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Global Trends That Underscore Our Need for Inter-Cultural Intelligence

Updated: Mar 26, 2021

Global Trends, Part 1

We live in an increasingly globalized world, one that is inter-connected in countless aspects. If you haven’t gone out into the world, then it is likely that the world will be coming to you, very soon!

By way of introduction for a brief series on current efforts and concerns regarding global workforce development, we want to highlight a number of global trends that create a compelling business case for pursuing Inter-Cultural Intelligence training.

Working with foreign colleagues becomes a new norm

The number of individuals joining the global workforce as expatriate workers continues to grow fairly rapidly. Based on recent aggregated statistics from the UN's Migration Report, it is safe to say that more than 245 million people are living and working in a different country than the one from which they carry a passport. The expectation is that expatriation will continue to increase by over 5% every year.

Recently, large corporations have turned their focus toward optimizing their mobility programs. They approach mobility through investing in virtual collaboration, as well as investing in equipping people for short-term assignments. This approach has resulted in the resurgence of short-term assignments, but in most cases, of course, these assignments are given only to candidates who have been previously equipped for that purpose.

However, dynamics within the expatriate category are also changing. Many more expats see their move overseas as a long-term or open-ended decision. Mercer research up till 2012 showed that traditional-length expat assignments (1–3 years) are diminishing, with more and more people choosing long-term assignments (more than 3 years). More and more people are seriously committing to extended contracts and the prospect of staying somewhere other than their country of origin—indefinitely! Essentially, the trend is toward migrating to join another country's workforce and its culture—not an experience that is viewed as a terrific short-term internship nor a glorified study-abroad stint.

Indeed, another significant trend can be seen in the yearly research report from PWC on global talent mobility. In recent years, over 70% of college seniors and recent graduates are expressing a desire to work in another country at some point during their career, or for the duration! This percentage has never been so high, and it is an indication of the desire to develop their careers in a global world.

Foreign Talent Raises the Bar

Another fascinating shift, although it is certainly a natural shift, is that more and more expats are 2nd- and 3rd- generation expats. By virtue of being born into expat families, these "global nomads" or TCKs ("Third-Culture Kids") have in-built introduction to a spectrum of intercultural issues and nuances from their early childhood experiences and on.

The world has begun to acknowledge the incredible value in and demand for TCKs as a maturing pool of kids who were raised in a global environment with unprecedented levels of exposure to global leadership hindrances and advantages. Most TCKs also enjoy a comparably greater amount of access to personal and global leadership development opportunities, and are likely going to continue working in multicultural milieus. They are more aware of a globally competitive market and therefore are highly likely to prioritize deepening and diversifying their skillsets. These TCKs are raising the bar for foreign talent. Worldwide, they are sought-after candidates for international and interculturally-complex roles.

A Global Workforce Crisis Looming Ahead

In most industries, the global sourcing of talent has become normal rather than exceptional. This trend will grow exponentially in the next 5–10 years because of the shortage of skill and talent in the top-20 labor markets of the world. Research by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) on behalf of World Economic Forum (WEF) shows that by 2020 four of the top-20 labor markets of the world will face a local labor shortage; and in 2030, 17 of the top-20 labor markets of the world will face a local labor shortage.

The reality is that these top-20 countries must increase the rate at which they are recruiting foreign talent from all over the world—thereby unleashing a brand new wave of overseas talent-sourcing.

This influx of foreign talent will also need to bring in an accompanying wave of "up-skilling", including training in Inter-Cultural Intelligence and other global leadership competencies. There will be relentless demand for ongoing intercultural competence development for both existing staff and newly-acquired, foreign-sourced staff.

In the next article in this series, we will look at more global trends and the implications of failing to adjust to our increasingly global and inter-culturally complex world.


This series: Part 1 Part 2


Quickly becoming the global preferred choice for Inter-Cultural Intelligence development, KnowledgeWorkx promotes mutual understanding of other cultures and perspectives in the workplace, and helps teams to develop the intercultural capacity necessary to thrive in a globalized world.



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