September 28, 2020
Factor Humano Feature: Global Mobility and the New Normal
In a case study recently featured in Factor Humano magazine, Jorge Camacho, head of global mobility at private engineering and technology group Sener, and Luis Navarrete, business development manager with Sterling Lexicon Spain, share their thoughts and perspectives about global mobility in the new normal.
The global pandemic is clearly reshaping the mobility industry, and the approaches organizations are now taking to develop strategies around the international movement of personnel. Sener's Camacho and Sterling Lexicon's Navarrete discuss the need to consider adopting more flexible solutions and new assignment models as two examples of growing trends.
Factor Humano is published by IFAES, an organization dedicated to the development of human capital through customized information, training, events and publications. The following information is translated from a Q&A featured in Factor Humano’s September edition.
FH: How does Sener manage international employee assignments?
Jorge Camacho: Years ago, employees sent on an assignment were largely on their own, looking for and securing housing without any support from a relocation management company. That approach posed several problems, including extended and expensive hotel stays, the need to negotiate housing documents and contracts in a foreign language, often containing clauses or involving practices that employees did not understand or had no prior experience with in their country of origin, and putting them at risk, both personally and legally. This prompted us to turn to specialized companies, who provide the right level of support and the added value to mitigate those risks. Typically, when we assign an employee, we ask three different suppliers to send us their cost and service proposals and decide on one. However, if a supplier has worked well in a particular location with us before, we use them directly again.
FH: When did you start working with Sener and what services are you providing to them?
Luis Navarrete: Our collaboration began in 2016. We are currently offering immigration services (visas, permits, etc.); relocation services (home and school searches, orientation tours, assistance at local registries; departure services, such as termination of rental contracts, etc.); and international household goods removals. We work with different expatriates at all levels of the company, from executives to senior management-level assignees, delivering a range of services, depending on their needs and the global mobility policy.
FH: What requirements does Sener look for when turning to an external mobility provider?
Jorge Camacho: We demand good service at a competitive price. The financial aspect is always very important, but the service level is just as critical to us. When feasible, I like to personally test the capabilities of the providers we work with to help us assess the relocation services at the destination. We want to make sure the providers offer what they say they do, we want to get to know the team to see if they are working well and ensure they have the right resources to solve problems. If these things are not clearly evident to us during our visits, we are not likely to engage in an agreement with them. These in-person visits also serve to re-evaluate the conditions we have requested in our proposal, to ensure we are not demanding things that are simply not possible. For example, we were in Melbourne and had three days to look at housing options. We observed first-hand just how difficult that was to do. Many visits were cancelled, we visited some properties in groups of up to 50 people and in the end, the house was left to the highest bidder. Consultants can tell you about these things, but you are much more apt to understand and believe them when you experience them in person.
Luis Navarrete: Sener sets up the relationships between the company, the assignee and the service provider for success very well, because it defines what we call "the management of expectations." Moving to a new country can generate significant levels of both culture and job expectation shocks for expatriates. The employee can expect one thing and find something very different. This is minimized if the employer provides an initial exploratory trip, which helps them understand the reality of the destination country and to manage any "false" expectations. It also helps us better align, as we get to know their needs and they get to know and understand the challenges and differences that can be found in the destination country.
FH: How does Sterling Lexicon support a company like Sener in its global processes?
Luis Navarrete: Our goal is to facilitate everything related to the international assignment. The sooner employees settle in, the sooner they will perform, and the company will get a return on its investment. We don't want employees to be distracted by the search for the right school, home or a car. Our value proposition is to be agile and flexible in meeting their needs, adapting to all types of expatriate demographics and job levels. We do not have fixed products - as often used in traditional expatriate assignments, but instead pivot to adapt to the expectations and needs of the client. We strive to be the global mobility team’s preferential and strategic partners, viewed as facilitators of their business goals, not merely line items or expenses on the company balance sheet.
FH: Why did you choose Sterling Lexicon as your mobility service provider?
Jorge Camacho: It is very important to have a partnership with your providers that allows for easy and fast communication. If the provider works, we work too. Sterling Lexicon has very good destination consultants who demonstrate their care for us and our assignees. They give us a lot of peace of mind about our employees, who can be very demanding at times. Global mobility teams need to understand all of the countries in which the company is operating and working in one does not mean you will work in or be fully up to speed in all. Sterling Lexicon’s international reach allows us to do just that.
"The support of a local consultant gives you added peace of mind and security. It allows employees to have a 'soft landing,' and a good start on an assignment is priceless".
FH: How do you regard the return on investment in hiring an external mobility provider?
Jorge Camacho: The investment is 100% worthwhile. Using a relocation service provider prevents our assignees from spending a month or more finding a house and having to live in a hotel. With these savings, you have already compensated for the service financially. In addition, the support of a local consultant gives you added peace of mind and security. It allows employees to have a 'soft landing', and a good start on an assignment is priceless. When their experience relocating with the company is a good one, the employee will be more open to extending their current assignment, being assigned to another location, or staying in the country where they are on a permanent transfer.
FH: Do you think that a good global mobility strategy can help attract and retain talent?
Luis Navarrete: International assignments have always been a leverage for attracting and retaining talent. New generations of employees no longer strongly identify with a company brand or expect to retire from the same company where they started their careers. But digital capabilities and new access to information sharing and ease of connecting have resulted in an increased desire for some kind of international experience, and companies that are not able to offer that in some form (teleworking, assignments, etc.) are much more likely to lose the possibility of attracting and retaining top talent. We are beginning to see organizations that understand the importance of that, are placing more value on the integration of mobility into the overall career paths of their top talent and are developing "Global Talent Management" departments to bring it all together.
FH: What do you think the future of workforce mobility looks like?
Jorge Camacho: Covid-19 has accelerated significant changes in our concepts of telework and mobility. We will no longer need to move as many employees from one place to another for a job but will tend to consider more local staffing resources and training options. The future will demand greater rationalization of assignments, so there will likely be fewer of them and they will be on a more select level. As we streamline assignments and move to more virtual work, we’ll see more "multi-country" teams. The pandemic has forced business leaders to make the kind of conciliatory and flexible employment and work location decisions that they would not have dared to consider before, and they are now seeing that it can work.
Luis Navarrete: Obviously, there will be a reduction in and greater levels of rationalization around global assignments. Organizations will have to adapt their global mobility programs and embrace other forms of support, such as virtual assignments. Relocation, removals and immigration services will continue to exist, but the focus will be on compliance, especially as it relates to social security and taxation. Likewise, services will tend to be even more global and complex, and it will be necessary to create new online business models, delivered with the help of platforms that allow companies or employees to see choices and make their own packages according to their needs, accompanied by the assistance and in-country expertise of consultants.
As Marketing Manager for Sterling Lexicon, Lynsey brings over ten years of experience working within the B2B and B2C markets throughout the EMEA and APAC regions, designing and executing successful strategies and campaigns. She brings a deep understanding of the competitive landscape, market data and consumer behaviour to her role, serving as a liaison between the marketing and sales teams and project manager for multiple lead-generating and brand-awareness-raising initiatives. Lynsey leads and reports on the ongoing enhancements and improvements to the Sterling Lexicon website in the areas of market research, content development, translation, and optimisation for improved user experiences, external rankings, and conversions. Lynsey can be reached at email@example.com.