Mobility Mega Trends and the Future of Work - Follow-up Q&As

If you missed the Focus Panel on Day Four of our EMEA Online Summit, you can catch up here and read some of our speakers' responses to your questions

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You can watch the recorded video of Day Four by clicking on the link here:

FEM EMEA Online Summit - Day Four

Focus Panel Discussion: Mobility Mega Trends and the Future of Work

Our panel was comprised of: 

We collated the questions that attendees posted in the Chat function and our speakers have kindly added their answers here:

Q. In the current geopolitical context, how does talent mobility deliver on its intended agenda? 

Ezeibe Agomo: That depends on the state of the business in which a mobility team finds itself.  I don’t think there’s a generic answer for all businesses, because every business is experiencing the current global upheaval in different ways, which will impact upon the mobility team’s ability to deliver upon a talent agenda.  The key thing right now is to understand what your business needs and to fulfil that need; to truly add value to the business.  If the need now is primarily compliance, then do that and do it well.  Those within thriving businesses should seize the moment, utilize the increased visibility created by our response to the COVID crisis, and get the ear of business stakeholders to plan for the future, once things get back to the ‘new normal’.   

Paul Bennett: This naturally depends on the business, its goals and employee population. However, what we'd emphasise is that it's important to listen to your employees as they are ultimately the people that deliver value to your customers. Having worked remotely for most of 2020, many will now be requesting to work remotely and don't necessarily understand the tax implications / risks involved in doing so. However, this presents a huge opportunity for Talent Mobility to play a more strategic role in businesses. If a large percentage of employees are dreaming of / requesting to work remotely, setting up supportive policies / schemes will be crucial for talent acquisition and talent retention! 

Chris Blair: The key here for me is how well you understand your company’s purpose  in the current Geopolitical context, and more importantly how your function enables that purpose to be fulfilled. If your company is not seeking to develop it’s globally mobile talent (there are some out there) then talent mobility might not be something you need to focus on. Your Agenda should be driven by your purpose… which should feed into your company’s purpose.. which should be to the betterment of your companies customers, whoever they may be. Striving to develop your own talent mobility agenda adrift from your companies purpose will only lead to frustration, lack of delivery and blockers. Understand the why’s… and the how and what’s will naturally begin to flow. Your agenda then is an active contributor to your people / HR function and your company as a whole.

Cyril Brenninkmeijer: What we have found with our clients is that they have to, more than ever, prioritise their agenda items in terms of how they can most benefit the business. The current geopolitical context will sure enough have shuffled some of these priorities – whether they be the implementation of software, reduce non-compliance, reduction of costs, tracking assignees, enhance operational efficiencies, develop/review one/more policies and so on.
Whether an organisation can eventually fulfil its intended agenda that was set prior to the pandemic will depend entirely on the business itself –  how it and it’s budgets have been impacted, its current set-up in terms of assignee demographics, global mobility operational processes and efficiencies, the software programs it has in place (or not) and so on.

The range is wide. We have clients who have were shaken up, but for their GM department it’s been more or less ‘business as usual’ once the dust settled 4 month or so post-lockdown. They have been able to ride the wave of Global Mobility’s limelight and push some much needed items (even prior to Covid19) at the top of their agendas. On the flip side, we have a few clients whose GM teams have been forced to press ‘pause’ on all their intended plans (new software, policy reviews and so on) and focus all attention and budget on arguably the most important part: the physical and mental well-being of their employees and ensure their and the business’ compliance.

Q. Question for the corporates – are you looking to work with smaller, specialist partners or are you likely to consolidate everything with big providers? 

Ezeibe Agomo: We’re making no major changes.  We use large global providers and intend to continue that way. 

Chris Blair: Again the key for me is context and purpose. For our organisation we are researching and staying up to date on all new specialist  and smaller vendors who are hitting the market and may add value to our programme. We’re looking to ensure we have the right PARTNERS as suppliers who bring VALUE to our company for the moves we do. That said we’ll continue to work with bigger suppliers who continue to provide us with value and consistency, whilst also bringing onboard smaller specialist suppliers who may add another ‘string to our bow’ so to speak. It’s all about the best way to deliver on all aspects of assignments and relocations at the most consistent value. This doesn’t necessarily mean cheap, or weighted heavily on assignee experience, just that we need to find vendors that provide the best balance of these two elements. Happy to discuss this point further as there’s quite a bit here to unpack that won’t communicate well in a written answer response 

Efrat Konforty: This is really depending on the field. In general the value of a big provider is an A-Z service in one group. However in most cases of Human Capital, these services require agility, local knowledge and personal service level which the big providers are not strong in.  For me, when I am a policy maker, I tend to use big providers for less custom needs and/or regulated activities. e.g. payroll provider, immigration, moving and temporary housing. However where local knowledge and/or personal adjustments play a key role, I tend to advice for local providers; e.g. tax and legal, relocation agencies (housing, schooling, orientation), language teachers. 

