A new approach to expat support: let your suppliers take the strain?
The only constant is change, they say. This is certainly true for global mobility: we’ve seen overall numbers increasing, there are now more types of global assignment (with short-term and overseas commuting proving particularly popular), and of course, there is a constant fluctuation of preferred destinations as global business priorities change.
But in the world of the global mobility department itself, techniques change and different schools of thought appear regularly. A particularly interesting thought came from Deloitte recently on the role of the HR assistant and how they are expected to oversee every aspect of a global assignment.
An end to the single point of contact?
Traditionally, it is the role of the HR assistant to be on hand to support expats during their time abroad. They handle a number of tasks on their behalf (as evidenced by our recent post: the 5 kinds of support most valued by your international workforce). But as the management of assignments becomes both more important and more complex, it is becoming less feasible that a single person should do it. Instead, they should leverage the expertise of their suppliers.
The idea is that certain suppliers are more expert and more specialist than the HR assistant, and – if well-coordinated – a networked support function would be more streamlined and effective than a single, overstretched generalist at head office.
Is your supplier up to the task?
There is logic in the argument, but clearly there is a leap of faith required here – can your supplier take on this role? Do they have the knowledge – and do they have the processes and skills to act as a direct point of contact for expats?
Equally would they want to take on some of the HR assistant role? From the supplier perspective it is a double-edged sword. To put it bluntly, it could be an additional revenue source, priced as a value-added service. And the depth of relationship between such partners and their client companies goes a lot deeper than it used to, with shared standards and technology platforms, as well as detailed partnership agreements.
But there may also be a sense that they would need to take on some of this burden in order to win the business. It is a competitive marketplace and some suppliers may consider it to be ‘non-core’, no matter how expert they may be.
The reassurance of the FAIM standard
FAIM-certified relocation partners are more likely to be both willing and able to help. Required to keep to certain standards of knowledge, performance and service, they are frequently able to offer a range of support services including:
- Relocation management
- Documentation preparation
- Legal advice
- Schooling and family matters
- Cultural and language training
They may also, of course, have local knowledge having spent years helping companies send assignees to many different locations. (You can read more about the ‘surprising extras’ available here)
But FAIM certification also implies depth of service as well as breadth – and certified partners have both the necessary knowledge to help in this role, and a desire to help the client in the most appropriate way possible. If this is a new approach that appeals to HR departments, your FAIM-certified partner will be willing to help.
Time for a change?
The idea of outsourcing support is not new in business – but this represents a departure for global mobility. Are you considering it? Would your assignees appreciate the change? And, perhaps more to the point, do you trust your suppliers?