How relocation companies are changing – and how they can support your digital transformation

24 September 2019

Global mobility departments are under pressure like never before – and the source of the pressure is summarized in a single word: “transformation”.

It appears that change is much needed. A recent research report by Santa Fe Relocation revealed a gulf between what GM departments spend their time doing, and what they should be doing.

Business leaders think they should be spending more time than they do on risk assessment and strategic workforce planning, for example. GM managers themselves agreed with this, noting that more time is spent on admin and compliance tasks than either they or their senior management would like.

Relocation companies are transforming too

Happily, they are not the only ones changing. The most successful players in any market are those who recognize the changing needs of their clients – and who evolve accordingly. So it is that relocation companies are also evolving to help their global mobility clients with the transformational challenges they face.

Authors of the survey, John Rason and Peter Ferrigno, recently commented on this evolution. “The various suppliers who support global mobility teams have changed a lot recently. They have had to. They can no longer rely solely on a personal relationship to retain the business – they have to show that they can add value in different ways.” Using insight from the Santa Fe research report, we take a look at some of the ways that relocation companies have changed, and how this helps their global mobility clients.

They are more technically savvy

Whether it is blockchain or AI providing new ways for global mobility departments to speed up admin, introduce logistical efficiencies, or improve candidate selection, technology impacts on the whole supply chain. Relocation companies need to investigate and implement the technologies that their clients are using. It is not only the people who need to understand each other – it is the underlying technology.

technology impacts on the whole supply chain

They are more up to speed with regulations

In a world of financial transparency directives and GDPR regulations, third-party suppliers are also – by necessity – becoming more aware of their clients’ legal obligations and how they can support them. There is collective responsibility for compliance, and the modern breed of relocation partner has its finger on the regulatory pulse.

They are more flexible

One of the biggest changes in recent years in the world of global mobility has been the willingness of companies to depart from the traditional assignment model. Increasingly, we have seen it replaced by short-term moves and international commuting, with compensation provided in a variety of innovative ways. As the bigger players look to innovate, so must the supplier ecosystem that supports them.

They are no longer just moving companies

Many suppliers have specialisms. They may focus on immigration, or the logistical challenge of moving goods. But increasingly, they have begun to develop and expand their portfolio of services.

This is especially important when you consider the challenge of how different companies choose to outsource. A single, multi-skilled outsourcing partner may suit some companies, but not others. Sometimes a supplier will be required to act as a specialist within a group of external partners. Other times, they may act alone as a single point of contact. Much will depend on the client’s size, type of business and attitude to outsourcing. The most forward-looking suppliers are ready for anything.

They are more commercially aware

Every supplier will say that they work to understand their client’s business. This is however often just lip service. Indeed, there may be no need to understand the business if all a partner is doing is, for example, outsourced tax services. But given the recent trend of relocation partners to develop different ways of adding value, it is no surprise that they are increasingly claiming to offer strategic consultancy. The very challenge of transformation is one they may be hired to support.

The transformation challenge in detail

The transformation challenge in detail

The world of global mobility is changing fast, and both sides of the client-supplier relationship are adapting to cope. One of the most telling indicators of the evolution of the major relocation companies is that they are increasingly attracting people from the traditional “Big 4” management consultancies. The fact that the authors of the Santa Fe Relocation research report, John Rason, Julia Palmer and Peter Ferrigno, are EY alumni is further proof of this. The relocation industry is becoming a lot more sophisticated and business-savvy – which is good news for the global mobility departments that can benefit from their support.

Find out more about how to improve the value of global mobility function in your organization by reading The 5 biggest reasons for expatriate failure.

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