Whatever the cause, there is a palpable shift in the nature of how we do business. Blame it on the millennials if you wish, but when even our 98-year old grandfather can Skype us to his heart’s content, we have to wonder: is this dependence on technology exclusive to this generation or merely a sign of changing times? We asked several relocators about their experiences and how they are coping with the changing face of business.
'“Our environment is continually evolving and as a consequence the people living in that environment change. There’s a difference in the type of requests we are seeing and to stand out as a DSP in a society driven by technology you have to adapt, no matter what age group you’re dealing with.” Walter Vermeeren, Altair Global'
Lisa Johnson, Consulting Services Global Practice Leader of Crown World Mobility says: “The differences for this generation seems to fall into two big categories. First, there are a number of studies that show millennials worldwide expect to gain some international experience during their careers, as well as expecting career progress to happen with a shorter timeline than in the past.
The second big difference has to do with how information is communicated and the options that are open to millennials. There is a need to provide information and communicate using apps, texts and emails rather than through policy documents, face to face meetings or phone calls. Technology and how information is received is one of the biggest shifts in any industry and, of course, also impacts Mobility.”
Lisa Johnson finds that the most recurrent questions faced by relocators today are around low cost ways in which they can provide their services to early career employees seeking international experiences. Discovering which technology lends itself to developing apps and updated services fast enough is a big one, especially as many destination service providers have to operate within a limited budget and timeframe.
The New Normal
Walter Vermeeren, Senior Vice President EMEA of Altair Global, agrees that the difference in demands is mainly a result of changing times. “Our environment is continually evolving and as a consequence the people living in that environment change. There’s a difference in the type of requests we are seeing and to stand out as a DSP in a society driven by technology you have to adapt, no matter what age group you’re dealing with.”
Although many millennials will have travelled or studied abroad before embarking on their professional careers, they often lack a deeper understanding Walter Vermeeren feels. “They are the younger transferees, frequently single and in most cases they won’t have children. This is very different compared to the typical expat we saw 20 years ago. Millennials are generally very confident. Most of them will have enjoyed a student life without too many financial problems, be it in Europe, Asia or the USA. I certainly wouldn’t want to call them spoiled but it is fair to say that this is a generation that takes a lot for granted. Essentially, we’re looking at a group of independent workers who don’t necessarily expect relocation support but who simply assume that everything they do will go smoothly. And this means that the customer has changed drastically for relocation providers.”
Lisa Johnson elaborates: “We find that a lot of our early career employees have never moved before. They have no idea about all the things they don’t know. Ironically enough companies offer them cash options and DIY move solutions. But few employees are experts at moving, which means we need to offer a lot of practical advice and support. How much will it cost? Is immigration compliance important? Can I live anywhere I want without being concerned about safety? Why shouldn’t I negotiate my own lease?”
Corrective actions are not unfamiliar Walter Vermeeren tells us. “A lease agreement signed without DSP support is a typical example of this. We all know what can go wrong: from dodgy contracts, overpaying for a property or landlords who refuse to take care of essential repairs, by bypassing professional support, millennials can be left disappointed from the moment they arrive in their new home country. Situations like these usually mean the relocation service provider has to step in and fix things after the fact. Equally, it’s not much fun for the millennial who has to ask for emergency support. All this can also end up costing the employer a much higher service fee than anticipated.”
“The emergence of technology designed to support low cost moves is creating a shift in services. Yes, you can move more cheaply and find your own apartment quite easily, but you have to factor in human support in order to advise the millennial employee on the more practical side of things.” – Lisa Johnson, Crown World Mobility
Troubleshooting the Gap
Even so, we are dealing with actual physical human beings and a gap between brain and technology, let alone the detailed and specialist knowledge on vital components to a move abroad, such as immigration. This means that problem solving will probably continue to form a substantial part of the job. Adjusting your services and communication to the specific needs of your clients will surely help to minimize the number of hours spent troubleshooting.
Ensuring a smooth relocation for your clients will (for a part) hinge on how you deliver your services to the client. “With millennials you are best off offering a list of services from which they can choose, with a few mandatory services on the list. And the service list cannot be changed for a financial benefit if they don’t use it,” says Walter Vermeeren. “Start compiling your list by talking to millennials and finding out what it is that they really expect. DSP’s should work with their customers to develop this itemised service list. Try to be as pro-active as you can be, think about what you can provide and what the customer might want you to provide. And communication really works best using modern technology. Keep it fast, short and simple!”
“Use apps, timelines, texts and infographics instead of the typical HR policy document,” Lisa Johnson adds. “Information across the board is being produced and shared in new ways. Uber is a great example of getting what you need when you need it, just as airbnb is. I believe we’ll see a general shift where for example housing options are presented in a way not dissimilar to the airbnb model. And it’s not just the millennials who see the benefits of these technological changes; society at large is coming to rely quite heavily on these visually pleasing and easy to use applications, whatever their form or function. At the same time, technology is shifting faster than guidelines and security measures, so there are some very realistic concerns around these ‘uber mobility’ solutions that will need to be addressed.”
When asked how he sees the future of relocation services, Walter Vermeeren tells us that “The millennials will grow older, which means we’ll likely find that expectations and services required will level out somewhat. But don’t forget that the next generation is hot on their heels: the Z-generation or i-Generation, the digital natives. They’ll expect even more online and highly personalised services through all the media they use (TV, Smartphone, PC, Smartwatch and other things to come, 24/7!). This is a generation that likes to share goods and so co-housing will become more of an option, and a service where DSP’s can add value. This Z-generation was not financially pampered and is growing up in a very uncertain environment. They will be looking for more certainty, which is where DSP’s come in by once again providing guaranteed services and support.”
Lisa Johnson has a more philosophical approach to the future of relocation services: “Every company is aware of the fact that the majority of employees today are millennials and that they are driving certain shifts around career paths and experiences. They want work to be meaningful, have time for activities outside of work or want to be sure they can work for a company that does meaningful things. We will all benefit from these attitudes.”
Computers, tablets, gaming consoles and smartphones are firmly embedded in our everyday lives. White papers by Crown Relocations, Xonex and Living Abroad teach us that:
1 – one of the greatest values of relocation technology is its ability to deliver pre-assignment resources to candidates through multiple platforms;
2 – tools should be streamlined, allow 24/7 access, reduce disruption, and offset problems in the new location. All of these features add up to faster assimilation into a new location, with less employee and family stress;
3 – relocation technology should be easy to use, must be fully functional on mobile platforms, giving an assignee greater convenience, connectivity and control of their relocation process.