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In the face of growing talent shortages, strategic global mobility programs offer companies solutions, helping them find and place the right resources in the right locations. Positive employee experiences are essential to ensuring successful moves, and technology plays an increasingly important role in shaping them. But how do companies leverage the right tech tools without losing the all-important human touch? Corporate panelists at a Worldwide ERC®-hosted educational event weighed in on that question, in a discussion moderated by Olivier Jourdan, GMS-T, of Santa Fe Relocation Services. They focused on three core areas: employee expectations, the employer value proposition (EVP), and addressing gaps between strategy and execution.
Employees are increasingly behaving as consumers and regarding employers as brands. With that backdrop in mind, panelists Sheryll Young, GMS-T, with Shopify, Inc., Shelley Giles, SCRP, GMS-T, with Tenet Heathcare Corporation and Kathryn Rudey, with TIBCO Software, Inc. all noted the importance of setting expectations and responding very quickly to employee requests. “Employees are always online, and their ask is for immediacy, efficiency and clarity. Information is now coming in sound bites, faster than we can realize,” observed Young. The panelists added that just as consumers are the end users of the products and services they buy, mobile employees are using their purchasing power, engaging with technology and services and having a need for both clarity and immediacy when questions arise. Mobile employees want answers where and when they need them, and the panelists agreed that if they can’t find them through their employer or relocation management company, they will look to other resources, creating challenges for information quality control. “We start to run the risk of expectations being set that really aren’t accurate, because we don’t know what kind of information they’re gathering on their own,” shared Rudey.
The best way to set expectations and strike the right blend of human and online support is to be very intentional in the intake or onboarding call, to determine exactly where that balance should be. “We structure those calls by asking questions versus delivering what our services are,” noted Young, adding that her team uses them to gather insights on what the employee sees as the ideal outcome and how they can best support it, rather than trying to fit them into a particular box. All panelists agreed that those initial conversations are important opportunities for the human element to be part of the process, and active listening and collaboration are key. Rudey noted that “proactively setting expectations that are personal to that particular employee’s experience” helps avoid disappointment later on. Giles also observed that the initial call or meeting is the best opportunity to determine how and when associates prefer to communicate through online and in-person channels. She added that the multigenerational workforce presents different sets of needs and communication preferences, employers should be flexible in meeting them, and that she sees a much greater focus on family and personal lives now, in addition to career goals.
That was a great segue into the importance of the employer value proposition (EVP), and employees’ expectation that their company will put top priority on supporting their well-being. In considering tech solutions and mobility program options, panelists shared that a sole focus on financials can be a barrier to a positive experience and can damage EVP. They agreed that while controlling costs is important, it can’t be the only factor when designing mobility programs. Services and solutions need to be driven by the value propositions to the employee and the business, and what kind of mobility experience the company wants its talent to have.
Company culture plays a critical role in those decisions, and in how mobility teams interact with their service provider partners, too. In noting the importance of culture when demonstrating value, Young observed that “culture is truly understanding the makeup of your workforce, and how they communicate and expect to receive information and being responsive to those preferences, and your service partners have to be aligned with that.” Rudey agreed, adding that “we have to think about what experience we want the employee to have, and then back up to how we as an employer provide the services that will meet that while still fitting within our budget.”
Giles noted that early career builders and empty nesters will have unique needs, and employees may negotiate for different or extended benefits to meet them. Part of the value employers can deliver is a willingness to work with them to achieve that goal.
As the panel shifted to explore ways to close potential gaps in strategy and execution when balancing the human and technological elements of the relocation process, they noted that mistakes will inevitably occur from time to time. “How you respond to a mistake or failure – not necessarily what you say, but how you make employees feel” is essential, noted Young, adding that it’s important to “own it, solve it, and communicate and commit to what you’re going to do about it.” Young feels that responding to mistakes is, in fact, one of the most critical areas where human interaction must take place, adding that there are “some things you can’t solve with technology.”
Giles agreed, emphasizing that communication is absolutely key, and while many employees now prefer email or texting, “sometimes, you just need to pick up the phone and call and talk about a problem.”
Another area where some potential gaps can occur is inheriting an outdated program or policy that doesn’t match with the overall company direction. Rudey noted that every company culture will be different and emphasized the importance of really thinking through the strategy and building a plan that forwards that culture and the goals before jumping into the use of new technologies. Careful planning can help avoid disjointed systems that may not work well together or adequately support the end goals.
Young concurred, adding that having a “program design first” mindset helps ensure that the technology fully supports the policy. She added that while mobility may not be as tech savvy as other parts of the business, her team has been able to leverage technology through candidate portals, so employees know what to expect throughout the entire relocation process. Overall, the group concurred that staying curious about and interested in where and how technology fits into mobility allows different and new ideas to flourish that benefit employees, their families and the company.
The bottom line is to ensure that the online tools support programs that align with company culture, delivering flexible solutions and real-time information. The most important goal in leveraging technology is to set employees and the service partners they work with up for success, empowering them to make informed decisions for positive outcomes.
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