International mobility boosts brain circulation – Alain Dehaze

8 Junho, 2016

Alain Dehaze, CEO do Grupo Adecco, partilha a influência que os seus instintos nómadas tiveram na sua carreira:


“Over the past 25 years, I’ve lived in five countries, working with highly multicultural teams. Our four children have gone through four different national educational systems and languages. All currently study abroad.

My nomadic instincts have not hurt my career. Nor have our children obviously been disadvantaged. Relocating was no hard sell: like many of their generation, they appear to view travel as a condition for personal development and job satisfaction.

It’s simplistic, of course, to extrapolate and argue mobility is the panacea for career development and job satisfaction – let alone broader global ills.  It takes more than a penchant for passport stamps to climb the corporate ladder. One academic study worth looking at, if now somewhat ageing, examined France’s LVMH group ( But, as many final-year university students this month prepare for graduation and the world of work, let me plead for mobility as a crucial requirement for them and their employers and society.

Of course, work is complex and unstable. Many recent graduates will struggle.  Global labour market regulations remain the single most important barrier to the more effective use of human capital. But a willingness to embrace international mobility is a crucial quality for individual careers and to tackle the world’s chronic unemployment and rising skills disparities. “Aging populations and declining labour forces in most G20 advanced economies and some large emerging economies suggest that migrant workers will have an important role in maintaining labour supply and in filling labour shortages and social protection funds”, argued the ILO, OECD and World Bank in an influential joint paper last year (—dgreports/—dcomm/—publ/documents/publication/wcms_398078.pdf)

For the individual, mobility offers a bigger jobs pool and opportunities than a purely domestic path could ever present. Mobility builds better leaders able to navigate a globalised world. It helps individuals become more culturally sensitive, adaptable and flexible, and builds networks, problem solving skills and creativity. Academics – particularly scientists – have long recognised the value of moving between universities and labs to hone their skills. Much the same applies to those multinationals, notably in energy, foods and consumer goods, that polish their highest fliers through carefully selected foreign postings.

Companies should foster a culture of mobility and diversity. They should make it easy to work at various global locations and hire from an international talent pool. Quality management practice is also imperative: people are attracted to companies where opportunities are assigned on merit and investment in talent development is a priority.

The value of international mobility is unquestionable at macro level too. The Global Talent Competitiveness Index, a study Adecco produces annually with INSEAD and the Human Capital Leadership Institute, demonstrates openness to foreign talent is a key to success ( The top three ranked countries, Switzerland, Singapore and Luxembourg, and other high performers, like the US and UK have a history of embracing immigration. In the UK alone, no less than 7% of the workforce – or 2.1m people – is from the EU. That’s a provocative thought amid the EU referendum debate. Research by Adecco UK and the Social Market Foundation shows British employers rely on highly skilled EU immigrants (

Immigration, of course, is a touchy subject. Rather than “brain gain” or “brain drain”, I prefer to talk about “brain circulation” – the opportunity, nay necessity, for talented individuals to transfer seamlessly between countries. Such interaction benefits receiving countries by providing skills, and sending countries through remittances, skill transfers, networks and diaspora investment. “Migrants make important contributions to the economies of both destination and origin countries”, added the ILO, OECD and World Bank in their study.  Altogether a “win-win” for all!

Countries should strive to boost mobility via appropriate immigration policies and simplified regulation. Education is also crucial. Investment in formal and vocational training has been proved to boost national job figures, as well as attract talent from abroad. More ambitiously, countries should develop educational clusters, as these are proven magnets for high calibre talent.

I don’t know what my children will do with their lives or whether any will become CEOs. But I’m certain – based on my experience and the knowledge gained working for the world’s leading HR services provider – that encouraging them to be internationally mobile will benefit their prospects immeasurably.”


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