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Keywords:

  • RECESSION;
  • CORPORATE INTERNATIONALIZATION;
  • EXPERTISE;
  • INTERNATIONAL MOBILITY

Abstract

The international mobility of MNE personnel has been increasing in recent years both through traditional forms of expatriation and short-term assignments and through business travel. These overall ‘portfolios of mobility’, however, have been complemented by intensified virtual communication and growing localization of recruitment in developing production and market regions. In this article, we report on a return survey of the impacts of the 2008 recession on the mobility portfolios of a sample of UK-based MNEs and consider how far it has affected established trends. We begin by reviewing evidence from recent large-scale surveys on corporate staff mobility. We then focus on how the relationship between established business goals and global mobility strategies was rebalanced within individual companies as the recession took hold. Our evidence indicates the widely variable effects of recession, strongly affecting operations in some parts of the world, but making little, if any, change elsewhere. In many cases, corporate restructuring or the increased focus on emerging markets were already reshaping mobility portfolios. Diversification and flexibility have underlain the development of these portfolios over the last decade. The recession has accelerated several processes already under way, including a shift towards alternatives to traditional assignments and the closer incorporation of new and emerging markets into mobility systems. It has also allowed companies to drive through changes that might otherwise have been more contentious, such as reducing the financial incentives for assignment.