Grow your career, knowledge and success in 2019 with Worldwide ERC® membership.
version of this article originally appeared on jobsinglobalmobility.com.
has been excerpted and republished here with permission from Alchemy Recruitment Ltd.
Reflecting on the recent past encourages
learning for an improved future.
Roberto Vale and Paul Spencer are Vice
Presidents operating within the specialist fields of Global Mobility &
Relocations Services. These highly experienced senior professionals have
industry tenures of more than a decade. Below, they reflect with Alchemy Recruitment Ltd, on
the on-going traditions, changes and predictions for the future of the
Vice President, Account Management, Asia and Middle East at
SIRVA – a leading global moving and relocation services provider.
Global mobility came into Roberto’s life in 2002, after he
finished his International and Intercultural Management Masters in Vermont.
Having worked in Connecticut for 8 years, Roberto relocated to Singapore in
2010 and has continued to build his mobility experience ever since. “What
attracted me then still motivates me today: the opportunities to discover the
world and to interact with people from a variety of backgrounds.”
Vice President, Corporate Strategy and Design at MSI Global
Talent Solutions (EMEA) – a prominent human capital advisory firm.
Paul joined the global mobility industry back in 1989 and has
collected an impressive array of experience since then. “I joined the Industry
in 1989 and, within a few years, was working on military re-deployment and
aerospace/defence projects across Europe and the Middle East. I also spent time
on the client side (as head of relocation for General Accident during its
merger with Commercial Union to become Aviva) and in business development. In
2008 I moved into the global business travel and expense management sector and
recently returned to global mobility, joining MSI in EMEA.”
In response to this initial question, both Paul and Roberto were
quick to hone in on an area causing rapid changes to all industries;
Technology. Paul applied this idea to global mobility by explaining that ‘…
software developments have led to a step-change in case management efficiency.
The ability to provide insightful and actionable data on a 24-hour basis has
revolutionized the entire client engagement process and at last delivered
increased genuine transparency.’
Technology has ensured that all parties are in sync when it
comes to cost, activity and relocation status. Technology for the industry is
noticeably on the rise due to the increasing number of companies purely
dedicated to the provision of solutions for this sector. Roberto builds on this
by explaining “It needs to be said also that our industry is primed for
disruption because of technology. We are already seeing changes to our business
models and I suspect we will also see increased integration of global mobility companies
in the very near future.”
Expats themselves have changed. Roberto told us “I have seen a
clear shift in global assignment patterns. I remember that in the early and
mid-2000’s, the talent flow was still predominantly West-East, broadly
speaking. Today, Asia and Latin America have come of age due to a better
educated talent pool, better infrastructure and increased government focus in
protecting native human capital.” The West-East route is certainly no longer the
only direction of expat travel.
Paul also references the mid-2000’s “Looking at an ERC report
from 2004 and comparing it to more recent publications, one can see that most
assignments then were carried out by personnel already experienced in long-term
relocations. They were also older, typically male, and happy, it appears, to
commit to additional assignments.” Roberto’s thoughts align with Paul’s,
suggesting “Chinese, Indian and Brazilian companies operate on very different
cultural tapestries, and we are in the process of amending our “playbook” to
align with new market and cultural requirements.”
So, what can we take away from the information kindly provided
by Roberto and Paul? It seems that the template of the archetypal expat has
changed. Ten to fifteen years ago, the main pool of expats would
characteristically consist of experienced assignees in the form of older,
western males. These days the ‘expat demographic’ is far richer and more
varied; including new expats seeking their first international experience.
Women and individuals of all ages from all corners of the globe are now
commonly assignees; this increased diversity is certainly a positive change of
the last decade.
Paul also shared that ten years ago “The concept of semi-permanent
expats still applied. Within a decade, the growth in “extended business travel”
and outcome-orientated project assignments of less than 12 months - rather than
moving for career development, or for cultural or company familiarisation -
showed that a more financially rigorous, outcome focused, and pragmatic
approach to mobility had developed. This wasn’t purely a response to the
financial downturn of 2008; “return on investment” is now part of every
conversation we have about talent management and global mobility.”
