Peter Clarke is a Practice Leader for PwC Global Mobility Services. He sat down with ALM Intelligence’s Matt Merker, Senior Analyst, Lead for Benefits Consulting Research, to discuss the firm’s global mobility practice. ALM Intelligence: Can you tell us about PwC’s global mobility practice? Clarke: PwC’s HR consulting capabilities are organized under one unified, global brand: People and Organization—a single global business bringing together over 10,000 people across 141 countries. Global mobility is one of the four pillars that make up the People and Organization practice. Our global mobility network of more than 7,500 mobility specialists helps companies manage the complex operational and strategic aspects of deploying an international workforce. Today, I’m proud to say we are serving more than 330,000 mobile employees from nearly 4,000 companies. We collaborate with clients of all sizes and maturity to develop a mobility strategy that addresses all aspects of their mobility program, including tax, immigration, Social Security, policy and process design, payroll reporting and global compensation collection, governance and mobility technology. ALM Intelligence: What challenges are your clients facing in this space, and how have these changed? Clarke: Mobility demographics have shifted significantly over the last few years. As the future of work evolves, so does the nature of talent mobility, in fundamental ways. Most of the growth in talent mobility is coming not from traditional expatriates, but from a variety of new mobility types—commuters, business travelers, virtual assignments, etc. The need for employees to work in a global context, beyond country boundaries, is key to the way to our clients operate. However, these new mobility types make companies vulnerable to income tax, immigration, social security, and scrutiny from corporate tax authorities. This means that companies are expected to have processes, policies, and technology in place to ensure they know where employees are, what they are doing, and that reporting requirements are met. Ultimately, it’s about helping our clients keep both compliant and agile in a time with changing mobility patterns and digital disruption. ALM Intelligence: Which regions are most challenging for mobility? Why? Clarke: Expansion into new markets creates a good number of mobility challenges, simply because many of the targeted markets are unfamiliar and difficult to enter. Participants in our recent Modern Mobility study told us that tax and immigration compliance are the main challenges to moving employees, with security considerations and pension benefits also frequently cited. Participants also said they have found most challenging locations to move people to be Africa and Asia Pacific. Everyone wants a position in London, New York or Sydney. More than 70 percent of millennials in a 2011 PwC survey said they would like to work abroad, making this one of the most important attributes for a graduate employer. The problem is that many of the markets businesses are likely to be targeting fare low down the list of the millennials’ favored destinations. ALM Intelligence: How has digital innovation impacted your global mobility consulting practice? Clarke: Digital innovation plays a critical role in how we service our clients. In an ecosystem as complex and fragmented as global mobility, use of innovative technology is essential to drive efficiency, minimize risk, and facilitate a smooth experience for both the employee and HR user. We continue to be hyper focused on innovating and are investing heavily in our digital compliance model. One key area we are focusing resources is in harnessing the full power of our data using machine learning capabilities. The very nature of machine learning allows us to make even more accurate predictions on where people may travel in the future and to predict if an employee will have a successful mobility experience. ALM Intelligence: What are some trends for employee global mobility? Clarke: No doubt, technology will continue to change the way we interact and do work. In fact, virtual and augmented reality will significantly increase the quality of our communications within the work environment. However, we believe this will not result in a corresponding reduction in the global mobility of the workforce. Why? Because millennials value experiences over everything else. Perhaps more so than any other generation of workers, millennials value the non-monetary aspects of the experiences more than compensation, giving rise to what economists are calling the “experience economy”. Thus, organizations that can offer a frictionless mobility experience that allows employees to work in San Jose, Shanghai or Stockholm will have an advantage in the war for talent. This is the future of global mobility.
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