‘Unraveling the Intricate Balancing Act’: Results from the Cartus Global Talent Mobility Survey 2024

WERC Staff - Jun 10 2024
Published in: Global Workforce
| Updated Jun 10 2024
This year portends to be one of challenges and opportunities for the talent mobility industry, according to findings from the Cartus Global Talent Mobility Survey. Cost pressures are competing with sustaining employee needs, while technology must coexist with human ingenuity, and the industry at large must do its part to promote and maintain an inclusive workforce knowledgeable about its impact on the planet. 

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. 

Cartus’ Global Talent Mobility Survey 2024 draws on responses from 138 global respondents to “unravel the intricate balancing act of dichotomies that define the current corporate relocation landscape,” the report says. More than two-thirds of participants, most of whom work within the global mobility or relocation function at their organization, said that their mobility volume has increased or stayed the same over the past two years. Activity has mainly been driven by a lack of local talent, company growth, and expansion into different markets. For the remainder who have seen a drop in activity, “cost containment strategy” was listed as the primary reason by a vast majority.

Cost Pressures

Forty-five percent of respondents listed rising mobility costs as a key challenge. Closely tied to cost containment was the top mobility priority this year: “improved mobility processes and optimization.” This encompasses things like talent and management, as well as managing workforce resources. “The best ways for organizations to identify innovative ways to enhance their program and achieve cost savings will be to approach a policy review with an open mind, combined with creative thinking and stakeholder input,” the report says.

Employees at the Center of Transformation

Improving the employee experience was listed by 45% of respondents as a key priority for the year. “In the wake of the pandemic’s transformative impact on work culture, organizations face new requirements in meeting their employees’ expectations, and not exclusively those from younger generations,” the authors of the report note. Over six in 10 of those surveyed are contemplating a mobility policy review this year, with employee experience emerging as the leading motivation, followed by flexibility and cost considerations. 

Balancing Costs and Employee Needs

While 82% of respondents indicated that their global mobility budgets increased or stayed the same last year, the anticipation of budget approval challenges in 2024 was expressed by 57%. 
“Identifying what cost measures to implement within your mobility program is just the first step,” the report says. “The second, and arguably more challenging, is to ensure they do not negatively impact the overall assignee experience.”

Strategies for cost savings are diverse, with most eyeing administrative process improvements and many considering policy restructuring or redesign. Five policy-driven responses were also listed as considerations:

  1. Capping mobility policies
  2. Reducing assignment benefits
  3. Restructuring/redesigning policy
  4. Tiered programs based on purpose or objective of assignment
  5. Using lump sums more often

Investing in the Future

In specifying vital areas for increased investment to align with business needs, respondents listed “improved software for tracking and compliance purposes” as the top requirement. 

No. 2 was the candidate selection/readiness process, highlighting that, for most organizations, the employee experience and the importance of talent is ever-important. Also on the list of priorities for investment were: 

  • Enhanced candidate selection/readiness process
  • Enhanced recruitment resources to attract external talent
  • Additional assistance to support employees in emerging markets
  • Additional assignment benefits to obtain key talent

Creating Inclusive Mobility

Sixty-one percent of respondents indicated they are most focused on better understanding all types of diversity over the next year to ensure they are meeting changing employee needs and employee experience expectations. Eighteen percent said they wanted to focus on the category of cultural diversity, while 15% cited single parents as an area of focus. 

Gaps remain in integrating inclusivity and diversity into mobility programs, Cartus found. For example, when asked about support resources for LGBTQ+ employees or families relocating to regions with civil rights barriers, over half of respondents indicated they provide no such provisions, while a third remained uncertain about the level of support being extended to these individuals within their assignee population. Seventy percent of respondents reported their companies lack guidelines addressing safety and welfare concerns for LGBTQ+ employees and their families relocating to regions with anti-LGBTQ+ laws.

Another area that needs addressing is organizational ability to track diversity, equity, and inclusion data, which is hampered by privacy concerns and legal restrictions. As one respondent stated, “Many of the DEI categories are not trackable and/or considered personal/private information.”

Walking the Tech/Human Tightrope

“In an era teeming with technological innovations, our survey has illuminated a significant finding: the pivotal role of the human touch in the realm of employee relocation,” the report says. The vast majority of respondents express their disinterest in a purely tech-driven solution for specific mobility populations. “This underscores a clear sentiment: what both clients and relocating families seek is not solely technology but a guiding hand—a knowledgeable expert in their field,” the report says. 

Of course, you can’t talk about technology today without bringing up artificial intelligence. Over half of respondents foresee the potential of AI to positively influence global mobility programs, with the prevailing sentiment being that AI should augment existing relocation services rather than replace the human touch.

Sustainable Mobility

The survey also covered sustainability within the mobility industry. Despite it being a “hot topic,” nearly four in 10 of respondents said that sustainable mobility options for relocation programs are not currently in development. 

Although a fifth indicated that sustainability was one of the reasons for a policy review or redesign this year, when asked about sustainability strategies within mobility programs, 62% said they did not have one. "With many aligned on the value of sustainability, we are reaching a moment of great opportunity for mobility programs to embrace innovation and begin to explore both immediate and longer-term actions. [This supports] mobility as a positive contributor to organizations’ overall ESG performance, optimizing how we support employee moves rather than having to reduce volumes to achieve emissions reductions goals, or becoming reliant on offsetting alone,” says Andy Conduit-Turner, director of sustainable growth enablement at Cartus.

Looking Down the Road

This year will be one of challenges for the mobility industry, with cost pressures competing with sustaining employee needs. Technology will compete with human ingenuity, and the two must coexist, with each offering what they best can. The talent mobility industry, as all others, must do its part to promote and maintain an inclusive workforce knowledgeable about its impact on the planet.

“2024 marks a critical juncture for organizations to realign mobility strategies with evolving global landscapes,” the report concludes. “By prioritizing cost management and employee experience while also addressing rising challenges innovatively and efficiently, businesses can navigate the ever-changing talent mobility terrain with success.”