The Crucial Role of Human Connection in Talent Mobility

WERC Staff - May 20 2024
Published in: Global Workforce
| Updated May 20 2024
REA’s 2023 global research study, “Peace of Mind on the Move,” sheds light on the intricate interplay between policy, human connection, and employee well-being.

This article is part of a recurring series highlighting recent talent mobility industry reports. If you would like the WERC editorial team to consider covering a specific industry report, email mobility@worldwideerc.org.

In a world marked by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA), the landscape of talent mobility is evolving rapidly. As organizations adapt to the changing dynamics of global workforces, the importance of understanding the transferee experience and the impact of relocation policies has never been more critical. The 2023 global research study, “Peace of Mind on the Move,” spearheaded by Heather De Cruz-Cornaire, MSc, BSc, sheds light on the intricate interplay between policy, human connection, and employee well-being.

Unveiling the Research

Initiated against the backdrop of the transformative COVID-19 pandemic, the study delved into the seismic shifts reshaping work cultures worldwide. As remote work and hybrid models gained traction, organizations began reevaluating traditional paradigms of productivity and trust. De Cruz-Cornaire, a seasoned business psychologist, leveraged a blend of quantitative insights and qualitative depth to explore the nexus of health, human connection, and resilience in the realm of talent mobility.

“We wanted to have a 360-degree view,” she says. “I didn't want a wash, rinse, repeat of big data and Likert scales. The thing is with thick data/qualitative research, it’s very organic. Most of the time, you’d start off with an objective and a vision, and everything you would do with your milestones would implement that. This is bottom up; it's the complete reverse. It ended up taking us in a direction where we knew we were going to use the key workforce trends, but we didn’t know how we were going to do it.” 

Themes of Resilience

The study identified three overarching themes: health and well-being, human connection, and resilience. While health and resilience echoed established trends in workforce discourse, the spotlight on human connection unveiled a pivotal yet often overlooked dimension. Human interaction emerged as a linchpin for positive experiences amid the digital deluge, offering a sense of belonging and support crucial for navigating the tumultuous waters of global relocation.

“The human connection element is what evolved as a missing link from the big data trends we were seeing,” De Cruz-Cornaire says. “When I coded the data, what I found was that the implication of human connection—when it was present—was so positive, it made people buoyant; it helped them feel valued; and it made them feel connected. But when it wasn't there, especially in a situation of global mobility, these people were isolated.”

The Psychological Contract

Central to the discourse is the concept of the psychological contract—a tacit agreement imbued with implicit expectations and promises. As De Cruz-Cornaire says, these covert agreements shape employee perceptions and experiences, often influencing their sense of belonging and well-being.

“The psychological contract is everywhere,” she says. “It's all around us. You might call them hidden promises.” 

The study underscored the critical role of the psychological contract in fostering positive transferee experiences, highlighting the need for organizations to align policy with implicit employee expectations.

“For assignees, there were hidden expectations of families that were moving post pandemic; they had a hidden belief that their health and well-being was going to be priority number one for their companies, but it wasn't,” De Cruz-Cornaire says. “The spouses that were answering our surveys shared that nobody asked them about anything about their careers. A lot of them were just not part of the mobility equation. That’s where the psychological contract comes in. Research shows that if there is support in place for the spouse, there will be a positive impact on the experience of the assignee and the productivity of the assignee as well.”

Balancing Automation With Humanity

In an era dominated by digital automation, organizations grapple with striking a delicate balance between efficiency and empathy. As the workforce tilts toward a millennial majority, demands for personalized, human-centric policies intensify. De Cruz-Cornaire suggests there will be a paradigm shift toward employee-driven policies, where health and well-being occupy a central stage. Embracing Industry 5.0 entails a relational approach to the psychological contract, fostering loyalty and engagement through sustained improvements in policy and practice.

Fulfilling Duty of Care

Against the backdrop of VUCA, organizations confront a daunting mandate: fulfilling duty of care obligations toward globally mobile workforces. Listening to employee voices and embedding health and well-being at the core of policy emerge as foundational imperatives. Moreover, extending support to accompanying partners and families underscores a holistic approach to talent mobility—one that transcends transactionalism to embrace the nuances of human experience.