The JGM BitBlog: Beyond Income - Unveiling the Hidden Forces Shaping Global Mobility of Managers and Executives.

Journal of Global Mobility

Arturo Bris, Institute for Management Development (IMD), Lausanne, Switzerland.
Shlomo Ben-Hur, Institute for Management Development (IMD), Lausanne, Switzerland. 
José Caballero, Institute for Management Development (IMD), Lausanne, Switzerland.
Marco Pistis, Institute for Management Development (IMD), Lausanne, Switzerland. 

In today's interconnected world, the mobility of managers and executives is a crucial factor in shaping the success and competitiveness of businesses across borders. While traditional theories suggest that economic factors like income drive such mobility decisions, recent research challenges this notion, shedding light on a broader range of factors influencing the international mobility patterns of highly skilled professionals.
Breaking the Mould
Our study "The macro-contextual drivers of the international mobility of managers and executives" goes beyond the conventional wisdom, uncovering the hidden forces that entice managers and executives to relocate. By examining a rich migration dataset from OECD, enriched with indicators encompassing various aspects of mobility from CEPII, World Bank and IMD, the study provides fresh insights into what drives these individuals to resettle elsewhere. The study also contextualizes the study of the country-level drivers of managers’ and executives’ mobility through a genuinely global lens and, in doing so, fills the “cultural gap” in the study of mobility.
Cultural Affinity and the Power of Networks
Contrary to the prevailing belief that financial gains are the primary motivators, the study finds that factors related to cultural affinity, such as language and colonial ties, play a significant role in determining managers' and executives' mobility. Common official, spoken, and native languages, along with linguistic proximity, were found to be highly influential in attracting highly skilled individuals. That is to say, ethnic networks in destination countries are key in luring highly skilled talent.
Quality of Life a Game-Changer
The study confirms that quality of life is a major factor in the relocation decisions of highly skilled professionals. In fact, it emerges as a more influential factor than income considerations, particularly for managers and executives. The opportunity for a better lifestyle, encompassing factors such as healthcare and education systems, significantly influences their choices, indicating that a holistic approach to well-being is paramount in attracting top talent.
Implications and Way Forward
The study’s findings have important implications for businesses and policymakers alike. Companies seeking to attract international managers and executives should tailor their recruitment strategies to emphasize the unique aspects of a destination country's quality of life. Meanwhile, policymakers can leverage these insights to develop effective "relocation branding" strategies that showcase a country's attractiveness factors, such as cultural affinity, in order to attract the desired talent pool.
The study challenges the long-held assumption that income alone drives the international mobility of managers and executives. By delving into the cultural and quality of life aspects, it uncovers the multi-faceted nature of their mobility decisions. As businesses and countries compete for the top global talent, understanding these underlying drivers will be instrumental in shaping successful talent attraction and retention strategies. Ultimately, recognizing and embracing these hidden forces will lead to a more inclusive and diverse global workforce, fostering innovation and driving economic growth in the process.

To read the full article, please see the Journal of Global Mobility publication:
Bris, A., Ben-Hur, S., Caballero, J. and Pistis, M. (2023), "The macro-contextual drivers of the international mobility of managers and executives", Journal of Global Mobility, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 252-273.