The Human Needs Behind Global Mobility

The relocation journey is as unique as the employee taking it. So how do you design and evaluate an experience that isn’t for you? Susan Benevides will lead a discussion at the Global Workforce SymposiumLeveraging Experience Design to Elevate Your Mobility Program—to answer that question. We asked Susan to discuss “design thinking” from a mobility standpoint and share some of her insights ahead of her session at the 2018 Global Workforce Symposium. Register today to join the conversation!

In the mobility industry, there are layers of complexity. When you think about it, the market base of relocation management providers includes every single company in the world that moves employees. In the context of an ever-evolving world—economies, political systems, people groups, technological advancement, new opportunities—my bird’s eye view is painted with every industry, each with a vast variety of companies with their own unique blends of culture, language, leadership style, resistance to change…each company a sea of employees on their own individual journeys with personal preferences, shaped by past experiences and personal lives (or their “come-to” state).

This is the problem when we speak of “the experience”—complexity. Because within that jungle of companies, planted within the broader HR ecosystem, sits a mobility professional on their own unique journey up their own (often challenging) side of the mountain we call “employee attraction, acquisition and retention.” And this person is tasked with delivering (tens, hundreds, thousands of) employees to their destination points for the sake of their companies—happy, healthy and productive. Without a magic wand or flying carpet.

Today, the best tools available to companies to cut through these complex layers and simplify elements of the employee journey are experience design methods. When mobility managers and HR leaders come to us with their programs, policies and budget constraints, you can almost feel the anxiety underlying their tireless optimism. Even with the best program design, policy benefits and budget bandwidth, mobility is just not that simple.

My “a-ha” moment came some years back as we were developing employee personas and journey maps with an experience design firm. It was a fascinating undertaking and introduced me to the mindset of “design thinking,” which encourages organizations to develop human-centered products, services, and internal processes—to focus on the people for whom they offer solutions. It requires companies to look beyond personas to each unique individual. It moves us from customized solutions to personalized encounters.

I had to know—how can we—RMCs and our clients—inject some simplicity into the complex journeys of hundreds or even thousands of people moving around the globe? Is such a vision even possible?

Unfortunately, placing each individual employee’s human needs at the forefront of product and service development is no easy task. I got lucky enough to lead a company founded by people who always felt there had to be a better way, who approached every obstacle as an opportunity to navigate with creativity and empathy for their clients. This is now their legacy. But, for many business leaders, this is a scary concept. There’s risk and uncertainty in creativity…in questioning a solution that might already be good enough. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is the safer choice.

While there’s a thrill letting yourself get creative, “fail fast” and innovate, design thinking is by no means reckless. In today’s terms I’d call it mindful—a term we hear a lot. It’s thorough. It exposes every option and forces every stone upturned for a calculated, strategic approach to developing solutions for (and with) our clients. Design thinking offers a way to innovate without the scary degrees of uncertainty. Now in our 50th year of facing changes that affect the mobility space, we find ourselves adopting this design thinking mindset, so we can intentionally approach our increasingly complex and dynamic world as a playground for innovation in talent management.

From my perspective at the helm of a global mobility management company, I’ve found it essential to engage with my employees, suppliers and client partners who are willing to embrace risk and collaborate for creative solutions—not for employees’ assumed needs—but for their actual needs. The design thinking mindset is a tricky beast, because it overturns everything we’ve ever learned about developing products and services. We work with companies that want to explore even further into this space of uncertainty and put the human experience at the front of that creative process. This is what agility is truly made of—the willingness to try new things, see what works and go back to the drawing board to make it better and better, over and over again—not just when we fail, but also when we succeed! It’s a vision of a future that doesn’t stop at the successes of today, but exceeds it with the even-better for an unpredictable tomorrow.

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