April 2018, Vol.245, No.4


Global Mobility Attracts Millennials

By Beth Bowen, Senior Vice President, Airswift

Millennials are often the subject of unfair negative stereotypes, but such aspersions are far off the mark. 

Over the next few years, millennials will hit their professional primes and increasingly be in a position to call the shots when it comes to the way we work. With 89% of respondents to the recent Global Energy Talent Index (GETI) aged 18-34 open to an international move, opportunities for flexible and international working will be expected as standard. 

Companies and industries caught unaware of this will struggle to attract and retain the best talent. In this new world, a robust and thought-through approach to global mobility will move from advantageous to essential. 

Millennial Motivations

There may be some media hysteria around millennials, but there are some general differences in outlook and career expectations for this generation that are worth bearing in mind.

One such trend is an increasing desire to work remotely. According to the Deloitte Millennial Survey 2017, more and more millennials want to work remotely, away from their employer’s main site – a full 64% of them. The same survey links this kind of flexibility with improved performance and higher employee retention. Technology is increasingly enabling this type of employment, and the remaining barriers are often cultural ones. 

Working remotely can mean working from home, certainly, but in our experience, it also addresses the millennials’ desire to work abroad. Gone are the days of a job for life in your home country – the modern worker wants a career taking in a variety of different roles across a number of different locations.

And as the number of desired locations expands, the duration of stay decreases. Whereas the international worker of today might be content staying put for five years or so, tomorrow’s employee will be more likely to move on after two years. This increases the burden for employers looking to keep pace with their workforce’s international ambitions. 

Experience remains as importance as ever, and millennials are rapidly acquiring it. Before long it will be the companies who can offer international opportunities that will attract and retain the most experienced talent.

Setting the Standard

If this all sounds familiar, it might be because you’re part of the oil and gas sector. Owing to its naturally international and project-based characteristics, the this industry has a long history of enabling and even encouraging professionals’ global ambitions – experience the rest of the energy sector can learn from as it looks to accommodate an increasingly globetrotting workforce.

The sector exported its talent around the world for decades and has spent considerable effort in defining and refining what global mobility best practice looks like. Working with global mobility partners, oil and gas companies have smoothed the process of moving individuals and teams around the world. 

Doing so is no mean feat. Items on the checklist include visa and immigration issues, safety and security, compliance and tax concerns, and payroll to name just a few. Then there are destination support services such as finding accommodations, securing school placement for workers’ children, safe shipping of personal possessions, etc. Doing all this safely and compliantly takes a small mountain of local expertise specific to each and every worker destination around the globe. It cannot be done effectively and safely from behind a computer half way across the world. 

In one example from our experience, an assignee arrived in Africa at a time of social unrest and widespread protest. By meeting a local expert at the airport who knew the local risk areas, the employee was able to circumvent trouble and underwent a detailed emergency evacuation briefing, in case the situation escalated.

Traditionally, oil and gas companies have offered generous packages to tempt its key teams overseas, compensating them for the hardship and – in some cases – risk of the new location. That is all well and good, but a responsible business will keep abreast of going rates across the industry to ensure employees are neither under nor overpaying. It is recommended that companies review and update global mobility policies every two years or at the time of key market changes.

Important Differences

Compensation packages are one of the key areas in which the millennial worker may require different treatment to the traditional expat. Although locations with (perceived or real) higher risks or more difficult lifestyles may always require a premium payment, by and large relocation packages should reduce as the workforce is already incentivized to make the move.

This incentivization element also highlights another key difference. Traditionally, the companies persuade an individual to move. Now, it may be the other way around. That requires a different culture, one more open to listening to what a worker wants. If an employee mentions in an appraisal that they want to move abroad, they must be heard.

If an energy company can get those things right,  it can then look to its peers in oil and gas to see how that can work in practice.

Joy of Jet-Setting

That said, the oil and gas sector isn’t immune to these changes. The industry is widely recognized as having an aging workforce, but to simply assume this challenge will be surmounted would be a mistake

For example, many countries around the world are introducing stricter local content rules. This doesn’t necessarily diminish the number of international assignments, rather it means shorter international deployments to train and develop the local workforce. Combine that with the millennial preference for shorter, more frequent deployments, and a broader pattern becomes evident.

The numbers bear out this desire for more international career paths. For example, across all age groups, GETI data show 87% of oil and gas workers would consider an international move. That mind-set is mirrored across the energy industry with  workers in the nuclear (76%), power (85%) and renewables (83%) feeling the same way. 

However, arguably the industry isn’t doing enough to facilitate this. Only 52% (oil and gas), 68% (nuclear), 55% (power) and 51% (renewables) of employers in each of these sectors actively promotes cross-regional transfers. 

It’s clear that millennials are changing the workforce across the energy industry. To attract and retain the best talent, firms will need to indulge their jet-setting career expectations – better workers have itchy feet with more consideration given to location than employer. 

Employers who can get global mobility right – either on their own or with an experienced partner – will be best placed to survive and thrive in new world. P&GJ


Beth Bowen is the senior vice president of Global Sales at Airswift, a global workforce solutions provider for the energy, process and infrastructure sectors. 

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