Frederik Ballon is director of sales and operations for Europe, the Middle East and Africa for PeopleFluent, a provider and manager of workforce talent management solutions. He spoke with EBN recently about how to adapt retention strategies to a global environment.

EBN: What challenges does going global present for a company, in terms of talent retention?
Ballon:
Having a global footprint as an organization really enhances your ability to offer employees something to get them to stay in the company. So it basically opens your ability to retain your employees by giving them an international perspective. In my own role, I talk to applicants for a variety of roles quite regularly and the ability to have an international career, to work in the international arena, is probably one of the most often-cited reasons why people want to come and work for PeopleFluent. So it’s something that opens doors to opportunities to retain people rather than pose challenges.

In terms of challenges, what I think brings them about is the different legislative context in different countries, and it can get quite complex. Think about different benefit structures in different countries, think about legislation around sabbatical and international assignments. There are a number of challenges with immigration laws, benefits-related, that can come up.

EBN: So we should welcome the mobile-hungry worker?
Ballon:
I think companies need to be realistic about what they’re getting in return. Telling someone, ‘Come work for us, we’ll give you the opportunity to go abroad,’ there’s a significant investment, and I’m not just talking about relocation costs. … And it’s not necessarily attracting the right kind of people. So that’s definitely something in designing a policy that I think should be an element of balance and that companies should really think about having in place is that realistic balance between ‘Yeah, sure, we’re willing to offer you a learning opportunity, something exciting, a little adventure,’ but there has to be a very real and tangible benefit to the company as well.

EBN: Are there advantages to be drawn from the slow economic recovery?
Ballon:
There has historically been sort of a brain drain from Europe toward the United States … bright, young Europeans who have a desire to study in the U.S. often also find work there. Now I think with the crisis, especially countries like Portugal, Spain, Italy to an extent, Greece, where unemployment tends to be rather high, we are seeing people more and more willing or actively looking to leave these countries. I think that definitely opens some opportunities for U.S. employers to really direct some top talent from these companies. Second opportunity in terms of the crisis or slow recovery is that European governments will often be willing, or have programs in place even, to attract investors into their country.

EBN: What does the future hold?
Ballon:
In terms of what the future will hold, flexible modes of employment is something that has been talked about for a couple of years; I think that will definitely start to come into play. Certain skillsets or certain areas of expertise are going to become fairly rare, so older, more experienced workers may have the ability to come back to work for a reduced schedule, or as a consultant or mentor.

Find more of Ballon’s comments on global retention in the July issue of EBN.

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