A VISION ON #5
MOBILITY JANUARY 2010
The emergence of an international mobility
culture among young graduates is good news for
the HR departments of major groups that have to
deploy talents worldwide. However, experts and
practitioners stress the need for corporations to
harmonise mobility policies with their managerial
style, as it is also the organisation’s values that
are shared via its expatriate employees.
Franck Bournois, Fabrice Bouchaud, Hubert Krieger,
Professor at Panthéon-Assas Schlumberger group’s Research Manager
Paris II University and Director HR Director Practice at the European Foundation
of the HR school CIFFOP and Transactions
The top manager’s "Mobile"… Even in their "Let’s draw inspiration
journey of initiation own country! from Erasmus"
An ADP publication
The top manager’s journey of initiation
Working abroad is a vital stage in any future manager’s career,
according to the co-author of "Comités exécutifs" (Executive
committees). But it is not enough in itself. HRMs need to view
mobility from the geographical, functional and divisional points
of view. At the same time, incentive policies must be in line with
a company’s principles of governance.
Mobility has become a prime objective for career development, mobility needs to be
HRMs. But what is the real challenge? promoted in three directions. First, it is good
The main aim of large groups is to secure for a future manager to cultivate his talents
the talented people they need to manage in several different countries. But to hone his
their units and subsidiaries, especially after general management skills, he must also cross
a takeover. The challenge comes in sharing the boundaries between sales and marketing
the group’s strategic vision, culture and type activities, accounting and finance, functional
of governance. Expatriate managers must and operational aspects and so on… Lastly,
of course immerse themselves in the culture if he is to take the group’s strategic vision
of their adopted country, but this is of little forward one day, he needs to be able to move
benefit if at the same time they do not display from one business area to another. HRMs,
a real aptitude for general management therefore, need to promote mobility on three
and a full understanding of all the different fronts: geographical, functional and divisional.
functions within the company… And making sure that each stage of a
manager’s career features at least two of these
So geographical mobility alone is not the be-all is no easy task.
It is obviously relevant in the case of an expert Moving abroad can also be quite nerve-
who is required to contribute specific expertise wracking. You know when you are leaving but
to a subsidiary. But as regards a manager’s not necessarily when you will return… nor
under what circumstances…
A number of misadventures have made the
Frank Bournois is a Professor at Panthéon-Assas Paris II situation look blacker than it really is. Take
University and Director of the Centre Interdisciplinaire de for example the case of expatriate managers
Formation à la Fonction Personnel (CIFFOP). He lectures at working for joint ventures in which their group
a number of prestigious universities (Oxford, Cranfield, Utah, is a minority partner. They in fact change
Liverpool) and has been responsible for the creation of several employer and HRIS. Their return home
professional degree courses, including the "Master of International becomes something of a hit and miss affair!
Human Resources Management". To encourage mobility, the first golden rule
is, therefore, to ensure that the dates and
Frank Bournois advises the boards of management of several major
conditions for an expatriate’s home-coming are
groups (L’Oréal, Bouygues, EADS, etc.), in particular in spotting top-
clearly defined. This is what Renault did very
flight managers. A former auditor of the French National Defence
early on. In this way, the expatriate returns
Studies Institute, he holds degrees in law and management science,
a doctorate in management from the University of Lyon and an MBA
home in a stronger position – provided, of
from Aston University. course, that he has been successful.
