Mobility via Podcast


Episode 13: The future reality of global talent mobility

David Mayes, a Principal of the Global Mobility Services practice, and Glen Collins from the US Mobility Consulting practice, share their observations on our recent spot survey results and the impacts on global mobility.

David H. Mayes

David H. Mayes

Principal, Tax, Global Mobility Services, KPMG US

+1 617 988 1083

Glen Collins

Glen Collins

Senior Manager, Global Mobility Services, KPMG US

+1 202-533-6238

Podcast transcript

Glen: Welcome to our next episode of Mobility via Podcast.  In our most recent podcasts, we have covered the topic of “work anywhere.”  Having to respond to what could be the fastest social change in modern times, companies worldwide in 2020 enabled remote working nearly overnight. What started as an extraordinary “work anywhere” pilot is now being considered as a permanent work arrangement for many organizations going forward.

During our discussions, KPMG has emphasized that companies need to consider turning work anywhere into a strategic opportunity to support growth and focus on how the work gets done, rather than where. We’ve also suggested that as companies begin to work through their crucial workforce alignment issues to evaluate and support a remote workforce, they need to focus on the operational and governance considerations, including areas such as corporate tax, payroll, immigration, and rewards to attract, retain and compensate their employees in a Work Anywhere environment.  KPMG describes this transformation as “Work anywhere, together.” We work extensively with companies to facilitate this transformation, helping them design and implement their remote work strategies, policies, and processes.

In October 2020, KPMG released a spot survey to the market entitled: The Future Reality of Global Talent Mobility.  The survey results from over 75 global, cross-industry participating organizations have provided KPMG with a snapshot of how these organizations are now planning for the reality of employees working anywhere and the potential impacts on their policies, business operating models and risk management frameworks, and the future impact to traditional global talent mobility.

In today’s podcast, we are joined by Dave Mayes, Principal in our Global Mobility Services practice, who is leading GMS’s Work Anywhere, Together initiative.  Dave will be sharing his observations and thoughts on some of the findings of the survey, including the prospective future impact to global mobility along with key considerations organizations need to be focusing on to attract, retain, and compensate their employees in a work anywhere environment.

Dave, thanks for joining us today.

Dave: Thank you, Glen, it’s good to be here.

Glen: Dave, right off the bat in our survey, we polled participants regarding the impacts of COVID-19 in 2020 and an overwhelming 99% reported that their organizations are currently supporting employees working from home or remotely.  How does this match with our own experience and observations to date?

Dave: That’s not too surprising, Glen.  Over the last year or so, we had been looking into our crystal ball and contemplating what the Future of Work and Future of Mobility will look like. One of the themes that was starting to emerge was the concept of a distributed workforce or as you mentioned in your introduction, “work anywhere”.

That just was a little over a year ago and at that time, everyone agreed this shift was something we could see happen over the course of, say, the next 3-5 years. What we didn’t anticipate was the rapid pace at which this would become a reality overnight. What seemed to be a slow-moving trend (particularly in emerging tech companies) has been unfolding right before us in 2020. However, due to the rapid acceleration, we have observed that most companies haven’t had the opportunity to transition to work anywhere models methodically and deliberately. 

Glen: So, Dave, can you share some of the potential considerations that organizations should be thinking of when designing and implementing their remote work strategies, policies, and processes.

Dave: Sure, Glen.  It’s become clear to us as we talk about remote work arrangements, there are several connections into a number of areas in a company. This year in reaction to COVID-19, organizations have generally started by focusing on the employee’s wellbeing….and then they looked at HOW the work is going to get done while staying connected to teams, company culture and clients. Now that the basic HR duty of care needs have been met, we are seeing a shift of focus to other operational and governance considerations such as: corporate tax, payroll, compensation and benefits, etc., As a result what we are finding is organizations have quickly pulled together task forces or working focus groups that can represent each of these functions.

