Name: John Rason
Position: Group Head of Consulting and Business Development Director
Company: Santa Fe Relocation Services
Santa Fe Relocation, Group Head of Consulting (United Kingdom): 2013 – Present
Santa Fe Relocation, Business Development Director (United Kingdom): 2011 – 2013
Management Consultant, Independent (United Kingdom), 2010 -2011
BBC, International Assignments Manager (United Kingdom): 2008 – 2009
Jaguar Land Rover, Global Mobility Manager (United Kingdom): 2008 – 2008
Convergys EMEA, HR Business Partner (EMEA): 2006 – 2006
GEAC Software Solutions, HR Director, Europe (United Kingdom): 2005 – 2006
GMAC Global Relocation Services, Director, EMEA Business Development (United Kingdom): 2004 – 2005
EY, Senior Manager, Human Capital (United Kingdom): 1996 – 2004
C&W Group, International HR Manager / Director (Various Locations): 1990 – 1996
Whitbread, Area Sales Manager (United Kingdom): 1984 – 1989
Unilever, Various HR/L&D roles 1976 – 1984
A: I first coordinated global mobility as far back as 1979, working for a division of Unilever. I have vivid memories of using 18 column accounts paper to manually calculate ‘net take home pay’ comparisons and also numerous salary review and cost of living revisions! People moan about using Excel – try paper, pencil and a calculator!
Then again, on joining Cable & Wireless plc, delivering HR solutions for two regions: Middle East & Indian Ocean and Asia Pacific. My generalist Unilever HR experience and my Whitbread commercial experience of managing an £11M business really helped me to talk the language of the functional and business leaders. I had a six week secondment in Pakistan & Republic of Maldives plus HR trips to Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia (just after the first Gulf War).
It gave me ‘the bug’ to become an international assignee. I found the diversity, ambiguity and bombardment of different cultures to be intoxicating and wanted to experience a different way of thriving.
A: Most definitely, I now fully understand the perspective from all viewpoints: as an internationally mobile employee, an HR leader and as a relocation management provider. Too many times in our industry, I hear people at events using buzz words, thinking it impresses clients but the thin veneer is very transparent to HR and mobility professionals! You have to really understand the mind-set and agenda of all parties.
In Saudi Arabia I worked on a multi-cultural government project that had been running for years. My role was to transform from being seen as personnel administrators to becoming an HR Business partner function. It took two years and lots of Arabic coffee and dates to get there but we did it.
In Latvia, not long after Latvia gained independence, I took over as HR director in a JV; Latvian government, International Finance Corporation and a Finnish telecoms company to modernise the US$100M State telecoms company. I was accountable for a team of 100 HR personnel (including a management training college), with c. 50 assignees from C&W and the Finnish partner.
In all, this provided me with unique personal and professional experience of both being an expatriate, working as part of a board of directors and handing often hostile external media relations.
A: The ability to continuously learn new skills, acquire new experiences and remain flexible and agile in the face of change. I guess also being able to successfully perform in senior roles across industries and functions.
What’s next? I’m enjoying my role working with existing and potential clients, fine tuning our award winning annual Global Mobility Survey and involvement in mentoring and coaching our teams. I get to meet great people across the globe and this helps me to stay connected and passionate about the industry.
A: As I said earlier, technological/social media advancements have facilitated more connected global mobility networks. Greater transparency of suppliers, pricing and governance of business practices has seen a more sophisticated approach in the selection of partners across the global mobility continuum.
Organisations are also becoming more savvy at building programmes that better reflect their business and talent requirements in terms of policies, relocation support and compensation models.
All this is underpinned by global changes around nationalistic agendas, immigration challenges, trade relationships and we’re still trying to figure the real impact of Brexit.
A: Ensure alignment between business, HR and global mobility strategies and ensure that all stakeholders understand their accountabilities and resource commitments, desired outcomes and importantly what and how do you measure the success?
A: At Santa Fe we have licenced global mobility software that we have integrated into our global core platform which enables us to deliver a complete continuum of mobility services that not only enable the relocation process and on-going assignment but also meaningful data analytics for our clients to share in the leadership dashboards.
However, technology needs to form part of a broader business transformation – be very wary of promises that there is a complete self-service solution! Having apps and self-service portals are great but some busy executives just want someone to make things easy for them! ‘Structured flexibility’ is the mantra!
A: Organisational design. Our 2018 Global Mobility Survey findings and those of other reports highlight that business leaders see the need for their internal mobility specialists to focus on value-added activities that support their business targets and growth.
AI and technology will change over the next five years, what roles in-company mobility professionals perform and those of their supply-chain partners. I would personally rather be positioned to transform to meet business leader’s needs, rather than wait for a business restructuring or HR transformation.
Talking in business language and demonstrating a commercial awareness is the starting point.
A: I think I’ve alluded to this in terms of better alignment of people, policies, processes and technology to drive a bespoke but consistent experience for the organisation’s internationally mobile employees. This means that policies need to reflect a variety of factors, including assignment type, job role and demographics.
A Chilean executive transferring to Madrid will not be requiring language lessons but may need more support with other employment conditions during their family relocation, this is why organisations are looking at core/flex approaches.
Using a total cost to company approach may be more pragmatic to re-calibrate those elements which should be core (and don’t impact long-term decisions such as base salary) and those elements which will enable the executive to quickly thrive in Madrid. If the daily cost of the assignment is €1,500 per day and they waste the first two weeks of their immersion on sorting out issues that’s something like €20,000 just in direct cost alone! This may have been fixed through a relocation partner for a 10th of the cost.
I really don’t believe that throwing cash at a busy executive is the answer as this may not help them with the services they need or have the time to manage it.
A: There has been consolidation of global mobility providers and this is no different from other industries. Often this reflects the need for single service providers (local, regional, global) to be able to satisfy their clients broader mobility needs. I’ve been through consolidations and it takes some time to make these work.
There are still large volumes of traditional long-term assignments and I don’t think this in the long-term will change as business leaders embed new projects, acquisitions or organic growth into new markets.
What is changing though, is greater self-initiated mobility, use of short-term assignments as dual career families struggle with accepting long-term assignments and an increasing short-fuse burn on governments clamping down on the business traveller population, many of whom slip under the radar of immigration and corporate and employee taxation legislation. Our Survey data suggests something like one sixth or one fifth of an organisation’s total headcount undertake international business travel.