To what extent should incentive policies
and accompanying measures be tailored to
The important thing is that an incentive policy
HRMs need to needs to be in tune with a company’s method
promote mobility of governance. In “mechanistic” organisations,
where the culture of procedures predominates
on three fronts: (as in many Anglo-Saxon groups), job banks
play a vital role and annual interviews ensure
geographical, that expectations are fed back to HRISs.
functional and Everything is done to facilitate the law of supply
and demand. Some major companies, such
divisional” as EADS, have extremely advanced methods
for assessing and measuring mobility. Career
paths are analysed from all three standpoints:
geographical, functional and divisional.
is a Professor at Panthéon-
Assas Paris II University and In contrast, nothing could be worse than
Director of the HR school introducing complicated processes into “organic”
CIFFOP. organisations with a culture of networking
and informal contacts. At L’Oréal, for example,
verbal agreements are more important than
People willing to move abroad no doubt have formal procedures. A manager at the head office
different expectations depending on their age meets a young German who has been working
and position… in a Portuguese subsidiary for four years and
Obviously you do not approach a 25-year-old who would be ideal in a team in Britain…
volunteering to work abroad in the same way Spontaneously, he talks to people around him,
as a 30-year-old manager with two young contact is made and everyone seems to be all for
children or a senior manager whose children it… so it is time to contact the HRM. Two months
have left home. Just because a young single later, the young talent has moved from Lisbon to
agrees to work in India for a few months Brighton…
doesn’t mean he is always going to be “mobile”.
Two or three years later you may find he has How can you measure the dividends from
become a real stay-at-home! At the very best, someone working abroad?
he may agree to move if his wife comes with The company can measure them in the very
him and can also find a good job. short term, by capitalising as quickly as possible
It is also essential to distinguish between on the experience gained by the expatriate. As
those managers who have a real pioneering soon as he returns, he should be offered new
mentality, ready to go anywhere in the world responsibilities or move on to the next stage in
to plant the company’s flag1 and those who his career. Indeed, if it is to be profitable, the
will only accept to go to well-established company’s mobility policy must go hand in hand
subsidiaries in selected countries2. HRISs with a real commitment to ensuring staff loyalty.
nationals provide invaluable service in helping to On the strength of their experience abroad,
host-country identify the right career paths and spot the one today’s managers are quite capable of devising a
managers in a million… fourth form of mobility: changing employer!
Frank Bournois has authored or co-authored numerous works, including:
L’intelligence sportive au service du manager (What managers can learn from athletic intelligence) (2009).
Le grand livre du coaching (The coaching manual), Paris, Éditions Eyrolles (2008)
Comités exécutifs – voyage au cœur de la dirigeance, (Executive committees – journey to the heart of executive governance) Paris, Éditions Eyrolles (2007)
A Even in their own countr
t the forefront of Schlumberger’s
77,000-strong workforce is a group
of 9,000-10,000 engineers. These
senior technical employees provide top-level
expertise to the oil industry at exploration At oil sites throughout the world, Schlum
and production sites around the world. From
Turkmenistan to the coasts of Angola via
is banking on the "world class" of its eng
the Indonesian jungle, they clearly bear the Neither locals nor expatriates, these
Schlumberger hallmark. qualified engineers never lose their mobile
4,000 foreign postings a year even in their own country.
When an American supermajor is looking
for a well manager, it prefers an American.
A national oil company, on the other hand,
will prefer to work with people from its own
“Our clients want people who are like them”
says Fabrice Bouchaud, the Schlumberger
group’s HR Director Practice and Transactions. Those who lea
However they are uncompromising when know we are
it comes to expertise, of course. All these
engineers, wherever they are working, must good care of t
be familiar with the same leading-edge
technologies and the same quality standards
as those used in the North Sea or in the Gulf of
Mexico. Mobility is the key to getting the right
blend of expert skills and local knowledge.
To nurture such talent, Schlumberger has
introduced a specific international programme Schlumberger group’s
geared to mobility and a special status, HR Director Practice
that of “International mobile,” enabling and Transactions.
4,000 engineers to change country each
year. “Mobility and diversity are core values know-how. “The programme is highly
of our business model, and at this level of structured, and their skills are constantly
performance, they also give us a competitive monitored,” stresses the HR Director.
edge” adds Fabrice Bouchaud.
