Lynn Shotwell

We are delighted to welcome Lynn Shotwell, SVP and Head of Global Outreach Operations at SHRM, to our Global Advisory Board. SHRM is the largest HR organization in the world and Lynn will be using her vast knowledge and international experience to help guide the actions of the Council over coming period. We are delighted to have Lynn on our Council and are confident that she will be able to enrich and support our efforts to work across our three stakeholder groups – employers, educators and policymakers – for the benefit of talent.

Lynn is an expert in global mobility and shared her views on how global mobility will increasingly impact the talent talent landscape in the following interview with us.

Caroline Brent – Do you think global talent mobility will change between now and 2030, and if so what will those changes be?

Lynn Shotwell – Over the next 10 years we will continue to need to move talent around the globe to fill skills gaps and grow global businesses. Employers around the globe are competing for workers with the skills needed in today’s economy. When coupled with an ageing workforce, particularly in Europe, Japan and the US, this means that cross-border movement of workers will be critical to enable businesses to meet their objectives. However, there is evidence that skilled workers are becoming less willing to move, so this means delivering talent in the right place to maintain economies will become even more challenging.

“Governments must understand what employers need to meet their business objectives – and what the native population needs in order to be prepared for the available jobs.”

What do you think the impact of any changes in global talent mobility will be on employers and how can businesses best prepare for those changes?

– It is clear that not all talent needs can be met through migration, so companies need a multi-point strategy. For example, partnering with local schools and universities to secure local skills will be key, as will bringing underrepresented groups into the work place. This could involve positive programs for the disabled at work or perhaps some financial and training support to help people transition from other industries. This could also include flexible work arrangements to engage with those with other life commitments.

What do you think is the role of governments and legislators in the talent mobility issues of the future?

– First and foremost, governments must understand what employers need to meet their business objectives – and what the native population needs in order to be prepared for the available jobs.

– Employers and legislators need to work together to prepare the native population through the education system for lifelong learning. There needs to be an understanding for everyone that retaining is part of your life and career. Current workers need to be retrained for available jobs and to understand that this is the natural way of work for the future. If this can be achieved there will be greater acceptance of the need for a system to also attract and integrate foreign nationals who will always be needed to add diverse ideas and to fill skill gaps.

– Legislation needs to be able to support a multiplicity of worker engagement options, such as temporary work, short term contracts, gig working, on and off-balance sheet work. What works – and is suitable – is country dependent. Governments must deliver some vital pieces of the jigsaw and demonstrate the following:

  1. That they have control over their borders and that they have a well-functioning migration system. Employers must ensure those who work for them have proper work authorization.
  2. Migrants must be paid under the same rules and conditions as the native population to avoid unfair competition and exploitation. This will enable the native population to accept that the employment playing field is fair and that migration helps grow the economy providing opportunities for all.
  3. That local talent has been provided with education and training and the opportunity to fill the roles before workers are recruited from abroad. Such labor market testing is particularly challenging because it must be done in a manner efficient to meet employers’ needs.

What is your biggest hope and/or concern about talent mobility in the next 10 years?

– New ways of working, automation, robotics and machine learning will all influence what we work at and how we work. This will cause anxiety as some jobs are destroyed but also create the need for new skills. Technology may enable more work to be done remotely; however, I believe there is a basic human need for contact and we will continue to have a need for talent to move around the globe and meet in physical spaces.

– We anticipate that long-term permanent relocation may wane while temporary mobility related to particular projects may increase. HR also needs to be ready and help to prepare workforces for these changes. In my opinion, multi-nationals have a pretty good understanding of their needs and robust processes for moving talent. Small, to medium-sized companies have many of the same needs but may lack the experience and resources to navigate the myriad government regulations inherent in international assignments. It will be particularly important for government rules to recognize the changing nature of work and make it easy for employers and workers to comply.

– My hope is that governments can harness technology to manage people in- and outflows. This would be a huge step forward in creating a belief and credibility in a level playing field for national talent. My fear is that if the economy softens and if people are not re-trained there will not be the political opportunity to deliver that change.

“Those that re-train need to understand that when they re-train they may need to re-enter the workforce at a different level to which they had achieved in other roles. This is a major blocker to re-training”.

Who should be responsible for that re-training?

– As a society, we must reset expectations. Creating an understanding that in the future you may need to have many careers in one working life. That is a big communication challenge that must start with schools and extend to employers and government. Lifelong learning must have some material support, for example, can you work part-time while you re-train and still have some financial support and income security? Employers and Governments need to take a longer-term view to retraining society.

– In addition, those that re-train need to understand that when they re-train they may need to re-enter the workforce at a different level to which they had achieved in other roles. This is a major blocker to re-training. Tackling this is complicated and critical if we are to have a society that is at work, including second careers for older workers.

– We also need to determine what protections and benefits are provided to gig workers and other non-traditional forms of employment. This may require a redefinition of the employer-employee relationship and recognition that many workers may have simultaneous relationships with multiple employers. Labor unions, governments and employers need to co-operate here to find effective solutions. HR have a critical role to play here in effecting this workplace change in mindset.

Caroline Brent


Lynn Shotwell has been leading organizations dedicated to helping employers build global workforces for over two decades. Lynn is SVP and Head of Global Operations & Outreach for SHRM, the world’s largest HR professional society.

 Lynn currently serves as co-chair of the Business Mechanism of the Global Forum on Migration and Development and the Board of Trustees of World Education Services.

She has also served on the European Union Expert Working Group on Economic Migration, on the B20 Employment Task Force, as chair of the Alliance for International Exchange, Compete America, Multinational Employers for Working Spouses and the Executive Working Group on Global Mobility Policies.

Lynn is a frequent lecturer on mobility policy and has testified before the US Congress, United Nations, and World Trade Organization and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows.



Lynn graduated with distinction with a BA in International Relations from James Madison College at Michigan State University and received her law degree from the University of Michigan. She has lived in seven US states, France and Brazil. Lynn currently resides in Arlington VA with her husband, Andrew Shotwell, and their two daughters.

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