On Friday 9th November Natalie Chapman from Bournes Relocation Solutions joined Holly Creed (Global Mobility Manager at DXC Technology) Aoife Whitford (Founder & Director of Property Basecamp) and Elizabeth Bodington (Global Mobility Lead at Capco) for a Next Gen GM panel at the FEM EMEA Summit to discuss and present insights into the future of global mobility.
Natalie shares some of her highlights of the discussion below:
"The panel kicked off with a discussion on how the global mobility (GM) function is changing. It was interesting to hear the different thoughts from both an in-house corporate and relocation service vendor perspective.
Technology in Global Mobility
The consensus was that technology is and will continue to completely change the way the global mobility function operates. It was agreed across the panel that technology is being demanded by the workforce, and not just by Millennials. There is an expectation to have relocation updates and information at their fingertips through the use of online portals or phone apps and with the availability of data the global mobility function are now able to make faster and more intelligent decisions based on data analytics and predictive artificial intelligence (AI). However Elizabeth eluded to the fact that it is a big challenge to get business buy in and justification to spend money on technology. Holly echoed that global mobility professionals have a shrinking budget and so need to be more business minded in the way they justify obtaining budgets and that companies need to focus on what they truly need rather than what is ‘nice to have’. Building a solid business case, and using data to support the need for technology and then presenting that to the business was raised as a good solution.
Leading on from the need to present a solid business case for technology was the observation that with so many new technology companies popping up there was some confusion over what technology solutions would be the best and most sustainable fit for individual global mobility programmes. The key differentiators between technology companies seemed to be unclear, though what was clear was that technology will continue to change the face of global mobility in years to come.
The changing nature of international assignments
It was also discussed that we are seeing a huge rise in the relocation of the junior to mid-level workforce and utilising lump sum payments and more flexible allowances which is a shift in trend compared to the long term assignments aimed at senior level executives which were so popular 10 years ago.
Global mobility in its very nature is ever evolving. We have gone from a one policy fits all approach to there being at minimum 3-5 policies per global mobility function as it stands today in 2018. This is only set to rise as the demographic of the workforce continues to change and we witness a surge of short term assignments, commuters, business travellers and gig workers.
Global mobility is no longer just about assignments but anything cross border. Boston Consulting Group predicts a major skill shortage affecting all 15 of our largest economies which will touch every multinational company. The Global Mobility function will need to leverage this workforce to fill the skills gap. A small section of the audience had already developed a Gig Worker Policy whereas the majority did not currently utilise this workforce. I predict that will change in the next few years.
The demographic of workforce is also changing in the sense that flexible working is on the rise alongside remote working and the so called ‘virtual assignment’. With this in mind, it will be interesting to see the emergence of the truly digital employee nomad over the next decade. In addition, nowadays many policies are a lot more focused on employee experience and how global mobility can be used to retain core talent for senior leadership roles in the company. This link between global mobility and talent management is set to rise as the audience predicted that it would be the top priority of the global mobility function in 2028.
Preparing the global mobility workforce
The panel then moved into the question of ‘How do you prepare the global mobility workforce?’. The common theme shared across the panel member answers was ‘education and communication’.
Firstly it is important to understand who your population are and where in the world they are travelling to and from. If you have more than one type of assignee population it is important to offer different solutions, for instance, use a combination of suppliers depending on those specific workforce needs. It was also highlighted that assignees often vastly underestimate the complexities of relocating. So it is pertinent to ensure global mobility policies are giving the right level of support for the right type of assignment.
There has been a boom in popularity of the so called ‘softer services’ such as area orientations, settling in, cultural training and language training. Providing these relocation services appears to be correlated to an enhanced relocation experience which loops into increased employee retention and assignment success. If you want to improve ROI then a focus on providing these softer services is needed. It is about providing a more holistic relocation experience rather than a purely transactional one. As Richard Branson said ‘ Train them to leave or treat them to stay’. Aoife advised that we need to put employee experience at the forefront of the GM programme and that to do this we must always put ourselves in the employees and their families shoe’s and provide them with the much needed support to allow the most seamless transition to their new location.
"We need to put employee experience at the forefront of the GM programme " (Aoife Whitford - Founder & Director of Property Basecamp)
Technology again took centre stage as a way of preparing the workforce through allowing access to real time updates, information, tracking and data throughout the relocation cycle. Also some forward thinking companies are now starting to leverage social media, social mobility and technology to prepare the workforce by uploading video testimonials of employee global mobility experience as a rationale for new hires to join a company and existing employees to go on assignment.
Compliance and business requirements
The panel session was rounded up by the question ‘How can global mobility professionals equip themselves in line with compliance and business requirements?’. Again the themes of education and communication were echoed as being the most important skills to invest in. Holly made the important point that one should not take on too much risk internally. Leave technical advice to the experts as the cost of non-compliance far outweighs any savings made by attempting to google answers on topics such as immigration and tax compliance.
All panellists highlighted the importance of working closely with their vendors, especially with so many geopolitical changes and Brexit around the corner. It is going to become more important than ever to network and invest in education and have the most up to date information to relay back to the business so that they are kept abreast of the constant changes. Whether that is attending seminars, subscribing to vendor industry updates, sitting on roundtables, meeting up with peers and discussing pain points or meeting with vendors to better understand their solutions. This information can then be taken back to the business and internal stakeholders and global mobility can leverage this information to improve their programmes and ensure that they are in line with business requirements and compliance. It is also important to work on building a strong global mobility brand within organisations so that they can be recognised as the hugely valuable function that they are and secure a seat at the table. Poignantly the ability to gain new knowledge will become more important than knowledge itself."
If you're interested in keeping up to date with the future of global mobility Natalie and Holly have teamed up to create the 'Next Gen GM' network. The focus of Next Gen GM is to support the next generation of global mobility professionals with less than fifteen years' of experience within Global Mobility, both corporate and vendor, to enable them to come together and enhance their global mobility development and network. Contact Natalie if you'd like to find out more or register to attend an upcoming event.
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