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Global Mobility Specialist
There are few things more stressful than moving to another country, and your relocating employees feel it. Having a Global Mobility Specialist in your court can make all of the difference. In this read, learn the ins and outs of what a GMS is and how they can make a literal world of difference.

What Is a Global Mobility Specialist (GMS)?

Typically a member of the HR department or of third-party relocation management services, a Global Mobility Specialist manages the logistical aspects of employee relocation, including housing and immigration. The position was developed to oversee and facilitate smooth transitions from one location to another. GMSs work on both domestic and global moves, though they truly shine when an employee relocates to another country.

Why Are Global Mobility Specialists Important?

Overall, GMSs play a crucial support role in multinational organizations by being the backbone of any and all employee relocations. They:
  • Ensure smooth employee relocations. The main reason organizations utilize this position is to ensure that the complexities involved in moving an employee are covered and the process is seamless.
  • Maintain legal and regulatory compliance. GMSs are well-versed in the legal and regulatory frameworks in both the home and host countries. They keep up-to-date with all the relevant laws and requirements, which would be complex and time-consuming for a non-expert to handle.
  • Supporting employees from start to finish. From providing cultural training for moving employees to additional support for their families, GMSs are a one-stop-shop for employee concerns and questions. GMSs provide comprehensive guidance during the entirety of the relocation process.

Global Mobility Specialist Roles and Responsibilities

GMSs have an impressively wide range of responsibilities involved in moving employees from one location to another. While the extent of their involvement and variety of services offered varies depending on the organization, here is what a global mobility specialist generally covers.

Policy Development

By taking into consideration the goals of the organization, needs of the employees, legal and regulatory compliance requirements, available resources and more, global mobility specialists play a significant role. Not only do they help develop policies, but they also evaluate the effectiveness of existing policies and regularly update policies they have developed. Their involvement ensures that an organization has well-defined, compliant and employee-centric relocation policies.

Travel Arrangements

Global mobility specialists coordinate travel arrangements for the employee and their family, from booking flights and transportation to and from the airports to assisting with obtaining visas and passports.

Housing and Accommodation

It is common for GMSs to handle the majority of the legwork involved in securing suitable housing for the employee and their family. This involves working directly with realtors for selling the current residence and purchasing a new one, working with moving companies, managing storage arrangements, setting the moving timeline, arranging temporary accommodations if needed, and overall addressing any and all housing-related questions and concerns an employee may have.

Immigration and Work Permits

Global mobility specialists provide guidance and support in obtaining the necessary visas, work permits, and other immigration documents. They act as the liaison for communicating with immigration authorities and ensure compliance with immigration laws and regulations in both the home and host countries.

Resource Management

Another duty of a GMS is to oversee the budget and expenses associated with the relocation. They track and manage costs, review and approve expense claims, and ensure adherence to the organization's relocation budget.

Tax and Payroll Management

Another duty of a GMS is to closely work with tax advisors and payroll teams to ensure compliance with tax laws and regulations, particularly in the context of international assignments (though still applicable for moves to other counties and states with varying tax regulations). They work together to navigate the complexities of interstate and international taxation and address the financial implications for both the relocated employee and employer. This involves developing tax equalization policies to protect employees from potential tax discrepancies between their home and host countries. It also entails coordinating with payroll teams to accurately process payroll, including tax withholdings and social security contributions. The aim is to ensure compliance with tax regulations and reporting requirements while providing employees the necessary guidance and support to navigate tax obligations during international assignments.

Cultural and Language Support

Language-training resources for both the moving employee and their family are commonly provided by a GMS . This may look like connecting them to online course offerings, language learning platforms or tutors. Additionally, guidance on connecting with local communities in the host country may be offered, along with cultural orientation programs, social and recreational activities, clubs and resources that can help the family build a social support structure in the host country.

Spouse/Partner Support

Support for the spouse or partner of the relocating employee is often provided. They do so by helping to find employment opportunities in the host country, connecting them with local job placement resources, and offering support in navigating work permit or visa requirements.

Child/Family Support

A GMS may also assist with identifying suitable schools or child care for the children of the relocating employee. They may provide information on local educational options, help with enrollment procedures, and offer guidance on curriculum and school systems in the host country.