But for all of this, mobility is not an obstacle
International locals to building close working relationships with
Engineers develop an international mindset clients. After his initial training in various
right from the time they enter Schlumberger. parts of the world, a Schlumberger engineer
They begin by spending three months in one from Brazil may be offered his first job as an
of the group’s eight training centres in France, Account Manager in his own country. Once
the United States, the United Arab Emirates or he has gained a thorough grounding, he will
even Siberia. They are then assigned to their be assigned to one of the same company’s
first jobs in at least two different locations. sites abroad, only to come back later in a
Further courses over a period of 36 to 40 more senior position. “The ultimate aim of
months help them to build on their technical our policy is to develop this kind of profile,
gineers. which combines international experience and
understanding of our clients’ specific cultures,”
An HRIS designed accordingly
The HRIS must be able to cope with this
highly explains Fabrice Bouchaud. model. A local HR manager wishing to fill
e status, Resident status
a post has access to all the information he
needs on employees who are available, have
The status of “International mobile” is at the the right skills, and whose career aspirations
heart of the concept. It allows Schlumberger match the job. He can suggest three profiles
to do away with the notion of expatriation. to the manager concerned. Once the choice
Mobility becomes second nature to its is made, all he has to do is get in contact
engineers. Whether they are working in their with the candidate’s current manager, who
home country or abroad, they are considered to should be easy to persuade as he will already
be “resident”, which strengthens their relations have benefited from the same mobility model
with clients. There is no possible confusion with himself. Schlumberger stresses personal
ave the “commuters”, those technicians dispatched development whenever such transfer decisions
taking on operational assignments at offshore sites or are made. “If several candidates have the
in remote parts of the world. At Schlumberger same qualifications, the job will go to the one
them” such technicians are, almost without exception, who will benefit the most by it,” affirms the
the only ones to make regular round trips HR Director. “Unlike others, we have a policy
between their home country and the country to with no commitment to come back. But those
which they are assigned. who leave know we are taking good care of
When “International mobile” engineers reside
outside their home countries, they benefit from
a comprehensive package paid in dollars. It is SCHLUMBERGER
the same for everyone, with a coefficient being Schlumberger is the leading oilfield services
applied depending on local living conditions. provider to oil and gas companies around the world.
This makes it much easier to manage mobility Through its well site operations and in its research
between one country and another. “When we and engineering facilities, the company develops
suggest transferring someone to Venezuela, he products, services and solutions to optimise customer
doesn’t have to worry about what will happen performance in a safe and environmentally sound
to his future retirement benefits or health manner. Fields of activities include drilling, well
coverage.” testing, production optimisation, subsea solutions...
Schlumberger operates in 80 different countries
“International mobile” engineers working
and employs 77,000 employees of 140 nationalities.
in their home countries enjoy specific pay
The company’s operating revenues amounted to
conditions and benefits, midway between those
$27.16 billion in FY08. In 2008, Schlumberger
for local employment and expatriation. “This
invested $818 million in R&D.
package is designed to make sure they are
willing to return home without losing out too
much, but also to make sure they are willing to
go abroad again,” points out Fabrice Bouchaud.
Coming home simply paves the way for leaving
"Let’s draw inspiration from Erasmus"
No more than 0.5% of working-age Europeans move to a
different country in any given year. However, the research
manager of Eurofound notes the emergence of a mobility
culture among young people thanks to foreign study
programmes such as Erasmus. Why not make schemes of
this type available throughout our working lives?
Why is the European Union (EU) keen to promote States who move to a different state. But
cross-border professional mobility? the perception that “Americans are movers,
Firstly, remember that the right to live and Europeans are stayers” can be misleading.
work in another member state lies at the heart Reality is more complex: a European who
of the European ideal. Looking beyond this moves from Helsinki to Barcelona has to adapt
institutional aspect, worker mobility must help to a different language, culture, labour market,
promote a better match between labour supply social security system, etc. An American who
and demand on local markets. And lastly, it moves from Los Angeles to New York stays
boosts competitivity in a rapidly changing in the same country with the same language
globalised world where a high degree of and the same labour legislation – a far simpler
flexibility is a must. proposition.
