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Global Mobility 2020: Insights from Adidas

In this edition of our special series on Global Mobility in 2020, we gain global mobility insights from Adidas. We sit down with David Enser, Head of Cross-Border Employment at adidas, to discuss the key challenges and trends in the Global Mobility industry.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and the program you are currently managing.

I’ve been involved in GM in one form or another ever since I started in my first ‘proper’ job, back in 2001. Some might say I’ve stayed in the field too long, I don’t think so. I love what I do – I’ve always had rich and varied projects to get my teeth into, and I always knew that I wanted to work in a truly international environment, hence I feel I’ve been very lucky.

Adidas, I can safely say, has been the best role I ever had – to be given a blank canvas to develop a function from scratch, to develop my technical as well as leadership skills, to learn about and co-develop certain aspects of the employer brand, to see us almost double in terms of number of international employees supported, to work with some of the most creative people I have ever met, and all for an organization that finally allows me to get shoes I like in my size – I certainly feel like I landed on my feet, if you’ll excuse the pun.

Considering the size and complexity of the program that you are leading, what are the issues that are you are most often requested to address by your stakeholders?

Complex is certainly the right word. When I began, we had 17 policies in place in different entities around the world, now we have clear & commonly accepted methodologies and frameworks for managing an increasingly complex range of cross border working arrangements.

Whilst this was a clear expectation of me, at the same time, adidas is not your usual employer – we acknowledge and embrace individuality, so striking the balance between this and the need for consistency has been a careful juggling act. Finally, raising awareness and understanding of complex compliance requirements, and the need for automation and efficiency wherever possible.

Do you feel that Global Mobility has a seat at the table when considering the overall HR and Talent strategy for your organization?

Honestly, I think many of my peers strive for this, but few attain it. I have been lucky in this regard, in that through collaborating with extremely creative people, and being supported by an excellent team around the world, our story struck a chord with leaders, HR and employees throughout the company, and continues to be supported.

What types of metrics do you use to track the success of your Global Mobility initiatives?

It’s an area that we still have some distance to travel – we do not as yet track this to a great enough degree in terms of process and policy adherence and service delivery, but that will come as our HR Services capability matures.

On the other hand, we also set out to grow and build an international demographic that was truly representative of both our global employee and consumer base – and we are strong in terms of reporting on our demographics. Age, gender, cultural background, family circumstance, generations – we track and report on this very regularly, it has been and will continue to be central to the story of what we seek to build and in turn, the value that we deliver to adidas.

What key trends are you tracking that may influence how you shape your program over the next few years?

Digitalisation and the individualization of reward – along with ever more complex and varying forms of working relationship with the company, and as part of that, the cross-border working arrangements required to be in place to allow this.

We have a good handle now on formal / traditional assignments, but the game is already changing!

Specifically in the Technology arena, what do you see coming down the line that will influence your business?

Digitalisation and application of technology in our production cycle – the adidas Speedfactory concept.

Both of these will change who, how, from where and on what terms we hire and move people and / or facilitate their cross-border working.

Looking forward to 2020, describe for us what your Global Mobility looks like.

Geopolitics, mass migration, conflict, economic turmoil, demographic change, shifting norms and the end of certainties – all contribute to the shaping of an already complex HR function into one that sits at the heart of international exchanges between organisations & entities.

No longer the poorer cousin of the reward family, I believe global mobility solutions will continue to have a unique opportunity to support strategy definition and execution in a way that previously didn’t exist. A modern mobility organisation can fulfil all the requirements of an expert and / or transactional function whilst also providing additional benefit through its inherent expertise and the passion of those working within mobility for all things international be they historical, legal, cultural, or linguistic. Business has never before been so global and the need for facilitators and navigators between peoples, systems and cultures so great, and it is in this niche that I see the opportunity to flourish for mobility.

The global talent pool is evolving, the audience much broader through generation, race and gender, the demand greater to create moments that matter in a post-talent war world where choice sits in the hand of the candidate and where innovative start-ups take on established large brands in their fight to stand out and attract the first truly global generation and an increasingly mobile global workforce.

Read More about Insights for Global Mobility in 2020.

Click here to read more from David: Business models change, automation rules, value creation prevails and data is king.

About David Enser

David Enser is head of cross-border employment at adidas, based in Bavaria, and also founding partner of The RES Forum – Avid international traveler, father of two boys, fan of Oxford United FC, car geek and very grateful to live so close to some really big mountains – hiking in summer and skiing (badly) in winter.

Vicki Marsh

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