AIRINC Mobility Outlook Survey

the 2019 highlights

AIRINC’s annual Mobility Outlook Survey shares insights, strategies, and challenges of 168 best practice global organisations. This year’s survey takes a closer look on how mobility is becoming increasingly focused on delivering value to customers. Many are leveraging technology and vendor partnerships to streamline operations and improve the mobility experience. When asked for this year’s priorities, 69% of participants selected simplifying administration, 63% chose enhancing the employee experience, and 48% indicated improving communications with the business. Proactively engaging customers for input, evergreen policy reviews, and searching the market for leading products, services, and technology are now part of Mobility’s regular activities. AIRINC has identified three key areas that support this general trend: making good decisions, ensuring effective governance and communicating creatively. We bring you the main highlights from this report.

Making good mobility decisions begins with a desire to add value and strengthen customer partnerships. Customers can be line managers, the broader business units, or assignees.

In many organisations, all three are considered Mobility’s customers. Identifying key customers and their priorities is a vital step to achieving lasting, positive outcomes. Responses to the question on how mobility defines success, we can see that 87% of companies prioritise business satisfaction. These answers indicate that the business is Mobility’s primary customer. However, when asked how often Mobility engages the business when considering policy changes, most participants responded with “sometimes” or “often” rather than “always”. Engaging the business to learn what they value helps Mobility make good decisions about resources and approaches.

Most participants noted that the primary purpose of moving talent around the organisation is to fill skill or knowledge gaps. Additionally, customer requirements are increasingly diversified. Successful mobility functions are those that can engage with customers to understand their wider needs and offer solutions that allow the business to make good decisions in these areas. Ultimately, good decisions are the result of exploring customer needs and collaborating with customers and external partners to implement solutions that reflect the purpose of mobility within the organisation.

What do you consider to be the most important outcome of a cross-border assignment?
■ to fill staffing needs in locations where skills or knowledge are not available = 4.1
■ to provide strategic business direction = 3.3
■ to provide professional development and global skills for assignees = 2.9
■ to provide training/development for staff in host offices = 2.2
■ to spread organisational values and culture = 1.7

(5 = extremely important, 4 = very important, 3 = moderately important, 2 = slightly important, 1 = not important)

Ensuring effective governance: for some mobility functions, governance is solely about compliance. For a growing number of mobility leaders, it is about balancing oversight and flexibility.

Most participants indicate that multiple stakeholders must approve an international assignment before it moves forward. The host business is typically responsible for absorbing mobility costs and is noted as an approver in 77% of organisations. In contrast, Mobility, which creates and administers the policies, is an approver in just a third of organisations. This approval structure generates a requirement for mobility to respond to the diverse needs of the business and explains the continuing trend of Mobility offering flexible package options for the business. Forty percent of participants meet that requirement by differentiating policies by length and purpose, while 32% (up from 26% last year) offer flexibility via negotiation.

In companies offering assignment flexibility, mobility tends to play an advisory role with 39% of organisations indicating mobility recommends assignment and transfer packages for the business’ consideration. In 14% of organisations, mobility is responsible for defining assignment benefits and support and only 9% allow the business to structure packages without mobility’s input. Expanded possibilities for personalised packages and business choice require a strong and supportive governance framework. Successful mobility programs reinforce the mobility decision-making process with clear governance oversight.

How would you best describe global mobility’s approach to providing flexibility to the business?
■ 40% – multiple policies differentiated by length but also purpose, e.g. standard or developmental policies.
■ 32% – flexibility is provided by individual negotiation and exceptions.
■ 32% – all assignees go on the same assignment length with little flexiblity.
■ 26% – policy offers ‘core’ benefits for all employees, with option to add or adjust ‘flexible’ benefits.
■ 26% – policies outline benefits by job level or other criteria.

Communicating creatively: forty-four percent of companies see an opportunity to improve the way Mobility communicates with employees while 48% are prioritising better communication with the business.

With increasing policy options and governance models that encourage the business to make package decisions, Mobility has begun focussing on communications to provide guidance and distribute important information to the business as well as employees. Both audiences are important customers and connecting with them in a targeted way helps mobility in the short and long term. Eighty-six percent of companies are making efforts to improve employee experience and dynamic, one-to-many communications like videos, portals, and training modules engage employees while reducing administration. These resources can, for example, help the 17% of participants that provide cash lump sums explain the intent of such payments to encourage more thoughtful spending. Communicating with the business has historically been done on a case-by-case basis, but new resources, such as mobility decision guides, help the business create compliant packages or select policies that balance assignment investment and purpose.

Please indicate if your company offers flexible choice to the employee in any of the following ways:
■ 36% – provide a cash allowance in lieu of individual benefits.
■ 17% – offer a cash lump sum for multiple benefits.
■ 16% – offer choice between a cash allowance or in-kind benefits.
■ 6% – offer flexible spending budget or flex points approach.
■ 49% – none of the above.

Policy Trends

Most participants report that the demand for mobility is stable or growing. There are noted changes to the types of assignments and transfers being used today. Compared with last year, 13% more companies now have an international one-way transfer policy (72% vs 59% in 2018). In addition to increased interest in one-way transfers, multiple organisations reported their intentions to add a commuter policy to their mobility program. The growing use of commuter arrangements reinforces the trend of companies supporting more flexible work arrangements.

Looking Ahead

The most significant change in Mobility today is how the function works and communicates with customers. Participants reported ongoing and planned initiatives to improve Mobility’s visibility and engagement with customers, and many are leveraging technology and vendors to make that happen. Mobility is also increasingly focused on providing the business accurate cost estimates and planning support.

In addition to these operational and communication enhancements, there is a continued expansion of Mobility’s remit with many assuming responsibility for business travellers, commuters, locally hired non-nationals, and domestic relocations. The consolidation of all things mobility is increasing market demand for integrated and agile technology solutions that streamline workflow, cost planning, communication, and tracking. The Mobility function of tomorrow will be more connected, resourceful,
and impactful than ever before.

For the full report, visit the AIRINC website: www.air-inc.com/library/2019-mobility-outlook-survey/

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