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The globalised U.K. workforce: One in four UK workers now employed in a global role

New research by Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) and L’Oréal UK and Ireland, has found that the increasingly open global economy is having a radical impact on UK workplaces, with over one in four (28%) UK employees, or six million individuals, now working in an internationally-focussed role and gaining additional skills.

Commenting on the research, Isabelle Minneci, HR Director at L’Oreal UK and Ireland, said:

“We know UK employees’ value careers based on flexibility, adaptability, and that offer the opportunity to develop new skills. Providing these opportunities benefits retention, satisfaction and ultimately, a company’s bottom line. Our own figures show that over the past ten years, those managers who have worked for L’Oréal in two markets are almost 20% more likely to stay with us, than those with no international experience – a figure which rises to 25% when employees are given a chance to work in three or more international markets”.

 Productivity increase associated with a more global career is estimated to contribute £9.4 billion, (0.6%) to the UK GVA (Gross Value Added)
  • Employees with global career skills – skills developed through working with overseas markets and in international locations – increasingly in demand among UK employers
  • Nine in ten employers believe employees with an international outlook and experience improve their bottom-line
  • Global career experience adds 15%, or £2,700 a year, to the average UK salary, and employees stay with an organisation four years longer on average
  • Productivity increase associated with a more global career is estimated to contribute £9.4 billion (0.6%) to the UK GVA
  • Greater demand for global career opportunities predicted in 2016 – with young female employees most likely to lead demand


Shruti Uppala, Economist from the CEBR, said:

“The diversity of the UK’s labour market brings a broad range of benefits to the UK economy. Businesses benefit from a forward thinking and diverse workforce equipped with international languages and cultural knowledge. This enhances the firm’s ability to conduct business in international markets which is critical for business growth.

With a clear consensus among business decision makers that demand for international career opportunities will continue to rise, it’s vital that organisations resolve this communications gap or risk missing out on attracting the next generation of top talent.”

The study found employers are increasingly demanding that employees understand market operations and business cultures in foreign markets to help drive business growth – with nine in ten employers seeing employees’ international-outlook, skills and experiences key to improving their bottom line. Over half (55%) believe that, as a result of taking up international career opportunities employees become more engaged in their role, while 53% believe employees are more successful in bringing in new business opportunities.

Employers estimate that international experience increases an individual’s average gross earnings by 15% within one to three years. While employees at organisations which offer international career opportunities are, on average, likely to stay for almost four years longer than they would have otherwise.

The positive effect of a workforce with an international outlook is also felt by the UK economy, with the productivity increase associated with taking up a more international career estimated to contribute £9.4 billion (0.6%) in terms of Gross Value Added (GVA).

The international fast track to career progression

Overall the majority of employees (61%) who have international experience believe they are able to progress more quickly within their organisation, relative to those colleagues who have not had any international experience. This increases to 74% of employers who perceive that exposure to global markets enable their employees to progress more quickly in their career.

The skills gained by employees with global experiences include:

  • New foreign language (46%)
  • Greater awareness of global economic and political issues (43%)
  • Increased awareness, tolerance and cultural sensitivity (64%)
  • Ability to be more flexible and adaptable to diverse problems and situations (64%)

Demand for international careers driven by women

Young women (aged between 25-34 years old) are driving the greatest demand for international career opportunities – with over half (57%) currently considering taking up a more international role (compared to just 29% of men). However, this figure drops as women hit 35-44, to just 16%. Overall nearly two thirds (65%) of employers expect demand for international career opportunities to increase over the next year.

Disconnect between employers and employees

While the research reveals that the benefits of international careers and subsequent skills are clear, there is a glaring disconnect between employee and employer perceptions on the international opportunities presented within their companies. For example, whilst over half (51%) of employers say that the opportunity to achieve an international career is encouraged and incentives to do so are offered to employees, by contrast only 22% of employees agree.  In addition, while 62% of employees say they speak to their employees about international opportunities, only a fraction (13%) of employees say this actually happens.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) has supplied independent economic forecasting and analysis to hundreds of private firms and public organisations.

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