The Future of Global Mobility
How We Can Be Future-Ready… Today.
As we progress through 2020 and look at the months to come, those of us in the industry are forced to ask – what is the future of global mobility?
COVID has pushed us into a forced transformation. It doesn’t matter if you operate domestically or internationally and it doesn’t matter where you are based… the summer of 2019 will be the last “normal” summer that we will experience.
While this may seem scary, I want to encourage you to take this as an opportunity and a chance to write history. We all hold the pens and the following pages of this book are yet to be written. It is up to us to build the foundation for a prosperous and impactful future in our industry.
Let’s start by discussing what our purpose truly is in mobility… we are the enablement function for the transfer of knowledge, experiences, and labor. Labor, as we know, is not very often supported by mobility packages so I will zero-in on the transfer of knowledge and experiences.
We move experts in permanent and temporary ways so they can add intellectual value to a certain location. We transfer interns, expats, and other experiential roles to help them develop and become our workforce of tomorrow.
Let’s delve into where we are seeing changes…
Workforce Augmentation has been at the forefront of Vendium’s client initiatives. This is the enhancement of humans by using technology. We most often see this in the form of chatbots, digital team members, and robotic process automation to take some of the administrative work from the team and give it to the robots.
We conduct these initiatives to create a combination of cost and time savings allowing organizations to run leaner and serve stakeholders in a much more effective manner and drive revenue by creating a quite literal super-human workforce.
The lifecycle of a relocation or global assignment consultant is limited due to it being such a high-stress role. Volume season fluctuations, a stressed transferee, and playing the role of a partial project manager, partial therapist, partial admin, and partial miracle-initiator while being reliant on many service providers can wear down a human. This is not the case of an artificial intelligence.
A digital consultant is a custom-built artificial intelligence that performs needs assessment calls with transferees, discusses benefits, explains the process, sends service orders, and surveys the transferee. Most often used alongside a human, a digital consultant eliminates the inevitable “I was never told” or “but I was told something different” escalations. Many will even be incorporated during the recruiting process. Imagine not risking your competitor getting a copy of your policy from a candidate with multiple offers.
This is a high-tech and high-touch experience, improving the process for all involved.
Digital Subject Matter Experts
Something that we have most certainly all missed during quarantine, is being able to go to the desk of our team member that always seems to have the answer for whatever we face. This is a combination of institutional knowledge and industry experience. We highly appreciate these team members, but they also receive many more questions, e-mails, and meetings compared to their less tenured colleagues.
A digital subject matter expert provides a much-needed reprieve for your top-performers while making their depth of knowledge available to everyone in the organization, without delay and around the clock. Better yet, business leaders can see what questions are asked to know what areas the bot can be improved on and where organizational training needs to occur.
Millennials are the last generation to remember a time where research required a library and several hours. Now, we are all spoiled with access, able to answer any question that we have by asking SIRI. This makes a seamless delivery of information throughout our organizations all the more important.
Humans learn through visual, audio, reading, and kinesthetic means. Most people side with one of the four above the others. Reducing the barriers to getting to this information by using conversational A.I. and offering policies, processes, and other information through an easily consumable means ensures a well-educated and impactful workforce.
In mobility, stakeholder knowledge of our policies and processes eases the role of all those involved. For corporations, this includes HR, hiring managers, recruiting, legal, talent management, and transferees. For relocation management companies, this includes consultants, client management teams, accounting, corporate clients, and prospective clients. It is our role to make this seamless and technology is our vehicle to get there.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
VR and AR have gotten a lot more use in the learning and development space and mobility is an area where it is coming up quickly. Time is something that we all are limited on and VR and AR help to expedite many of our processes.
New Home Tours
Without ever leaving your origination location, a home tour is made possible through virtual reality and spherical 360 video. New home tours can be exhausting with scheduling challenges, travel time, and the limitation of availability during the time of the trip. Most properties have a 30-day notice to vacate so the options are limited, even in perfect conditions. Viewing properties live creates a much wider selection, improving your transferee's experience.
Our children’s adaptation to the new location is critical to the success of the transfer. The school is a major part of this. Virtually touring the school and location of the school can allow the transferee to see all of the schools in the area and not be limited to the few days allotted for a pre-move tour. VR, spherical 360 video, and standard video give the family a comprehensive look into this essential piece of the successful transfer puzzle.
Relatively inexpensive air travel has made even the most distant location able to be reached. In mobility, we face a few challenges – time, cost, and safety.