Are Europeans sufficiently mobile, from this According to your studies, what are the main
point of view? barriers to mobility within the EU?
Not particularly, if you compare them with US The primary factor that puts Europeans off
citizens. Four percent of Europeans have lived moving abroad is the fear of leaving family
in another EU country at some point, whereas and friends. Next comes the fear of losing the
32% of Americans live outside their home state. practical support of their social ties, learning a
In terms of flows, 0.5% of the EU working-age foreign language, and coping with the housing
population moves to another member country conditions and healthcare system. Indeed, most
each year, compared with 1.9% in the United companies compensate for these aspects via
their expat packages. But the fact remains that
Europe still lacks a real mobility culture.
Dr. Hubert Krieger is Research Manager in the "Living
Conditions and Quality of Life" unit of the European What prompts the people who do consider
Foundation, based in Dublin, Ireland. He focuses more moving abroad?
specifically on quality of life and migration in the EU. His role is The top three driving forces that they cite
notably to provide information, expertise and advice to EU policy include discovering somewhere new, earning
makers and governments. more money and enjoying better working
Dr. Krieger previously worked for seven years as a policy adviser conditions. Better weather and meeting new
in Bonn for national and regional governments. He holds a people are also popular reasons. These are
Master’s in economics and sociology from the University of factors that companies should consider when
Cologne, a PhD in labour market economics from the European looking to set up in a new place. To attract
University Institute in Florence, and a Master’s in social policy applicants from a wide range of geographical
from University College Dublin. areas, they should choose locations with
pleasant living conditions, and where it will
for part of their studies, youngsters develop the
that is so lacking mobility culture that is so lacking in their elders,
and hence shed any fear of moving abroad before
in their elders” they even start their professional career. Erasmus
is the best thing that Europe has done to promote
mobility. Plus the single currency, of course...
Hubert Krieger, Research
Manager at the European Can Europe really do more?
Foundation. Be careful there! Doing “more” is not an end
in itself. The long-term side-effects of mobility
need to be examined. For instance, policies
not be a problem to find accommodation. that encourage mass migration in new EU
They should give preference to multicultural, members can result in a brain drain or a youth
cosmopolitan cities where expats will quickly drain, thereby leading to an irreversible social
settle or even feel at home. imbalance. If an entire younger generation were
to leave a country, who would be left to look after
Is there a typical profile for the mobile European? their parents after they retire? So the important
Without a doubt, young people are the most thing is to do better, with targeted mobility.
mobile with 4.7% of 25 to 39-year-olds having
already lived in another EU country. The figure So what do you recommend?
drops to 4.3% for people in the 40-54 age Both institutions and companies can draw
bracket and 3.9% for those the over 55. Another inspiration from Erasmus. Why not expand
key factor is the level of education. People with this kind of exchange programme to continuing
degrees are twice as likely to move abroad as vocational training? It would also be pertinent
those with intermediate or low skill levels. And to develop an EU-wide jobs market, by forging
that is true regardless of the country. One might closer links between employment agencies in each
think that the new EU member states would lose country. How can you be mobile if you don’t know
mainly low-skilled workers, and yet studies show what jobs are on offer elsewhere? Companies
that it’s their graduates who are most likely to of any size have their part to play by taking
leave. foreigners on work experience placements, for
How do you explain this mobility among young
Europe is reaping the benefits of its international
exchange programme, Erasmus. By going abroad
As part of his work, Dr Krieger has contributed to a wide variety of publications:
Geographical mobility in Europe and its relevance for the social partners, Eurofound conference (2008).
Labour mobility in a transatlantic perspective, Eurofound conference report (2007) .
"Handbook on quality of life in the enlarged European Union", chapter 15 on Migration and mobility culture, Routledge publications.