Q. If employees can work from anywhere in the future will there really be a role for mobility?

Ezeibe Agomo: I think there will be a role for mobility for a very long time to come, but that role will evolve.  It’s time for flexibility, to accept redefinitions of what it means to manage a mobility programme, to expand horizons and embrace new opportunities.  The function must adapt and keep adding value to the business within which it resides.  Having said that, there will always be business travel, and I do not expect governments to give up their ability to raise tax revenue from travellers anytime soon.

Paul Bennett: Yes - Mobility needs to strive to work more closely with Benefits and Talent Acquisition to help them craft compliant policies that support people wanting to move around. Experience hungry Millennials want to move around and absorb different cultures and Mobility can be THE team that helps them to do so.  

Chris Blair: Firstly the view that employees can work from anywhere in the future I’m not sure is ever going to be a reality in the sense that we have experienced this year. It will become easier to work from remote locations, but there won’t be the simplicity that is being discussed in global remote working in the same way that we’ve seen in singular markets (like the UK). As such, whether we retain traditional assignments (which I think we will) we’ll also be dealing with compliance needs across any potential future changes to remote working positions / virtual assignment development in our companies. The pandemic has really shone a light on the expertise we provide to our organisations, expertise that is not easily replaced outside of the teams we operate within, therefore I think there’ll always be a need, just might be that what is needed from us changes as it always has. 

Cyril Brenninkmeijer: I have heard this question being asked so many times since I joined the industry 8 years ago, although from a different angle – that of the software and AI. I ‘get’ the question – the world has changed, and employees situations have changed, the same way technology changes, and the natural though process is to worry about change, the great ‘unknown’ and how will it impact our industry, our jobs.

I take a higher view on this, and look at the bigger picture. Global Mobility has been around since the mid-20th century, when the world was a completely different place. Yet here we still are decades later, in 2020, now more important and relevant than ever before – and the simple reason why is because the industry has thankfully adapted to all the sinks it has had thrown at it. I’m convinced that with a similar flexible mind-set, it will adjust itself in whatever way required (be it modernisation, change of focus, change in identity, meaning and what it stand for) as an industry and continue to be relevant and be integral to business international success.

Efrat Konforty: There will always be a need for mobility as there will always be a need for knowledge sharing and diversity in international organizations. In M&A mobility will play a key role with assigned people, international organizations will always facilitate retaining and education programs which are dependent on movement.  What will change, in my opinion, is the move to less imigration of new-hires and more movement focus of the internal workforce. There will be more hiring of WFH employees under non-local contracts. It will be interesting to see the development in the labor law and tax regulations around permanent establishments to allow for global WFH as a permanent working force. 

Q. How does a corporate organisation know which service provider might be the best fit for its mobility programmes? 

Ezeibe Agomo: Well, I guess we’d rely on a combination of things – interactions from conferences, etc. are great for first impressions, as are more dedicated meetings and demonstrations.  Ultimately, a well-designed procurement process should help to answer this question, both from a price, product offering and cultural fit perspective.

Chris Blair: Relationships and Purpose. Develop relationships with vendors and don’t be afraid to ask tough questions. Learn who you feel you can trust to have honest conversations with and the dynamics that you want to see in the relationship. Retain the purpose of your mobility team throughout any RFP process ensuring potential providers understand what you’re looking to achieve, not falling into ‘industry standard’ chasms that divert your attention from what your team and company is about. Don’t be dazzled by fancy presentations or promises but by honest dialogue which is designed to identify who will truly be an extension of your team and who you can collaborate with to take your function forward. Thankfully most Vendors I’ve met in the industry are genuine companies who are also trying to find the right fit. Honesty is absolutely the best policy in this space. 

Efrat Konforty: Recommendations play a key role - in a world where executives have lived in more than 2-3 countries in their career, the experience of individual in an organization leads more than one wants to believe.  Other than that the scope of the services, SLA and prices plays a key role.

Q. Do you think mobility will have a bigger say in business as a result of this Covid – and if so, why? 

Ezeibe Agomo: Well, mobility has certainly gained exposure as a result of COVID.  It’s been a good opportunity to show our value in a very difficult and uncertain time.  How that translates into influence post-COVID will depend how well we have handled the response to the crisis and how strategic we are in turning that goodwill into support for new programs, etc. which are well suited to the relevant business.

