Global employee mobility is booming as a growing number of companies go global.
As the number of moves multiply, there are greater mobility challenges and decisions for HR specialists to consider than ever before.
As a Deloitte report into employee mobility points out, the employee mobility industry was once underpinned by a few specialised vendors, but now there are dozens of specialist providers to choose from all with varying organisational structures and combinations of experience, resources and skill.
For many years, HR specialists searched for ways to streamline the relocation process sourcing vendors based on either the Conventional or Single Point of Contact service delivery model, and there are obviously pros and cons for each.
The Conventional model saw mobility support provided by vendors operating largely in isolation. This model required the mobile employee to liaise with a range of vendors delivering different types of services. Typical complaints included an overwhelming contact list of specialist vendors interfacing with HR and the mobile employee having to deal with disparate to-do lists and repetitive information requests.
The Single Point of Contact approach gained traction to address the issues presented by the Conventional model. The global relocation management company co-ordinated the range of relocation activities from start to finish. Relocation timelines were effectively managed, and the mobile employee could go to one central point to remedy any service delivery issues. This model worked well for some organisations but was not considered flexible enough for others. Experience shows that no single person can navigate the job as effectively as a well-organised team, the Deloitte report points out.
The Collaborative network model is fast gaining traction, as it breaks down barriers among service providers, requiring and incentivising them to perform as a unified team.
Models Evolve To Better Meet Customer Needs
Jennifer Salisbury is the mobility manager for Grace Mobility, which works with a range of clients in retail, education, infrastructure, government and corporate brands to manage all elements of employee mobility.
She says: “The broader employee mobility sector is forever changing, and vendors must keep up with the changing needs of their customers. Our service delivery model was designed to leverage the best of both the Collaborative and Single Point of Contact model. We offer the employee and HR manager the ability to work closely with a highly experienced relocation co-ordinator. This person oversees the entire relocation process, liaising with HR, the mobile employee and our global network.”
As the complexity of relocation across borders continues to grow, it’s increasingly unrealistic to expect that one contact has the skills to address every possible variable during a move, the Deloitte report explains.
“He or she would need to be a bona fide specialist in customs, immigration, insurance, travel, equity, home sale, employment law and tax, among other areas. If not, the value to the employee would be greatly reduced,” the report reads.
Salisbury says that’s why the Grace collaborative service delivery model focuses on engaging experts from different specialisations globally.
“This is underpinned by our technology platform where we’re able to streamline workflows, track costs and record critical data – all in real time. Our global network of experts ensures the advice provided to HR comes from trained individuals who are specialists in their chosen field. We’re able to change providers quickly if necessary, and we can scale up and down to meet our clients business needs, says Salisbury.
“The end result is that we can select the best contacts for each relocation element, effectively manage costs and offer our clients the ability to tailor their relocation experience,” she says.
Comparing apples with apples
Relocation supply chain vendors vary in size depending on the job, from a national carrier to single location carrier, and rates provided are based on the moving cycles throughout the year.
Companies requiring these services need to ensure they’re comparing apples with apples when shopping around for the right service provider, Salisbury says.
“With the growing trend in flexibility within mobility policies, companies also need to try and align themselves accordingly with the appropriate model for relocation. In todays world it is not just about looking for a single brand, but transitioning models to mirror the new policies that provide not only flexibility but the opportunity to change and adapt quickly with their business needs.” Salisbury says.
When shopping around for a provider, don’t be fooled by shiny bells and whistles and empty promises, advises Thomas Isbell, who works for an independent assurance, tax and advisory firm, Grant Thornton.
A Focus on Collaborative Relationships
“Focus on the relationship manager and their team. If you get the sense that they will genuinely care about you and your business and take pride in the client service element, then you’re onto a winner. It’s much easier to have a mutually successful relationship if you genuinely like and respect one another,” Isbell explains.
One element of a move that companies often overlook is not budgeting for the process properly. “Many companies rely on international talent to resource and win global projects, which cannot be done effectively without the proper cost projections. There have been many occasions where a project has been unprofitable due to this oversight,” Isbell says
The fact is that employee mobility is going to increase as an urgent consideration for companies as global operations continue to expand. Those companies who invest in their vendor relationships and have robust policies in place will emerge as the most competitive.