Naren Damodaran – Senior Manager for Global Mobility, HR and Business Partner at CGI


With over ten years of experience in Global Mobility and HR, Mr Naren Damodaran has valuable insights about the industry. Mr Damodaran has worked for some of the biggest companies in Global Mobility such as Cartus and Brookfield Global. He is now the Senior Manager for Global Mobility, HR and Business Partner at CGI, a business processing IT company with hundreds of locations worldwide.


Mr Damodaran shared his experiences as a global mobility specialist throughout the years. Mr Damodaran also gives his insights about the most significant changes in the HR and Global Mobility industry recently. Read more about it in his full interview below.



Q: Can you tell us more about CGI and your role in the company?

Founded in 1976, CGI Group Inc. is the fifth largest independent information technology and business process services firm in the world. Approximately 68,000 professionals serve thousands of global clients from offices and delivery centres across the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific, leveraging a comprehensive portfolio of services, including high-end business and IT consulting, systems integration, application development and maintenance and infrastructure management, as well as 150 IP-based services and solutions. With annual revenue in excess of C$10 billion and an order backlog exceeding C$20 billion, CGI shares are listed on the TSX (GIB.A) and the NYSE (GIB).

As the Head of Global Mobility Shared Services, I was responsible for delivering talent mobility targets and needs of CGI’s businesses, globally, in a manner reflecting the management foundation, best practices of the global mobility industry adopted in CGI and utilising tools and methodologies innovated on within CGI’s global mobility function. Over five years, I led cross-border teams, inheriting teams from an acquisition and ensuring that throughout service delivery, quality wasn’t compromised based on either language, skills or geographical location. In a nutshell, my job was to ensure that a revenue earning asset was correctly managed through a watertight HR/global mobility process, bridging cultural differences and enabling the asset to become productive in the shortest possible timeframe, whilst ensuring that the Company had covered all its bases from a legal, social security, tax and compliance standpoint.

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Q: How does the information tech services of CGI influence the way you handle global mobility and HR for the company?

CGI being a Canadian headquartered Company with global operations, are forced to operate both globally and locally. The term we personally used in global mobility to reflect this operating model was “glocally”.

The challenge with being “glocal” is to match HR and global mobility practices and policies for a variety of operating markets from a mobility point of view, e.g. operating in Europe is different from operating in Asia, where there could be far more focus on social security in the former, whereas in the latter, focus could remain on personal safety.

Therefore, when we speak of handling mobility some of the key influencing factors were the rising costs of doing business in the global marketplace, working with companies such as Infosys, Tata, Wipro, Accenture and IBM, etc. who are already global players in an ever shrinking market and trying to achieve an economy of scale even when CGI isn’t as big as any of these key competitors and therefore the HR model itself, needs re-thinking when it comes to adopting a global mobility strategy. For example, CGI cannot afford to “bench” or keep “visa-ready” resources in the US or Europe like the other competitors mentioned here and therefore must have an effectively ready to take off mobility plan tying in with business targets and goals in each geography which means integrating your internal knowledge base, your key business targets and the service providers and tools you use in a program, i.e. service providers for assignment services like tax, social security, etc. and internally, effectively managing or using assignment management software, etc. On top of all this comes management of key business leaders and their business units in terms of keeping them prepared for a move and advising, constantly, of what a procedural system looks like in terms of effort, timelines and expected outcomes to avoid, simple miscommunications that will impact business.


Q: What do you think are the most significant changes in HR and Global Mobility in recent years?

In my opinion what has changed in recent years in the HR/global mobility combined domain is:

1)    A general reluctance on the part of most IT companies to look outside vs. inside to harness key decision making individuals or processes to resolve mobility issues, i.e. trying to compensate literature for practical and experienced staff/knowledge available in the marketplace;

2)    A constant push by one-half of the world to utilise staff, policies and data to run a successful program and a constant counteraction by so-called “Indian headquartered” firms to focus solely on “immigration” that potentially misguides immigration lawmakers globally where tasked with finding a solution to a migrant worker based immigration problem;

3)    Deeper “grey areas” in the areas of tax, payroll management, transfer pricing and the like which only confuse an already confused set of experts who in turn, try to impart a key decision on a client, etc.;

4)    Certainly in the case of CGI, while our volumes have decreased, our scope has increased. Global Mobility now owns immigration for the entire organisation, including for local hires and international transfers, through a centre of excellence approach;

5)    The combining of an HR shared service centre, and a global mobility shared service or operations centre to provide a well-rounded HR solution to the Company. More companies are adopting this style of organisation with varied results, and at the moment, there is no way to say which model works better as the range of companies operating these models is vast;

6)    The debate between insourcing and outsourcing a mobility program has only got hotter and larger without any one side showing considerable results either way;

7)    All of the above tie into one single change management initiative, i.e. no one really still knows what and how to position global mobility in an organisation. This hasn't changed, but it’s a significant factor in developing a global mobility need or strategy to successfully operate in a global environment. Unlike The Doors, one cannot function without a bassist in a global mobility function.


Q: What advice would you give to someone looking to build a career in HR and global mobility?

The current marketplace selling key global mobility skills is now fragmented into individuals practising immigration and global mobility separately, often like a head without a body. While this is strictly market/geography-based, the threat looms large in the frail economic times we live in, of this malaise affecting the programs of organisations worldwide. Secondly, the lack of HR in global mobility and vice-versa, which translates to “horses for courses” types of organisation structures, means that a lesser number of people are aware of the true impact of making key decisions in the global mobility world, which directly then affect the functioning of HR and Finance. The reverse is also true. Therefore, should someone be looking at a career in these disciplines, they should grab hold of all the information that is available to them both through practical working, networking and literature to ensure that they are well versed with what is expected of them from a role they may perform.

It’s extremely important to read between the lines, understand at least the basics and fundamentals of related fields such as tax, compliance, payroll, finance, logistics/relocation, vendor management, etc. before deciding a career here.



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