Skills and Qualifications of a Global Mobility Specialist

Being an effective global mobility specialist requires a specific and extensive skill set. While there’s no standardized requirements to be a GMS, these skills and qualifications (in combination with experience in HR, international business, or global mobility) make for competent and credible professionals in this field.

Cross-Cultural Knowledge

Global mobility specialists rely on their cultural sensitivity and ability to work effectively with a diverse group of individuals from around the globe. They should possess intercultural communication skills and demonstrate understanding of different nation’s business practices. This extends from logistics to cultural understanding and sensitivity. They should possess a solid understanding of immigration laws, tax regulations, and knowledge of employment policies and different cultures.

Communication and Relationship Building

Being a GMS is a highly people-oriented job, and as such, it pays to have excellent people skills. This includes all forms of communication across cultures and languages in addition to top-notch interpersonal skills. The information they need to convey is typically impactful and complex. Ensuring understanding of the employees, managers, vendors, and various other parties is crucial for the negotiation of agreements and ensuring thorough completion of their responsibilities.

Attention to Detail, Organization, and Problem-Solving

The relocation process (particularly international relocation processes) is technical. Processes must happen in a specific order and require a great deal of planning and methodical perseverance. For example, storage must be arranged prior to the arrival of the employee’s belongings. Accommodations must be prepared upon the employee’s arrival, and so on and so forth. Due to the potentially tedious nature of relocation, unexpected changes can cause a domino effect of damage if the GMS does not possess adaptability and strong problem-solving skills. The best GMSs address issues as they arise and find creative solutions while maintaining additional priorities simultaneously.

Legal and Compliance Knowledge

With immigration laws, tax regulations, and employment policies changing at any time, a GMS must remain up-to-date and familiar with everything surrounding compliance during a relocation. This involves the prior mentioned communication skills to enable collaboration with legal and compliance teams as needed.

Professional Qualifications

While not always mandatory, professional certifications such as the Worldwide ERC Global Mobility Specialist Designation (GMS-T), Employee Relocation Council Certification, or other relevant certifications equip a GMS to better fulfill their role and lend them credibility. Additional certifications in areas like international HR, global mobility, or immigration can enhance a global mobility specialist's expertise in the field.

How to Become a Global Mobility Specialist

Becoming a GMS typically involves a combination of education, experience, and professional development. While there are different paths to take to being a GMS, here's a general path for one pursuing this as a career.

Step 1: Obtain a Formal Education

While obtaining a relevant degree in fields such as HR, International Business, or Global Mobility aren’t strictly required, having a formal education provides a solid foundation and deeper understanding of the concepts and practices involved in being a GMS. The best global mobility specialists don’t stop learning once obtaining a degree, however. They continue their professional development by seeking out and obtaining relevant certifications.

Step 2: Gain Experience

Experience in HR and global experience are needed to be an effective GMS. When seeking HR experience, look for opportunities that involve international responsibilities. Additionally, engaging in activities that enhance cultural awareness and cross-culture communication skills, such as traveling, participating in cultural exchange programs, or volunteering with international organizations builds cultural competence.

Step 3: Find a Mentor

GMS can be somewhat of a niche field. Finding a mentor to teach you the ins and outs of the industry can be invaluable in your pursuit of this career. Valid mentors can be found through attending industry conferences, joining professional associations, and connecting with experts in the field of global mobility. Networking can help you gain insights, learn from experienced professionals, and explore job opportunities in the industry. This not only grants one valuable experience and insights, it also is a foot in the door, beginning your job search and improving your professional marketability.

Showcase Skills and Seek Opportunities

There are times when mentorship can become an internship; however, that isn’t a guarantee. Use your own and your mentor's network to look for job openings and internships. As you gain experience, highlight your accomplishments in global mobility to increase your hireability. Build a strong professional profile and consider creating a portfolio of your work to demonstrate your expertise.
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Kayla Farber

Kayla Farber

Kayla is the Chief Innovation Officer at Hero Culture, where the passion is to create company cultures of retention using the power of personality.
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