Everyone in the global mobility sector knows how costs rapidly stack up when both planning and executing global relocations for their clients. There are many potential pitfalls of unexpected costs that can crop up from nearly any angle, and one of the most important tasks global mobility professionals do (in the eyes of our bosses) is to keep costs down. Although many of the one-off pay-outs required cannot be accounted for accurately ahead of time, there are some areas in which savings can be made. Some steps of the relocation lifecycle can be streamlined, and with a little extra work, bring significant long-term savings. After all, short-term solutions will rarely be the cheapest option in five or ten years’ time.
“I believe there has been a shift from Global Mobility being viewed as purely operational to one that is more strategic, integrating with Reward and Talent Management. The starting point in my view is a true understanding of the costs involved.”
Dr Adrian Moule – Global Mobility and International HR Expert
To provide some guidance, we have got together at Global Mobility Insider to give you our list of seven points in the global mobility lifecycle, where we see many professionals slip-up when it comes to minimising costs in their relocations.
All relocations, no matter how suddenly organised or shambolically thought-out managers should be planned to some extent. Apart from the standard needs assessments to be done with every assignee, standard operating procedures should be in place for those tasks which repeatedly occur when managing global relocations. Something as simple as having a guide to help clients fill out any necessary forms quickly can significantly improve efficiency in your department.
“The common thread is that mobility is challenged to evolve into a function that operates on business principles. Achieving this ideal state may require modest to far-reaching changes in policy, program and organisation, often against a backdrop of cost reduction pressures”
Genie Martens – Senior Director of Client Engagement at AIRINC
Other eventualities which should have at least some level of planning for is what to do in case of a natural disaster or diplomatic emergency, such as the one recently seen in Qatar. Although these incidents are sporadic, they can be devastating for those caught up in them, and as a global mobility professional with responsibility for many across the world you should be ready to act if the worst should happen, quickly and efficiently. The availability of standard procedures in these situations, described in travel policies and relocation policies, will help you to do so..
Although some of the costs we see as global mobility professionals are unexpected, the majority are not. Estimating these costs ahead of time allows budgets and resources to be leveraged more efficiently, and savings to be sought out and made. What is the cost of living in the host destination? How much compensation will the assignee need? Will we need to cover any schooling or housing costs? How much will a fact-finding trip costs for the family? What will the tax implications for the assignee and the company be? How much is transport going to cost? All of these figures can, and should, be calculated ahead of time.
When performing the many processes that lead to a successful relocation, where does your time go? Contacting your many partners often takes up a significant amount of time, a process which could be streamlined. Thankfully, there are now many software offerings which give you the opportunity to manage the full global mobility lifecycle in one place, without having to flit around between programs, emails and phone calls just to organise one small section of the relocation.
“In the fast-moving world of global mobility, companies need to leverage the best software possible if they want to perform efficiently when it comes to both time and cost. HR professionals will never be able get the same working efficiencies from Excel and Access as they could from software especially designed to handle the global mobility lifecycle. Many of the newer digital solutions are cutting down on costs and all businesses should be able to find a solution to fit their budget.”
Sebastien Deschamps – CEO and Co-Founder of ReloTalent
Although many of the full-service software solutions available come with a high cost, there are also newer, cheaper alternatives that can still offer excellent service, integration and accessibility, without the hefty price tag. Many of these disrupters of the software market recoup their costs elsewhere, allowing the savings to be passed down to the HR professionals and DSPs who rely on them to complete their business to the best of their ability.
Leveraging relocation software solutions, whether they be expensive or affordable, is an easy way to bring your business considerable long-term cost savings. You will find that by spending less time on menial tasks, now automated by technology, you will be able to provide a better and more efficient service for both your managers and assignees.
Think about partnering with providers on the ground for many of your needs when planning global relocations. Still, too many global mobility professionals flit between service providers depending on the needs of each relocation. Although this may be necessary some of the time, most of the time, it is not. Find good quality, efficient and reliable people on the ground and stick with them. Partnering like this can provide discounts in the long term and also increase efficiency, as terms of service are organised between yourself and the providers.
“Now there is so much more focus on cost reduction (and avoidance), as well as providing a more strategic and consultative approach. I think this is applicable to both internal mobility teams, as well as RMC’s.”
Mike Ferguson – Client Services Director at BGRS
It is also worth looking into other areas, outside of the regular service providers where you may also be able to partner. For example, if you are sending many assignees to the same location from around the world, some schools may be able to offer you a discount for repeated business.
The importance of tracking the costs associated with a relocation as time goes on cannot be overstated. Although it may be time-consuming to regularly check in on the development of prices in certain areas, it is essential for proper cost management. In fact, many of the software solutions available to global mobility professionals will now perform some of the tasks associated with these for you, reducing the labour cost significantly. Monitor your costs, see where unexpected increases are happening, and address them, but also see where unexpected savings are being made, and capitalise on them.
After the assignment has finished, take some time to look through how the relocation progressed from beginning to end and observe how the costs changed over this time. Creating a timeline showing how expenses evolved over time can be a great help, to evaluate how successful the relocation was, and how much it cost the business in the end.
“[We are seeing] an increase in flexible allowances, the need for greater pipeline and talent planning and of course the need for cost saving (given increased number of global assignments).”
Louise Jones – Head of Global Mobility at DLA Piper
A good way to review is to create a standard reviewing template, with the same sections and necessary information included each time. This will ensure that the document can be assembled as efficiently as possible, and allows some direct comparison between assignments. Managers and other stakeholders will also often appreciate easily digestible and standardised documents, as they are easy to read and understand.
After each review has been completed, it should not be discarded or filed away never to be seen again. Reviews are valuable insights into how relocations and their costs progressed and should be learnt from. Think about how the whole process of the relocation went, and see if there were any situations which arose that could or should have been planned for. Reflect on whether any new standard procedures should be created to tackle any issues, and whether any potentially rare situations could be avoided in the future. After all, you are sitting on the most valuable data your company could have to tackle upcoming global moves, the history of your relocations and how much they cost the company. So much more data is available and accessible, but it is this information which is directly applicable to you and will allow you to make the biggest savings.