The mutual-benefits perspective in global talent management

Traditionally, the ’outside-in’ approach has driven organizations to send talented employees on expatriate assignments. This means that these global talent decisions are based on external factors such as the needs of global clients. And this intuitively makes sense for the employers looking to maximize the company’s growth.

Recent trends however, partly brought about by new generations entering the workforce, are calling for an ‘inside-out approach’ – focusing on the needs of employees first. In order to serve these growing internal needs, companies face pressure to address the goals of both individuals and organizations simultaneously.

The number of self-initiated expatriates (SIEs) is on the rise while the organization-assigned expatriates (AEs) are decreasing. SIEs have a much broader and dynamic set of motivators than AEs used to have and what the companies have always had in terms of expatriation.

The main individual drivers can be divided into personal and career developmental needs. Personal needs such as following a spouse or wanting to experience foreign cultures are the most difficult ones for organizations to comprehend, because fulfilling them doesn’t seem to bear any immediate business results. Skill and career development on the other hand luckily offer some common ground. These individual needs play an important role in the identification of expatriates.

From the organization’s perspective, there seems to be four main goals when sending talent abroad: serving the needs of global clients, building the business overseas, investing in the best employees and developing future leaders. A global HR director in the study by Farndale, Sparrow and Scullion (2014) summarizes these organizational needs well ”as we start to think about grooming this next generation of talent and the future CEOs, you’re going to want to have them have international experience”.

Effective adoption of an approach that equally benefits the employee and the employer – the mutual benefits perspective – is indeed challenging. It might also initially hinder the decision-making process in global talent management. Encountering the needs of employees is important regardless. Even though the recent graduates and self-driven SIEs aren’t always the companies’ first choices for overseas assignments, if their needs aren’t met, they are ever more likely to find these opportunities elsewhere.

Organization looking for the longer-term benefits of engaged workforce and increased employee job satisfaction, would benefit in changing their global talent management mindset from the traditional outside-in approach towards an inside-out one.


Farndale, E., Pai, A., Sparrow, P., & Scullion, H. (2014). Balancing individual and organizational goals in global talent management: A mutual-benefits perspective. Journal of World Business, 49(2), 204-214.

Max Korpinen

HR Enthusiast