The focus of Strategic Global Mobility Advisory is to support companies in their Mobility Strategy and Policy needs, such as review and design but also in formulating specific Strategies for localisation, repatriation, KPI’s and RoI’s, outsourcing and effective exception management in Mobility.

Chris Debner is also highly specialized in the Strategic aspects of Global Employment Organisations and Group Relocations.

In addition, Strategic Global Mobility Advisory is providing coaching services for Mobility Program Leaders to help them meeting company goals and individual desires.

Chris says: We are also happy to take the role of a sparring partner for discussing new ideas for upgrading your mobility programme.”


Chris Debner is an award-winning Talent Mobility Thought Leader who is providing Strategic Talent Mobility Advisory and Coaching Services to both corporate Talent Mobility functions as well as the provider industry.

He has over 20 years of experience in Mobility advisory and worked in over 35 countries across all industries.

Chris runs his own consultancy for Strategic Talent Mobility Advisory out of Zurich, Switzerland. For further information, or to contact Chris visit and

Looking back – 2019

Whilst many other aspects and trends might have kept you busy this year, my constant interaction with Talent Mobility Functions, my Swiss SMI Mobility Network, as well as providers around the world, has allowed me to come to the conclusion that the most relevant Talent Mobility topics and challenges of this year were:

  • Audit rotation
  • Employee experience (EX)
  • A1 registrations
  • Constant re-organisation and HR transformation activity
  • Need to become more strategic
  • Providing more flexibility
  • Better cooperation and inclusion of Talent Mobility and HR
  • From Global Mobility to Talent Mobility
  • Relocation Management Company mergers

Audit rotation requirements forced the first adopters to change their tax provider, outside the RfP cycle. That meant for many – who learned late of the requirement, rushed RfPs and lots of transition activity. In many cases the Big 4 technology that was being used, needed to be discontinued and years of customisation were for nothing. This in turn led to an awareness among Talent Mobility functions that technology would need to be independently sourced and contracted, rather than adopted from tax or other providers. While transitioning a provider requires great effort, it is preferred not to force change in technology as well. A positive point for independent technology service providers.

Employee experience (EX) continues to be a key aspect on HR agendas. The contribution of Mobility towards a big moment that matters in the employee life cycle – the relocation – is significant and has become increasingly more important.

A1 registrations and their complexity, as well as the administrative effort they generate, were a big talking point in 2019. Not all Talent Mobility functions participate in business traveler compliance, while it can be seen that companies who made efforts to monitor and address business traveler compliance, chose multi-disciplinary approaches, where travel management and talent mobility worked together. A1 is another topic that should show the potential synergies of working together between the travel and mobility functions as automation of workflow gradually starts to become available.

Constant re-organisation and HR transformation activity across most organisations – keyword “fifty shades of agile” – forced Talent Mobility functions to change their operating models and processes with or alongside the transformation. In some sad cases where HR transformations left out the Talent Mobility function, they had to deal with the consequences, and align themselves later.

The need to become more strategic is almost an evergreen. By far, not all Talent Mobility functions found themselves with the famous seat at the table, as many are still seen as purely administrative. But I have also witnessed some successful initiatives and efforts to become more involved with HR and the business, which is a promising trend.

Providing more flexibility in terms of benefits and cost to assignees and the business was another key topic. Talent Mobility programs started implementing ways to create more flexibility by introducing lump sums and core / flex approaches into their policies. A clear trend seems to be to move from pure lumps sums to managed lump sums and even more so to use core / flex approaches with a robust governance approach supporting them. The ghost of point systems approaches is still around, despite enough proof that they tend to fail for various reasons. Flexibility is here to stay and equity looks like winning over equality.

Better cooperation and inclusion of Talent Mobility and HR has long been neglected, but the awareness for the topic has improved in 2019. A joint event of Heads of Mobility and Heads of HR / Rewards at a recent SMI Mobility Network meeting, showed the numerous opportunities that exist when focusing on better collaboration. It all comes down to ideas that involve Mobility at earlier stages of the assignment process and creating a better perception of the Talent Mobility function and its valuable contribution in the HR agenda.

The competition for the word Mobility and the potential to misunderstand it, leads to more and more functions and providers using Talent Mobility instead of Global Mobility. This trend also reflects the – very slow, but logical – shift of the reporting line from Rewards to Talent Management.

Relocation Management Company mergers of 2019 – Relo Group bought BGRS and Sirva bought Cartus – are seen differently. Whilst at BGRS it looks more like business as usual after the take-over, we have to see what to expect from the Sirva – Cartus merger, which created a behemoth of the relocation industry.

Looking ahead

Looking into the future and making assumptions, is a risky business. I’d like to speak of careful hypotheses rather than assumptions. We simply do not know…

Below are a few “guesses” of what will keep us busy in the new year.

  • Brexit
  • Base Erosion and Profit Sharing 2.0 (BEPS – OECD framework)
  • Trade wars & potential economic downturn
  • Next Gen
  • More technology & more consolidation

The likelihood of the ongoing uncertainty – what will happen with the Brexit – will hopefully come to an end in 2020. This will call for close monitoring and action with regards to immigration and potentially group relocations.

The BEPS 2.0 is likely pressuring businesses to relocate some of their positions to where they need to be for substance purposes. This can mean either more permanent relocations (or redundancies and replacements) or in some cases group moves.

The ongoing trade wars and talk about a looming economic downturn in 2020 threatens new savings initiatives and lower numbers of assignment activities. Some companies are already running savings initiatives that effect Mobility – some of them for a reason and other’s in anticipation.

Next Gen is becoming more relevant every year, since Gen Z and Millennials are aiming to form the majorities of our workforces. The Universum student survey 2019 shows a slight downturn in the interest of graduates to work internationally in the ten largest economies. We still talk of approximately 30% of them being interested in working internationally. However, the average percentage of internationally mobile employees per total workforce is still harbouring around 0.5% – 2%. This makes up for the majority of them getting disappointed…in turn, more pressure to offer earlier career assignments.

The use of Talent Mobility Technology will continue to increase. The difficulty to navigate a fragmented market in which multiple players, like the BIG 4, independent technology providers and other Mobility service providers offer their services will continue. We will see greater efforts to integrate technology with the use of API’s into existing technology. There are also consistent rumours of HR ERPs, like Workday, Peoplesoft and SAP and others introducing mobility functionalities, which would upset the market, when the decision for technology shifts up on the corporate ladder.