Q&A: Ben Davies: “It’s challenging for business travelers to avoid burn-out or stress”

Author: Kirsty Tuxford | Date: 27 Jul 2016

The executive recruitment expert on managing mobile employees, and what to do if someone doesn’t want to travel anymore

Some business commentators are suggesting globalisation is heading into reverse in the wake of European economic woes and US protectionism. But on the ground, the connectedness of senior employees, and the requirements for business travel, have never been greater. People Management spoke to Ben Davies, EMEA managing director at ChapmanCG, about the HR challenges of managing a globally mobile workforce.
How can recruiters be sure to select a candidate who will remain committed to a new base after relocation?
In our experience, relocation isn't just about someone having a base; it's about finding a balance between work and life. Many locations where we help find talent in the Middle East are not classic expat destinations, and when selecting individuals for such places it is important to share the realities of what life will be like there, as well as assessing them for the position.
Is it always necessary to relocate employees to be in the same country as corporate headquarters?
The culture of an organisation is key when thinking about the location or relocation of employees. Organisations that operate on a personal relationship basis and prefer face-to-face time sometimes find it harder to integrate and optimise talent if they aren't physically working at HQ. On the other hand, we see organisations broadening the talent pool by avoiding the challenges of visa requirements and allowing employees to base themselves anywhere in the Middle East and travel, which they do a lot anyway.
What are the advantages of a workforce that is spread around the world instead of being in one place?
Positives can include the freedom to choose the best talent wherever they may be, a more diverse and inclusive team and the potential to find the most cost-effective talent rather than being forced to accept a single country’s market value for talent.
However, some organisations we see in the GCC are happier having individuals based in one hub to help foster collaboration and their preferred method of working. There are challenges around managing the high levels of travel and avoiding burnout or stress. Employers have also said that it becomes vital to enable and coach managers on how to virtually develop talent if you aren't in the same location.
Once an employee has agreed to extensive travel, their circumstances could change and they may wish to cease travelling. How can HR best deal with this?
The construct of regional roles, such as MENA, do mean travel is essential as part of senior roles. Using technology for video conferences or virtual meetings can reduce this but if an individual needs to stop travelling it is very hard to accommodate. Our favourite organisations embrace this change and often find repositioning regional talent into a corporate low-travel HQ role or country leadership role provides a different opportunity.