Mentorship: A Mobility Framework 01.17.2024 | Jennifer Connell

January is National Mentoring Month; a great excuse to honor and celebrate today’s Mentors, as well as encourage our communities to engage in mentoring activities. Because nothing speaks truer to the power of “people lifting people” than Mentoring — we really are stronger together.

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Mala Cornell, Global Mobility Director of the Royal Bank of Canada, for an episode of Let’s Make Work Happen. Mala underwent some colossal professional changes in the past year, stepping into a new role with a new company AND a leadership position as Chair of the CERC Board of Directors. She spoke candidly about how her mentorship relationships were valuable in helping her navigate these transitions and why she’s such a strong proponent of mentorships in helping mobile talent flourish.

My conversation with Mala was a reminder that while more companies are leaning into the developmental value of mentorship, many programs are informal in nature or lack the framework to address specific mobility nuances. Here are some of the conversations and recommendations our Advisory Team shares with clients looking to re-focus their mentorship models to better support their mobility demographic.

 A Mobility Lens

One topic raised frequently by our clients is how and when mentoring can drive success for their mobile employee demographic. The answer is three-fold. Mentor relationships can be instrumental at multiple junctures of an assignment lifecycle:

Before the Assignment:

  • To help nurture the critical skills that an assignee will need to thrive in an assignment and ensure the highest ROI, like adaptability, flexibility, and an ability to influence individuals, groups, and organizations beyond their home country’s cultural perspective.

During the Assignment:

  • Common causes of assignment failure include an inability of the assignee to adapt to the host country’s culture, lack of social support, and feelings of isolation. Mentors can serve as a link to the home office as well as a professional coach for overcoming — and even mitigating — these assignment roadblocks.

Following an Assignment:

  • The culture shock of returning home can be crippling, and those companies that neglect to support an employee through this process are at risk of losing the talent (and the newly acquired skills that they honed on their assignment). Mentors can ease this transition and help the employee re-calibrate their goals and/or adjust to a role that may look different from when they left.

To this end, as part of our advisory work with our clients, we encourage companies to establish a mentorship program so that employees feel connected throughout every stage of their assignment. Mobility mentorships certainly aren’t exclusive to international moves; the approaches are diverse and should, ideally, mirror an organization’s culture.

For one-way moves or even temporary domestic transfers, we’ve seen the term “Relo Buddies” (how cute is that!?) for a friendlier, more informal take. Some companies will arrange a dedicated support person in the host location (versus the traditional home-country model) to help navigate the culture of the host office. More recently, we’ve also heard of programs that extend to the spouse/partner to establish a connection and a source of social support for those accompanying the employee. These are often spouses/partners of other expats who volunteer to serve in this role.

Our Recommendations for Mentorship Programs That Drive Success

To achieve a mentorship program that truly complements and transforms the mobile employee experience, it should be tailored to the demographics of your program and should address any specific and persistent challenges in your mobility lifecycle.

This is where our Advisory Services team steps in, leveraging our Customer Insight methods (aka Voice of the Customer) to pinpoint the right approach. Some companies — but not nearly enough — will address it directly in their assignment policy. Regardless of the approach, all mentorship programs in Mobility frameworks accomplish the same goals: To overcome reluctance, make people feel more connected at a time when they need it the most, and minimize the rate of failure during or after post-assignment/transfer.

It’s a low-cost, high-impact way to elevate your mobility and talent management strategy. Need some help getting started? Talk to us!

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Written by Jennifer Connell


Jennifer Connell, SCRP, SGMS-T, is Vice President of Weichert’s Advisory Services group. She has over 25 years of experience in the workforce mobility and employee benefits industries and is a recipient of Worldwide ERC’s Distinguished Service Award. She has spoken on workforce mobility topics at industry conferences throughout North America and written for mobility- and HR-themed blogs and magazines worldwide.

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