Global Mobility Now: Thriving in Ambiguity
Technology has been a great enabler for the speed of change in the business environment. Being able to adapt with agility is a mandate to all organizations and people. Businesses create footprints in new locations and the speed by which talent is required is unprecedented, thus the requirement for the Global Mobility function to support our organizations has never been as challenging. Do we have the right change management skills to be the conduit for success?
In my work around the skills required by GM teams and professionals today, one important leadership skill is Change Management. Being able to thrive (not just tolerate and accept) in ambiguity is a critical success factor in change management.
Ambiguity has become more real in the COVID-19 pandemic. We have been predicting a VUCA world way before the pandemic exploded in early 2020. Needless to say, we had been warned of a world where there are limitless possibilities to where our businesses could go; where the normal is nothing we expect.
As GM professionals and leaders, we should be comfortable with ambiguity, enough to lead our organizations to navigate through this world of complex webs of international assignment requirements. How do we then help ourselves and our teams manage ambiguity?
Reducing/Managing Today's Ambiguity
Today, we are in a certain state of ambiguity where there is either a broad spectrum of outcomes or there is complete unpredictability. We need to spend time and resources in gathering information and data to narrow down the possibilities, break decision making in bite-sized, more manageable chunks. In the additional data we obtain, we can identify a hypothesis which we can test through a pilot program. Then we offer a recommendation once again.
Deloitte's Navigating the Future of Work principles accurately illustrates how we can implement this suggestion: pilot our hypothesis in the periphery of our business to make risks more manageable and avoid disruption in our core business. The periphery is an area where we can experiment safely. Then once the hypothesis works, we scale it up and apply in our core process.
We can apply this when, for example, we see that there could now be a need to include the monitoring of business travelers whereabouts as a process in our team. What type of work is required, how many more employees (if any) do we need to get this done, what are the critical steps we need in the process and where we need additional control or automation?
A quick and simple pilot can eliminate the risk of disrupting our working core processes and spending possibly long-winded research and process engineering exercise to manage the ambiguity of the results.
Thriving in Ambiguity
Finally, what it means to be able to thrive in ambiguity is that the organization or team does not only accept and successfully reacts with ambiguity; rather it means that we are able to prosper and bloom through it.
In our world, it could mean that processes and policies are built around the changing talent needs. More importantly, our people have the solid capabilities to face uncertainties .
- Ability to Take Pragmatic Action: we know the basics and we prioritize and focus on delivering this value; keep an always-wondering mind about the future, embracing short term strategies as part of the new normal
- Emotional Steadiness: we are always wanting to learn more, using our internal and external networks for insights; we are able to navigate our emotions and stay calm to be able to take the steps forward; we keep communication lines open with our team and leaders to strive for alignment until a clearer direction emerges
- Ability to Tap Into Others' Expertise: we think about what would our most admired leader do in a situation, we engage with our peers, we follow the knowledge learned from thought leaders. There is a limitless source of knowledge within our reach--books, articles, podcasts, videos and webinars--where we can learn best practices relevant to our situations.
Let's think of ourselves and the teams that we lead. Do we have what it takes as a Global Mobility professional and team to thrive in ambiguity, and lead our leaders through highly unpredictable times?
This article is entirely the work of the author and not in any way taken from companies with which she is or has been connected.
Marie is a leader of leaders, guiding teams managing the whole employee life cycle of the Asia expatriate population in Unilever. This involves working on strategies to keep the company’s policies market-competitive and improving processes with agility in an ever-changing environment. Over the course of nearly a decade, Marie has built a strong track record on global mobility policy and operations. Prior to Unilever, Marie was International Mobility Manager for Australia New Zealand Bank (ANZ) for five years and, previous to this, spent four of her 13 years in the energy company Chevron as Global Mobility Operations Counselor and Processing Supervisor. As a certified Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR), Marie is adept to global trends not only in the mobility world but in international human resources as a greater function. She also works on collaborative projects for the HR Certification Institute (HRCI).