The importance of international work experience in rising to the top

Over the past couple of months, I have completed a number of Chief Human Resources Officer searches and have been fortunate to speak with leaders in this field from some of the most renowned organisations across the globe.

One of the key topics (alongside gender equality and workforce diversification), which was at the forefront of international organisations agenda, was the mobility of their staff. In particular the increasing significance of their employees gaining experience working in multiple locations. Numerous executives within Human Resources explained changes in their HR policy, which encouraged employees to gain experience outside of the company’s headquarters or their own home country. In fact, some organisations have made it a mandatory requirement to gain international experience in order to progress in their organisation to senior management positions. Global Mobility is now a key component of international organisations talent management strategy and is vital in plugging skills shortages of their businesses and knowledge transfer. According to Deloitte’s 2017 Human Capital Trends survey, “70% of business leaders agree that Global Mobility was an enabler of business and talent strategies”.

Global Mobility is not a new topic or initiative; it is something that has been the focus of many organisations for a number of years. However, from the candidates I speak to every week, a significant proportion are still unwilling to work internationally. This is due to many reasons; including the comfort in their current role, progression opportunities available in their home country, family circumstances or lack of interest in working in another country. I am not suggesting to have a successful career candidates must at some point work internationally, however there is a growing focus on workers becoming more mobile.

My advice to candidates considering international career opportunities is to assess the long-term benefits of making an international move. More organisations are expanding internationally and looking to benefit from the continuing developments in technology, which make conducting business internationally increasingly easier.

Having international experience on your CV, shows an ability to adapt to a new culture and environment. It will also provide the opportunity to develop a global book of contacts and understand the intricate differences in doing business in other parts of the world. It will be hard to rise to the top of a multinational business and provide strategic direction, if you only have experience of working in one country in which they operate. I know from my time travelling for business in Asia and the Middle East for the last 5 years, it has increased my understanding of operating internationally and has developed an international network of contacts.

The majority of the positions I recruit for are executive roles, and if a candidate has experience working in only one country, it is usually viewed as a negative. How will this person be able to provide advice on the direction for our business in Asia? How will they know the factors to consider in increasing our performance in the Middle East?

Therefore, whilst at the early-mid career level, a lack of international experience is not a negative, the further you progress in your career and attempt to go for executive positions in a multinational business, international experience will have more importance.  Executive positions attract a global pool of candidates.

Posted by Adam O'Donnell

Adam holds a BSc in Business Studies & Management from a Top 10 UK University and has been with Leap29 since 2009. He is currently Operations Manager for professional services, which includes Banking, Finance and Legal. He is also a Member of the Chartered Management Institute (MCMI). Adam was recently part of a four person shortlist out of 1000 applicants for Recruiter of the Year in the North West of the UK.