Cheaper, faster, better: the compelling case for automation in global mobility

12 November 2019

Global mobility is a good thing for organizations. While we may be preaching to the converted on this blog, it is clear that it brings a number of undisputed benefits.

It enables a more even spread of talent, taking skills and experience to where they are needed. It helps an organization not only to develop its talent by offering new experiences, but also helps to attract the best people in the first place. A recent study found that 70% of employees saw relocation as a career advancement, even if their role and salary remained unchanged.

But there are two potential downsides: 

  1. It is expensive and extremely complex to manage.
    Many aspects need to be covered, ranging from financial, administrative and legal considerations through to the more immediate process of looking after the people on the ground (and their families). The cost and effort of this should clearly not be allowed to outweigh the benefit.
     
  2. A bad experience can do more harm than good.
    Not only might the company fail in its immediate business objectives, thwarting progress and damaging the company’s prospects but employees may also be dissuaded from relocating again – or even staying with the company.

Automation promises to solve both problems, or at least reduce the risk. The choice of technology is beyond the scope of this article, but techniques such as blockchain, AI and machine learning are making automated processes a reality for global mobility. As these systems become more mature and accepted, the case for automation is becoming overwhelming. It really can make business cheaper, faster and better.

Cheaper: automatically driving down the cost

The basic argument is that using automation takes away the mundane tasks from a global mobility department enabling them to apply their time to more valuable human-centric tasks.

A typical example here might be the use of chatbots to handle certain online queries. Without chatbots, HR staff would typically spend valuable time manually composing email responses. Chatbots provide automatic and instant answers to their questions, and these answers become better over time as artificial intelligence learns to deliver ever more useful information in response to the query.

But while automation may release people to do better things, does it actually reduce cost?

Humans are more expensive than machines, so organizations could reduce headcount and therefore save money. But redundancies are not the only option. Companies routinely employ additional staff to handles peaks of admin at certain times of the year (such as holiday periods when large numbers of assignees are returning home). This is an additional cost that would be neatly eliminated by an AI-based solution that processes those tasks automatically.

automatically driving down the cost

Faster: removing manual obstacles

The ability to move quickly is a key advantage to companies in every area of its operations, whether that means faster production or speed to market with new innovations. Being able to plan and manage an assignment in a reduced timescale is therefore of great value.

Automating processes removes the manual effort and the inevitable delay that it causes. Blockchain technology, for example, provides a way of automatically and securely managing shipping processes without laborious manual checking and controls. Assignees are deployed more quickly and with fewer errors, and can start contributing to business objectives sooner rather than later.

Better: robotically raising standards

There are key times during every assignment when the expertise of an experienced GM professional makes a huge difference to the happiness and well-being of expats and their families – and therefore to the success of the whole endeavor. The fact that automated processes release time to concentrate on such factors leads inevitably an improvement in expat experience.

Automation can also be applied to improving the quality of assignments by helping with candidate selection. While computer-based algorithms are only part of the selection process, they help to remove unconscious bias and help organizations to ensure the best person for the assignment is chosen.

The task of whittling down a thousand candidates to a shortlist of those statistically most likely to succeed can be done in seconds. While you may doubt the ability of a computer to make such a nuanced human judgment, it is important to remember that artificial intelligence gets better with every task: assignment selection criteria and success data are fed back into the system – enabling future choices to be even more accurate.

robotically raising standards

So much for the theory – but does it work in practice?

Automation has gone from a pipedream to a reality and organizations are seeing real benefits. One financial services company, for example, found that the calculation of salaries to fit exchange rate fluctuations could be done in seconds instead of hours. It could automatically generate letters that would normally take a week. It could shave 16 hours off the typical time taken to arrange an assignment, creating a saving of $1,000 for each of its 400+ assignees.

It’s working for others. Is it time you employed automation to make assignments cheaper, faster and better for you too?

Find out more about how technology can help you achieve greater global mobility success in our article 3 technologies that will make the life of GM professionals easier.

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