The JGM BitBlog: Virtual Global Mobility (VGM) – The future of expatriation?
Jan Selmer, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
Michael Dickmann. Cranfield University, Bedford, UK
Fabian J. Froese, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany
Jakob Lauring, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
B. Sebastian Reiche, IESE Business School, Barcelona, Spain
Margaret Shaffer, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, USA
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced global organizations to adopt technology-driven virtual solutions involving faster, less costly and more effective ways to work worldwide even after the pandemic. One potential outcome may be through virtual global mobility (VGM), defined as the replacement of personal physical international interactions for work purposes with electronic personal online interactions.
Since the Second World War, we have witnessed a massive trend of increasing physical global mobility where individuals – be they expatriates or global travelers – have crossed international borders to conduct work. We are now observing the emergence of a countertrend: instead of moving people to their work we often see work moving to people. Our article has explored some of the advantages and disadvantages of such global virtual work. Given the various purposes of global work we charted the suitability of VGM to fulfill these organizational objectives. But, as often in life, there are a range of intended and unintended consequences of change. On a broad organizational level, changes in global human resource configurations, power, communication and cultural effects are highly likely and will have to be assessed and carefully managed by global organizations. In addition, reshaping the world of global work has many other effects and opportunities. Moving work to people through VGM may allow individuals to choose how much travel they want to undertake and where they want to live and work.
This raises the question: is the persistent change to more virtual work just a temporary phenomenon induced by the COVID-19 pandemic or is VGM here to stay? Based on our analysis, we contend that VGM-related developments represent a change of trend. That means that long-term corporate expatriates could become necessary core players in VGM activities. In turn, the increase of the number of global travelers may be halted or reversed since their functions will be partly attained by VGM activities. It is also noteworthy that moving work to people instead of people to work through VGM does not necessarily change any business goals. However, it changes the way that global organizations pursue these goals and it may have profound changes in working patterns, talent development investment and recipients, as well as possible changes in organizational power structures over time. We are also convinced that VGM activities will grow and further develop due to a continued rapid development of communication and coordination technologies. VGM will likely also become increasingly attractive to more industries and larger international business segments because it may become increasingly cost-efficient and could even generate revenues by creating new business opportunities.
To read the full article, please see the Journal of Global Mobility publication:
Selmer, J., Dickmann, M., Froese, F.J., Lauring, J., Reiche, B.S. and Shaffer, M. (2022), "The potential of virtual global mobility: implications for practice and future research", Journal of Global Mobility, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 1-13. https://doi.org/10.1108/JGM-07-2021-0074