Defining Opportunities

in an era of globalisation, automation and accelerating change

With so many outstanding sessions and thought provoking speakers at this year’s EuRA conference, it wasn’t easy choosing one to feature. However, the session on identifying trends discussed important global meta trends and their impact on the mobility industry. Recurring themes throughout the conference included rising costs and dropping prices, the changing scope of work, the rising popularity of the lump sum relocation and systematic under-investment in technology. Moderator Francis Edmonds spoke with Bill Graebel, owner and CEO of Greabel Companies and Chairman and CEO of Dwellworks Bob Rosen to get their take on these issues.

EuRA relocation conference

from left to right: Bob Rosen, Bill Graebel and Francis Edmonds

If you can find a pain point, something that aggravates people and you can offer a solution, then you've got something you can sell."

Bob Rosen: “We tend to forget who the real customer is. We get wrapped up in our relationships with HR or the RMC and don’t really think about the end user. Instead, we should do real research around their needs and define our services back from there. Also, this whole categorisation by age groups is probably the wrong way to think about how we deliver which services. It’s more about how people consume things: a 59 year old can consume in the exact same way as a 25 year old. You have to build different modes of delivery into your product.”

How we access services is changing dramatically.

Bill Graebel: “Clients hire us to be their global programme manager. Their objectives tend to be based around three or four main pillars. Consistency in the transferee experience is one of these. The employer brand needs to be upheld. In the past they may have had a tri-regional model, with local HR or business unit leaders being able to place their own nuances on how someone would be served or under what kind of policies. But the reality is that people are relocating across the globe. They’ll compare their relocation to Latin America to the one in Europe, which might be an entirely different experience, and can influence whether or not they’d be willing to relocate for the company again.”

“Then there is compliance. Whether taxation, labour law or data, it’s a rapidly accelerating and complex landscape. Data needs to be assessed and analysed because organisations want to know where they are most successful in recruiting and deploying people, and under what kind of policies. How quickly do transferees assimilate into their teams and the local community? The quicker they assimilate, the more focus they have on the job, which is ultimately the ROI for the corporation. Obviously this is viewed through a macro lens, but consistency of delivery, brand experience, the mitigation of risk; when you put them all together it makes a very complex but fascinating opportunity in this era of globalisation.”

Increasing popularity of lump sum relocation.

BR: “Lump sum relocations have a significant impact on revenue streams as they chip away at the traditional service model. It’s also a much bigger marketplace and can be an opportunity to expand our business. If we take the things we know – our institutional knowledge and products – and remix them, we can assemble products and services in a different way. We need to consider how we can assess clients’ needs and hit them at the points in time where they need those services, from the day they find out they’re moving to the day they leave the assignment. There’s a variety of information and services they need to access along that entire timeline.”

Historic under-investment in technology.

BR: “It’s our responsibility to ensure we have a sustainable company. As an industry we’ve underinvested, we have a lot of foundational things to do before we can take full advantage of new technologies such as blockchain and AI. Simple things need to come first: APIs to connect our people in the field with our systems, your systems, HR and the corporations’ systems. Instantaneously connecting that data is not about eliminating people, it means they can focus on the more difficult cases and assess what people’s needs are. It’s not taking cost out, it’s taking work out.”

Profit margins under pressure.

BG: “We all want more for less, it’s the way of the world. We can’t expect corporations to be any different, they’re in competitive industries too. There’s no silver bullet, but there has to be a continuous effort to examine your workflow, to look at the intersections where your work lets off and someone else’s work begins. Then you want to find a way for not just one entity to reduce their cost structure, but that allows both entities to lower their costs. In an ideal world both hold on to an incremental margin, but in a practical world it enables you to at least remain competitive.”

BR: “We have an ongoing responsibility to be more efficient and effective at what we do. You don’t pay €5000 for a television anymore. Those companies have figured out ways to streamline the supply chain, materials and so forth. We have to think about where the overlaps in our business lie and how we can get rid of them. One of these ways is through automation.”

We’re living longer, what does that do to the world of work?

BR: “You’ve got to go where the work is. People may not relocate their whole family anymore, but short term assignments, extended business travellers, gig workers; these people are all traversing the globe. It nibbles away at the core of what has traditionally been our work, but it also creates tremendous opportunity in huge volumes and high velocity moves. We need to figure out how to tweak our institutional knowledge and repackage it in ways that will serve people. Transferees may not need a three-day house finding tour, but a one hour orientation to the local area. Our knowledge and our networks are the information people want to access, we just need to find a way to present it to them.”

BG: “From a consumer point of view – they say over the next few years one in six people on the planet will change residence each year – there is a big need. On the one end of the spectrum there is the university student who changes dorm room at the end of the year, and on the other end people who move from their primary residence into a care home. But everywhere in between represents potential. Over the next few years 35-40% of people will be gig workers, these people don’t have any corporate support and have to figure things out like immigration, pensions, how their taxes are applied… People are going to need a ton of assistance at some point. I believe there is a variety of new services yet to be invented, deployed and – of course – accessible from your mobile device.”

“From an employment point of view we’re going to have to be more open minded, let go of our sense of ageism. Because to what age is someone competent at their job? Much of our senior executive team is retiring over the next ten years. I tell them ‘Your number one job is being a mentor, but also to be a mentee, because unless you’re retiring in the next two years, you’d better be continuously learning and curious about acquiring new skills.’ You can’t sit still anymore, your job is going to require a new skill set every few years.”

To catch the full session, it’s follow-up ‘applying trends’ or any of the other conference talks, visit the EuRA YouTube channel.

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