The time is time away from work and family. This impacts business performance and the experience of the employee. By using VR and spherical 360 video, the entire household can tour the area on their own time and without having to dedicate days away for travel.
While the cost of the flight can be minimal, we all see the costs of pre-decision tours adding up after paying for flight, hotel, meals, transportation, destination service providers, and all other associated costs. A highly functional VR headset able to be merged with a phone can cost as little as $50 USD.
Safety applies to the duration of travel and location safety and security. By incorporating VR into your mobility program, you eliminate the risk of DVT, foodborne illness, and security considerations of high-risk locations.
Multi-national organizations all face a similar challenge of consistency in training. Computer-based learnings are a solution for this, but mobility can use VR and AR to scale the training that they already conduct. Train stakeholders on policy, process, and compliance without even the need of sending a meeting planner. Train the employee on what to expect, the new facility, and the expectations of them. Train the destination leadership on how to appropriately support their new team member.
The very best training should be scalable, on-demand, and measured. How long did they spend in the training? When did they take it? How did they improve? These questions and more can be answered through analytics attached to your training initiatives.
Augmented reality is going to be the future of meetings. In movies, we have seen board rooms filled with holograms but that is no longer the stuff of science fiction. Telepresence has been improving over the past decade and solutions such as Microsoft’s holoportation are a display of the AR version.
Years ago, video conferencing was revolutionary and now Zoom is a household name. In the future of mobility, we can be digitally present anywhere with Mobility being the enablement and compliance function of such endeavors.
2020 has been an example of global workforce collaboration through digital means. The summer of 2020 is a bit of a case study and proof of product for virtual internships. If I had asked our clients a year ago if they would consider virtual assignments or internships, they would have told us that it was impossible. Today, it is the norm.
Internships have a significant benefit to both the intern and the organization. It is a kind of trial period for both while allowing for meaningful work to get accomplished. This is done through cultural immersion, team projects, and independent work.
For cultural immersion, the virtual intern can participate in team training and meetings wherever they may be. Scheduling and tracking ensure they attend and actually participate. By being virtual, these events can be regularly and impactfully administered eliminating travel time and availability limitations.
When working on team projects, collaboration tools provide the virtual interns the ability to actively participate. This has the unintended benefit of conditioning the virtual intern to use the latest workforce technology. Once the job offer is made, the hiring team can be assured that the now candidate has a comprehensive working knowledge of their tech.
Individual projects have a new level of accountability by seeing what the virtual intern is capable of without supervision. Are they a self-starter? Can they manage their time well? How well can they use judgment and technology to accomplish the task? These questions and more are shown as the virtual intern works on their tasks from the comfort of their home.
Digital Global Assignments
Global assignments are often used to either train a replacement at the host location or complete a certain project. The benefit of the global assignment is the cultural experience for the assignee and them learning how the function is performed in the host location. While there is no replacement for a true global assignment experience, VR and AR allow the assignee to “be there” and structuring the work pulls many of the benefits that they would get from the host location.
Mobility can provide the infrastructure, work structure, and compliance oversight for these assignments. Nearly every component of a successful digital global assignment is as impactful as an in-person one. The digital assignee can attend language training, intercultural training, virtual location immersion, and perform as a true member of the host location team all virtually.
Digital global assignments are much more cost-effective and scalable so more employees can be provided with this highly sought-after experience. What are the results? A more effective global workforce and talent management data showing who would be most effective and prepared for a proper global assignment.
Digital Rotational Assignments
Rotational assignments can be used for the development of the individual and host location both domestically and internationally. Groups or individuals can spend time working in a certain location- virtually. By structuring a meaningful experience through the mobility team, many of the benefits of the rotation can be realized in a similar way to the digital global assignment.
Virtual location immersion helps the employee learn and “experience” the destination. Virtual team transfers allow them to work with, teach, and learn from the team at the destination. 2020 has conditioned our teams to work effectively virtually and this adjustment can “send” them anywhere in the world… virtually.
Traditional Moves and Assignments
Throughout all of human history, people have moved and that will never change. That said, the purpose, use of data, and duration will be changing.
Why We Move People
We move people to share ideas, but it is no longer the thought of “people in seats” that is our “why”. PwC has predicted 80% of the workforce of tomorrow will be mobile. This may not be wrong; however, we will likely take some time to get close to those numbers.
Sharing of ideas comes in the form of training, experiences, meetings, and personal interactions. These events benefit both parties by sharing cultural lessons, thought processes, and drives innovation. Our role is to ensure these occur as seamlessly as possible.