“Global mobility still
focuses on ensuring that assignees remain productive during a challenging
period in their lives and a pre-departure discussion about a transfer overseas
today wouldn’t seem drastically different from 10 years ago,” Paul says.
Roberto adds “The second thing that has not changed is the fact that moving to
a new location remains a very stressful experience for most people.” Time has
certainly not altered the relocating assignee’s need for a helping hand, in the
form of the knowledge and care of global mobility and relocation professionals.
“Conversations about what motivates assignees to accept overseas
postings seem to cover the same topics: the impact on work/life balance and
families, as well as concerns about career development and post-repatriation”
Paul explains. Roberto rounds off this point nicely by stating “mobility, as a
business function, continues to be a top contributor to the company’s global
strategy on talent management… Finding and deploying talent with the right mix
of technical and cultural know-how is a task that still requires direct support
“The free flow of human capital delivers benefits to individuals
and corporations over and above the immediate commercial justification for
moving someone from A to B. To paraphrase Twain: “Global Mobility is fatal to
prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness”. My view is that it is more
important than ever for companies to physically project themselves, and their
values, onto the widest possible stage.” Paul’s poetic considerations certainly
present the reader with food for thought.
We asked Roberto the same question, he told us “...there is
greater emphasis on communication and critical thinking skills on the
development of our staff. This is certainly because the bar has been raised and
we are expected to navigate conversations in an anticipative and consultative
manner. And there are also the circumstantial changes that global mobility
needs to respond to due to ruptures to economic cycles, government regimes and
other political events, like Brexit, just to give one example.”
Roberto is enthusiastic about global mobility’s future: “I am
very positive about the future of mobility. I am convinced that we are living
in the best of times for the community of mobility practitioners. The function
we play and the contributions we bring to our clients now extend way beyond the
transactional, which was most predominant 20 years ago... In addition, I think
that new technology platforms will allow the decision on services and products
to be pushed downstream to the family – more flexibility and efficiencies.”
Paul focused on the role of global mobility when he told us
“business leaders look to human resources (HR) to tackle human capital
management issues like the fight for talent, global expansion, global
compliance, and the ever-changing regulatory environment both at home and
around the globe. It’s therefore critical that HR departments are nimble and
proactive. Human capital leaders who can bring creative, cutting edge solutions
to support their organization’s overarching business goals will be viewed as
valued contributors to the executive suite.”
Roberto’s response to this question was heartfelt and inspiring.
He said “It feels amazing. I am a better person now because of the people I met
during these 16 years in the industry…I was able to travel and work in
different countries and meet people with different mindsets and outlooks in
life. There are many smart, ethical and caring people in the industry, and I am
hard pressed to think of anyone not willing to teach and encourage others.”
Roberto continues “The challenges and difficulties we work
through in global mobility are actually the biggest source of learning, and
what makes us stronger and more resilient. Overtime, each one of us finds our
unique ways to manage stress and balance our different priorities.” Paul’s
short but amusing answer to this same question was “Helpful!” This practical
response was followed by practical advice when we asked Paul for his tips for
less experienced global mobility professionals…
Paul advised industry newcomers to “get broad commercial
exposure that involves working with different cultures across different
time-zones, to overcome challenges outside of your comfort zone, and to hone
your project management skills.” Roberto gave us “three things. Ask questions.
Listen. Help others. Broadly speaking, what makes us successful in this
industry is a passion for learning, a genuine interest on other people and a
small ego. Mobility never ceases to teach me that there is always a possibility
that something better can happen.”
Paul and Roberto’s views on the industry are measured and
forecast a bright outlook within an industry ripe for technological disruption.
Alchemy Recruitment Ltd would like to thank Paul, Roberto and the reader for their reflections
of these last Ten years of Global Mobility.
Mobility is our monthly magazine for members-only with the latest insights and ideas for the worldwide mobility industry.
The Worldwide ERC community is the largest and most engaged group of mobility experts on the planet.