The World of Work is changing so rapidly that skills which might have once spanned a whole career in previous generations may now become redundant in only a few years. Companies trying to stay ahead of the curve and ‘future-proof’ their organisations are preparing the workforce for flexibility amidst constant shifts, investing in technology integration and upskilling key talent as the future generation of leaders. But the exponential rate of change in the business landscape means that the skillset required of tomorrow’s leaders is still shrouded in mystery. Companies can’t simply go out into the marketplace with a list of qualifications. Instead, the onus is on developing high potentials toward a set of traits, or hiring for those traits, which include self-awareness, global mindset, agility and adaptability, along with the right attitude towards change.  A successful international assignment is an ideal crucible for identifying and developing these vital skills; which is why 27% of companies [1] say that international experience is a pre requisite to joining their senior leadership team, and why 18% of companies are focussing on optimizing their leadership development programs [2]. Future looking organisations are increasingly realising that a strategic mobility program assessing, selecting, developing and retaining talent with those key skillsets is better prepared for future success.

The Changes All Around Us

Virtually all information available to humankind is nestled neatly within the smartphone in your pocket. With technological advances set to grow exponentially, the shift in demographic expectations, and expansion into more virtual, global teams, the speed of change may seem incredibly fast to us right now – but it is likely to never be as slow as this again. 65% of people studying today are expected to have jobs that don’t currently exist [3], so how we deal with change is vitally relevant to our ability to adapt. Since the way in which we work is constantly and rapidly evolving, the leaders of the future need to be early adopters and enthusiasts for change, and able to foster and inspire a similar attitude in their teams. They require self-awareness to recognise their own change attitudes and to develop a life-long learning mentality.

A Skills Gap

The World Economic Forum reports this era as the 4th industrial revolution [4]. Those who adapt and upskill will find a rich new horizon of opportunities, while those reliant on existing skills will likely be left behind. 30% of current business skillsets may become redundant in the next 3-5 years [5], so high growth companies are rightly concerned by their thin leadership pipeline (38% [6]). Only 15% of global leaders rated themselves as very effective at leading across countries and cultures [7]. Companies are therefore evolving skill requirements, with people development as a key enabler of organisational competitiveness.

The Leaders of Tomorrow (a Global Mindset)

During these times of change, employees look to their leaders for direction and inspiration [8]. While the characteristics of a successful leader varies across cultures, RW3 CultureWizard’s global mindset study outlines three universal traits of successful leaders that apply globally: self-awareness, authenticity and a global mindset. Being self-reflective and genuine (even if face-saving) builds the trust needed and lays the foundations for the key third aspect: global mindset. Defined as the ability

to recognise and reflexively adjust to cultural signals so that effectiveness is not compromised when dealing with people from different backgrounds [1]. In a leadership context, having a global mindset means being able to adapt fluently to different cultural styles – building trust and relationships, motivating people and enabling effective collaboration. These traits can be honed through an international assignment with a framework of experiential cross-cultural learnings.

Mobility Solutions

Mobility and international experience are therefore major assets – 65% of companies are already using mobility for developmental purposes [2]. However, these benefits need to be actively measured, developed, tracked, valued and rewarded. Experiences need to be integrated with concepts and observations linked to action [3]. Simply living abroad in itself doesn’t ensure a global mindset, but companies that actively cultivate cultural competencies and agility are better prepared for talent impending shortages. Less than a third of companies track attrition rates on return from assignment and less than half track the promotion rates [4]. This means skills honed on assignment are not being utilised in the way they could be, and investments in talent aren’t being realised. Mobility teams must be engaged with key talent stakeholders and aligned on wider talent goals, providing employees with measurable goals to develop the skillsets uniquely enabled by assignments. From the trends we have seen, mobility’s alignment with talent will become more of an imperative and the value of strategically positioned development assignments will play a critical role in filling a globally-minded leadership talent pipeline for an unpredictable future.


  • [1] BGRS’s Talent Mobility Trends Survey
  • [2] RW3 CultureWizard’s Global Mindset Index Study, conducted with market-research firm Seymour Insights
  • [3] World Economic Forum
  • [4] World Economic Forum
  • [5] World Economic Forum, cited in
  • [6] BGRS’s Talent Mobility Trends Survey
  • [7] RW3’s Global Mindset Index Study
  • [8] Mercer’s Global Talent Trends 2019
  • [9] RW3’s Global Mindset Index Study
  • [10] BGRS’s Talent Mobility Trends Survey
  • [11] Ng, Van Dyne & Ang 2009
  • [12] Only 32% of companies track attrition and only 57% companies track promotion after assignment. – BGRS’s Talent Mobility Trends Survey


About the author of this article:

Emma Dodwell-Groves – Manager, Talent Mobility Consulting, BGRS

Emma has 11 years’ experience in global talent development and a multi-regional background supporting corporate clients in global awareness, agility and intercultural skills. Emma is an engaging facilitator who has presented at conferences and featured in industry publications as a thought leader. She is a key contributor in Talent Mobility Consulting at BGRS, enabling clients to better leverage investment in their global people and business strategies. Having lived in Hong Kong, Spain, China, Indonesia and the UK, Emma has first-hand experience of the unique opportunities global mobility can provide. She holds a BSc from the University of Bristol, a Postgraduate Certificate in Intercultural Communication from Birkbeck, University of London and a Certificate of Training Design for Intercultural Learning from the School of International & Intercultural Communication. Emma speaks Mandarin Chinese, and in her spare time she hosts pub quizzes, paints and enjoys walking tours.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in articles on this site are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SIETAR UK.“