Paul Bennett: Obviously we are new to Mobility but a resounding yes. The majority of companies worldwide are reconsidering where they need their employees to be located. This creates a phenomenal opportunity for people to actively choose where to live, rather than be told by their company. Forward thinking companies are already leaning in on this and looking at ways to support employees that want to relocate. 

Chris Blair: I’m not sure on this if I’m honest. I think we have more exposure so the people who actually have the ‘say’ will come to us for guidance and advice but it doesn’t mean we’ll have a bigger say in business. What we have to be prepared for is ensuring our purpose (yes I go on about this a lot) is commercially minded, that we understand WHAT MATTERS to the people that are having the bigger say. We don’t need to be round a table or making decisions, we do however need to be fully prepared to enable the people making the decisions to have all the right information and guidance. In that way I see our role continuing to develop into a consultative business partnering approach, being enablers for our business units to make clear commercially minded decisions for the development of our businesses and key talent. Whether your team does or does not have a ‘bigger say’ you should always be commercially sensitive and understanding of what your business needs from you.

Cyril Brenninkmeijer: No doubt has Global Mobility been put in the limelight – this is certainly something we have seen with our clients – and when you’re in the limelight, it’s best to perform well in front on that larger audience that is looking for your help, and dependant on you when the business really needs you. Although no guarantee for stronger influence in the future, of course, it certainly helps having proven to the business how crucial you are to the business as a GM department/team in order to unlock greater support and potentially larger budgets. As an industry, I believe the Global Mobility certainly has shown it’s true colours in 2020 in a positive way!

Q. If you have to cut costs what should you be looking at? 

Ezeibe Agomo: Cutting costs for employee-initiated moves and international flexible working requests.

Chris Blair: Three questions really… Firstly what are you spending your money on? It might sound like a silly question but so many mobility teams (ours included) really struggle to understand the actual spend on Mobility. Find this out as best and as full as you can to understand where potential savings may or may not be made and the reasoning behind why your spend is what it is in the various areas of mobility. Secondly… what is driving the cost cuts? Comes back to purpose and aligning to company drivers. The reason behind cost cutting is important. If it’s a company wide cost efficiency exercise then trying to reduce costs across your entire population is likely needed…. reduction of allowances, moving to virtual briefings, utilising potential new vendors who offer a more digital (and therefore cost efficient) process may be some options to you. But if your company is driving investment in high senior talent, such changes are likely to cause issue if the reason for the reduction wasn’t company wide savings but was in fact a misunderstanding of mobility costs and their value. Lastly, What are you not getting value from? When we talk about cost cuts what we’re really saying is removing the things that are no longer as valuable. For example a face to face cultural training session in some circumstances would provide little to no value in moves. The same could be said for Home tax briefings for short term moves when residence positions don’t change. Review what you don’t feel your organisation is getting the best value from, speak to your vendors and see if you can make a change.

Efrat Konforty: This is a very general question - the costs a company will look at saving is where the ROI is clearly not proven and/or where performance of business/individual is poor. High performance, clear ROI (financial and/or cultural) will be a strong element in decision of cost savings.  

Q. Do you think that relationships between organisations and their vendor partners with be stronger or more challenging after the pandemic?  

Ezeibe Agomo: That very much depends on the organisation and the vendor.  I don’t think a general answer will be helpful.  Some partnerships will grow, some will change and some will end. In this new environment we all have to keep our eyes open to the opportunities and the changing needs, and adapt accordingly.

Chris Blair: Again it sounds cliched but depends on your Vendor. There is certainly a chance for them to become more challenging due to the economic impact on mobility vendors. Depending on your vendor, and how hard the procurement process drove costs, it could be a challenging relationship, commercially. However I know of vendors who have actually grown and improved during the pandemic. Make sure you’re having honest, robust and open conversations with your vendors to ensure any challenges are met together with collaboration and a mutual goals at the centre.

Efrat Konforty: It is a performance world - strong performing partners will stay. A vendor who succeeded to scale the services and support in a timely manner, with creativity and agility, will most likely strengthen the relationship. If not, the competition, in prices and commitments, is high and replacement will be found. However I have witnessed the opposite as well, a vendor choosing to leave a well-paying organization due to not being able to partner in a collaborative manner. 

Many thanks again to all our speakers and to the session sponsors, ECA International and PerchPeek

You can access all 5 days of the recorded sessions and watch them at a time that suits you by clicking on the link here: 

FEM EMEA Online Summit Catch-up 

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Take a look at the full week's agenda here

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