It is undeniable that the world is becoming more digital by the day, with new programs, algorithms, apps and web platforms being created all the time, for all manner of reasons. It is clear then, that global mobility, and by extension human resources, is going the same way. In fact, across all industries there are over 1.3 million tech start-ups launched each year.
The further and faster technology advances, the more relocation businesses and professionals can feel left behind. Unfortunately, in situations such as this, miscommunications and misunderstandings abound. This week Global Mobility Insider takes a look at some of the biggest misconceptions about the industry’s digitalisation.
The world is changing quickly, that’s clear. However, what people often forget is that they also change at the same rate, it’s just not something they think about. Many of the ‘advances’ we see, however, are nothing more than short-lived fads that fade away over the months and years. Some changes, such as the introduction of the Global Data Protection Regulation are set in stone and here to stay, others, however, can be nothing more than passing trends; do you employ Matrix Management across your business? Thought not.
How do you choose which changes to integrate into your business? How do you decide what to leave at the wayside? The answer is simple; wait and see. Giving things time to play out can give you a better view of the big picture and a better idea of where to place your investments. Everyone knows that they need to digitise within the industry, but where exactly can be the issue, which is why the more flexible and customisable management platforms are becoming popular within the global mobility industry. Taking the approach of providing yourself flexible options for future change can be the best option.
New technology makes old technology obsolete and a waste of money, or does it? We don’t use fax machines or floppy disks anymore because email revolutionised everything, and no one needs a bulky encyclopaedia on his or her shelf when we have Wikipedia. Direct substitutions such as these are huge exceptions to the rule, however, and mark changes from the physical to the digital world we live in now. The new world, however, does not deal in such absolute changes from one technology to the next. Excel, for example, is now over 30 years old and although it has been frequently and massively updated over that time, many, many applications do aspects of the program much better and in much more detail; why then, does everyone still use it?
The answer is simple. The tasks and problems that businesses have to handle day-to-day are vast, complex and varied. The many elements of these play off and with each other in such diverse ways that we need to approach them from many sides. The digitalisation of global mobility is not about replacing what’s already there; it’s about shifting and complementing our current strategies to tackle the issues and needs at hand better. Do not worry about future obsolescence when investing in a digital solution, see it as another tool in your relocation arsenal.
Now that everything is digital, does it matter where you are in the world when you do your job? In many cases, no, not really. Web developers, graphic designers and data analysts, for example, could work from a beach in the Maldives or a hut in Siberia and still be able to deliver. Global mobility, however, is a different beast entirely. Could a relocation manager in New York give great, relevant and actionable advice about living in Hong Kong? Not really. That’s why destination service providers are so important now and aren’t going anywhere.
Also, taxation laws are continually becoming more complicated as governments try to drum up extra revenue from those who split their time across borders. With nations now bringing in technological solutions to assist them in the tracking and enforcing of these new laws, having an in-depth and robust working knowledge of these laws will be essential for successful global relocations, something much more manageable for locals.
Just because we can technically work from anywhere due to the digital revolution in our industry, doesn’t mean that we can or should in reality. Being genuinely embedded within a location, it’s culture and quirks is always going to give rise to a better service for clients and a better experience for their assignees. Of course, digitalisation is opening up a wealth of opportunities for relocation managers and service providers to expand their horizons, but there are limits to how far the web can effectively extend without hurting those that matter most, the individuals being relocated.
Perhaps the most pervasive and misguided myth when it comes to the future of the global mobility industry is that it will cease to exist as we know it, with relocation professionals being entirely replaced by automated programs which manage the full life cycle. What those who tout this opinion fail to remember is one of the most critical points for human resources specialists. People are the business, and if we want to make the most out of our employees, they need to be treated like people. This is something that computers and digital solutions currently are so far away from that the idea is somewhat laughable.
The internet is awash with chatbots, many of which exist to automate basic levels of customer service on websites before queries are passed on to real people. How many of these interactions though feel like talking to a real person, who can understand the nuance of language and your circumstances? None. Even the most advanced artificially intelligent chatbots, well beyond the reach of businesses can replicate a real human. In fact, the closest we have come to replicating a human conversation is a chatbot replicating a 13-year-old Ukrainian boy with English as his second language, a pretty low standard for anyone. This goes to show that in a complicated and varied sector such as global mobility, we will not be replacing people any time soon. Instead, machines do what they’re good at, dull and repetitive tasks, while the humans handle the ‘real’ work of the relocations.