Some of the functional stakeholders we see as key to these discussions include:

  • Corporate tax
  • Payroll
  • HR –
  • Comp and Ben
  • Legal
  • Finance
  • And, of course, business leaders
  • And to round this all off, another critical stakeholder not to be missed are the employees themselves

One objective of these working groups has been an attempt to align on enterprise-wide priorities and focus on potential investment.  From here, companies can build out a roadmap to execution.

Glen: Interestingly enough, when we polled participants regarding their ability to timely respond to sudden global disruptors in the future (such as economic instability, political factors, natural disasters and COVID-19) and ensure business continuity and resilience, half of participants stated that they were still not sure if their organizations would develop a more integrated operating team of these key internal stakeholder groups to support talent mobility needs. 25% confirmed that they were moving toward developing a more integrated operating team, while the other 25% said they had no plans at this time do develop such a group. 

Dave: Right, Glen, and from those organizations that have begun to integrate these stakeholder groups, HR and—in particular, Global Mobility—was most-cited as leading this initiative.  Also integral to the new operating models are Legal, Corporate Tax, and third-party immigration counsel and tax services providers.

Glen:  That seems to be a logical approach given the broader scope of talent mobility that the Global Mobility function is managing.  I should add that for organizations that are developing a new integrated risk management operating model, there was a three-way split between those currently in development and those who anticipate developing their teams within the next 6 or 12 months.

Dave: Glen, if we pause for a minute and look to traditional global mobility outside of “work anywhere” employment arrangements, could you talk about the anticipated changes to managing global talent mobility within the next 12 months?

Glen: Sure, Dave.  Many of the mobility trends and change predictions in the spot survey were essentially consistent with responses we have also received from our broader annual Global Assignment Policies and Practices (or “GAPP”) Survey.  These include:

  • Half of participants expect a decrease in long-term international assignments (traditionally defined as between 1-3 years) and similarly, a continued decrease in overall business travel;
  • Further, 90% reported the continued use of videoconferencing as a substitute for business travel, both domestically and internationally;
  • Close to half also expect an increase in the use of virtual assignments (i.e., an employee performing work remotely the same as they would have had they relocated temporarily to the host country location);
  • Nearly half expect an increase in local recruitment of talent versus moving talent temporarily on domestic and international assignments, while just over a third of respondents stated that global mobility will remain the same; and
  • Not surprising, nearly three quarters of participants predict an increase in personal moves and work from anywhere requests over the next 12 months.

Dave: Glen, these trends highlight some key areas that employers need to be thinking about.  In addition to considering key regulatory risks and establishing a cross-functional framework for managing compliance, there is a talent and human capital perspective to consider.  Identifying what job roles can be successful in a remote environment is a significant factor, which leads to reviewing the competencies needed for a specific function and perhaps re-defining roles to bring the best out of people.  Can you touch on what our spot survey findings have also revealed?

Glen:  Dave, we asked organizations if they are considering formally redefining their current job models to include work from anywhere arrangements as a permanent work option for all or a portion of their workforce.  The responses were really spread across the board.  About a third of organizations are redefining their job models for certain jobs and employee levels to include work anywhere arrangements.  The rest of the responses were largely split between no changes or not sure. I’d like to note that there’s a bit more uncertainty around the international versus domestic workforce. 

Dave:  Well, Glen, this discussion has given us a lot to think about as organizations continue to respond to the significant and rapidly changing business environment. As organizations determine how to manage their global talent mobility and business success, it’s important to remember that there isn’t one standard or singular approach that will address all these matters.  But, so far, we’ve found that a thoughtful evaluation process that brings several cross-functional teams to the virtual table to look at policy and operations and support on-going risk management is a good place to start.  And, as confirmed in our survey results, many organizations are already addressing the new future reality of global talent mobility

Glen (closing):

Dave, Thanks for joining me today to discuss the findings of our recent spot survey, which has provided additional insights to what global organizations are now considering regarding the “Future of Global Talent Mobility” over the next 12 months and beyond.  In future episodes, we’ll continue to address the top-of-mind issues of interest to our listeners. In the meantime, we’d love to hear from you.  If you have thoughts on today’s episode or ideas for future episodes, please send us an email to:

One final thanks to our audience for listening in.   

Related content