • How do you report on program costs?
  • How do you track employee tax equalization settlement payments and receivables?
  • What type of review do you do to make sure payroll is accurate for your mobile employees?
  • What process do you go through to make sure relocation items have the correct taxability applied?Are your worldwide employee relocation costs being tracked and collated on a timely basis?
  • Do you have a global mobility transformation strategy? If so, what are your key transformation priorities?
  • How focused are you on the employee experience?
  • Bottom line, are you ready for the future?

Exploring such questions can help in identifying and assessing the broad and specific elements of your global mobility function and determine to what extent those elements are appropriately supporting the GTM function and validate whether your function is making an effective contribution to your organization’s global talent and business strategy.

A “health check” for program maturity

To determine where your global talent mobility function stands on the path toward achieving an optimized operating model for GTM, consider performing a “health check” to include at least eight key strategic and operational areas which are common to most programs [see box at right]. This assessment will provide insight into your strategic and operational strengths, as well as how your service delivery framework aligns with best practices. 

For example, organizations should evaluate how well global mobility is integrated with the organizations’ overall talent strategy, including selection and assessment processes, performance management frameworks, and career progression initiatives.

Organizations should assess their current technology framework and determine future system needs including adding additional leverage through enhanced automation, robotics and introducing artificial intelligence capabilities to enable an integrated ‘single source of data truth,’ ecosystem.

Consider assessing these key program areas:

  • Global mobility policies
  • Staffing & program administration—  Talent management
  • Cost management 
  • Payroll & compensation delivery—  Technology & reporting
  • Data & analytics
  • Third-party service providers


As global talent mobility (GTM) functions plan a pathway to developing an optimized target operating model, it is critical to plan for not only current, but also future business and talent mobility needs. But before GTM gets to that point, it is essential that the state of the global mobility program’s maturity be assessed. Key aspects of the program – its policies and processes, staffing and talent management, technology systems, how data & analytics are incorporated to support effective decision-making, etc. – should be reviewed, evaluated, and if necessary, adjusted, so that GTM is functioning as optimally as possible to best support the needs of the business. 

In today’s uncertain times, GTM teams need to mirror the flexibility and agility of the business itself: If the business undergoes a merger or acquisition, new mobility operating procedures may be brought to the table by the target company. New government regulations related to taxation or immigration are likely, particularly when administration’s change. 

The business could adopt a new payroll system or enterprise management software, which would require a change in GTM operations. And, of course, global disruptors like the current pandemic could have a dramatic impact on where and how employees work around the world. Given these complexities, the most successful GTM teams will be those that are able to function as strategic talent development and risk management partners to their organizations.

How KPMG Can Help

KPMG’s Mobility Consulting Services (MCS) professionals, part of our Global Mobility Services (GMS) practices, have significant experience assisting clients with their global talent mobility programs. For more than 30 years, KPMG has helped large and small multinational organizations administer the movement of talent globally, mitigate risk, improve employee experience, and reduce mobility-related costs through our in-depth knowledge of compliant, and leading-edge, operating and service delivery models.

We have a key focus and point of view on the future of global mobility which we bring to organizations to support their strategic business goals of fueling growth and innovation by intentionally deploying and developing their mobile workforces—helping to ensure the right talent capabilities are at the right place, at the right time as organizations transition overall from legacy tactical to enhanced global talent connectivity. 

Finally, our Global Mobility Program Health Check assessment tool can help pave the way toward a scalable and sustainable operating model aligned to the key business and talent objectives of your organization. For more information, please contact your KPMG professional and visit our KPMG Mobility Consulting Services webpage.