How We Move People
Mobility and HR as a whole is a cost-center and being sensitive to the economic impact that 2020 has had on our global organizations, controlling cost is all the more important. We are looking for the right people, at the right place, at the right time, for the right reason, and at the right cost.
Where We Move People
Since we have established that our workforce can perform their role from anywhere with an internet connection, where we move people is taken under a different light. The physical “where” will be on hold until our offices reopen but the digital “where” can be done at any point.
The transformation of Mobility will be in the combination of physical and digital transfers. Digitally we can allow the employee to live where they want while working on the team that they are the best fit for. The result is cost reduction in transfer costs, compensation increases, and the inevitable follow up moves.
For physical transfers, the where should be done strategically and part of our long-term talent management plan. The three most stressful times in someone’s life are death, divorce, and relocation. By being strategic and long-term focused, we avoid moving someone for a short period to just uproot them again. In the future of Mobility, the physical “where” will be for periods of at least 24 months unless they are on assignment.
What We Support On
Intercultural training is at the forefront of what we do as mobility professionals. We help people from differing cultures interact more effectively. This is very complimentary of the diversity, equity, and inclusion space. Mobility is uniquely positioned to be the champion of total-organizational DEI development.
Opening chat sessions with leaders from varying cultures allows for a bit of the expat experience to be brought to any member of our workforce. Curiosity and self-directed development promote a well-rounded workforce and employees who feel a deep connection with the total organization. Mobility can lead this front.
Culture is defined as the culmination of norms, values, and beliefs within a group or subgroup. The reality is that we can be more similar to someone on the other side of the world than a team member a few seats down. Organizations committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion enjoy a 24% increase in revenue as well as a positive 19% improvement in innovation. Failure to address cultural cohesion conflict impedes this growth.
With the tools, knowledge, and experience Mobility can and should be spearheading cultural cohesion for our global organizations. This is a differentiating competitive advantage for relocation management companies and a value-driver for corporate mobility teams during these slower times. Diversity, equity, and inclusion is an organic transformational addition to Mobility.
A question that we often ask our clients is, “if you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?”. This is a question that reveals a lot about the individual. It is their dreams, their goals, and forces them to think about something that they so often view as outside of their control.
In the quest for top talent, the location of a headquarters should not be a limiting factor.
In certain cases, employees will want to move to a certain location for personal reasons. This could be for family or even just a personal goal. By offering a partial-support relocation policy with specific parameters, the organization doesn’t need to lose the talent and can allow minimal support to get them to the location.
Opt-In Global Assignments
Imagine living and working in a faraway land. Imagine the impact that it will have on your career. Imagine the experiences that you will have. These thoughts are what make global assignments so sought-after amongst our teams.
Opt-in global assignments provide limited support focused on compliance while the employee shares in the transfer costs. As we know, global assignments benefit all parties involved so this cost-effective solution obtains those benefits for a reduced cost to the company. Additionally, this avenue improves employee experience by allowing them to live through their wanderlust dreams.
To limit any negative impact on the employee, make education a strong priority in these programs. Keep them short term and make potential financial impact clear. As mobility professionals, what may seem obvious to us is all new to the employee.
Location Swap Programs
Multi-national organizations often have employees with a similar job description in another location. Location swap programs allow the employees to trade locations for a short assignment. What we do is not always aligned with how we do it so while an exciting global experience to the peers, the program organically improves innovation with the knowledge transfer.
Similar to an opt-in global assignment, the employees should share in an equitable share of the expense. Equitable is important to note as an employee in Bangalore may not have the same compensation package as someone in New York. These programs are built to provide global experience, be a personal value-add to the employee, and also benefit the company through workforce development so education and cost of living adjustments are essential.
Most organizations are currently either partially or fully remote, at the time of my writing of this article. It has been proven as a productive means of operations and has come with many lessons.
Mobility should be the compliance agent for remote workers. Where are your employees working? How are they being taxed? What are they expensing? Do we have any immigration risks? Mobility is uniquely qualified to ensure compliance in these areas is met.
It may take some time to return to anything resembling “normal”, but it has revealed opportunities in remote work. If we need a top talent who doesn’t want to move, Mobility can help the knowledge transfer while ensuring tax and legal compliance are held. We know it works, now we need to be sure we are doing it right.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me or my team at any time. Together, we can be future-ready today.
Founder & CEO
YouTube: Vendium Global