Frankfurt: Worldwide ERC® Mobility Conference Report

February’s Worldwide ERC® Frankfurt Mobility Summit blazed with energy. Its atmosphere reflected both the reinvigorated aspirations that a new year brings and the novelty of a new format and venue for the German financial capital. Fiona Murchie reports on how the Worldwide ERC’s global summit series stay ahead of changes in global mobility.

Cityscape of Frankfurt
Click to access the Spring 2019 Relocate magazine
This article is taken from the latest issue of Relocate magazine.
– the must read for HR, global managers and relocation professionals.

Real-time solutions to real-time challenges

Mobility professionals took time out from their daily trials on 8 February to concentrate on the bigger picture. That is, the urgent need to work together on the significant challenges facing international organisations and the management of talent in the short term – Brexit and slower global growth – and the long term – the shifting axis of economic power and demographics.Among the timely challenges focusing delegates’ minds and the Worldwide ERC’s agenda for the day was the role of technology. The marketplace reflected the future of global mobility, with a great range of platforms on display at the demo kiosks.The show was a valuable opportunity to help organisations understand how to transform their mobility systems and processes, improve efficiency, increase engagement with end-user corporate managers and their employees and families, and help companies keep costs under control.

Tackling hard issues with software

Certino was among them, demonstrating its shadow payroll platform. The system automates and manages the process, enabling large organisations to make substantial annual cost savings. Slow manual processes can be replaced by automation, which reduces costs and minimises tax compliance risks, explained Richard McBride, founder and managing director.Going-There’s (GT) Global Tracker App, which won the Relocate Global technological innovation award in 2017, continues to solve three major headaches for HRs who also find themselves managing business travel and international assignments: immigration breaches, tax compliance and locating employees in an emergency situation.As Liam Brennan, CEO of GT Global Tracker explained, many companies have a fragmented approach to managing business travellers. However, by focusing on the traveller, the necessary data to drive taxation and immigration compliance is there. He recommended mobilising internal colleagues to secure elements of their budget to find the data that can flow back to their units and better help them with their compliance obligations. Be seen to be proactive, rather than responding to transgressions and harness the changing political environment to mobilise your team, he suggested.

The role of IT in the current uncertainty

With the terms of Brexit still unclear, a question mark over any future reciprocal 90-day travel visas between the UK and Germany and banks relocating from London softening their stance on commuting, technology of this nature could be a reputation-saver for HR and global mobility teams charged with tracking and monitoring commuting employees.For seasoned global mobility professionals and those new to managing global mobility, Ineo Global Mobility’s technology platform offers the necessary features to ensure compliance, cost control and data that forward-thinking companies need to support their mobility programmes.  Such platforms also enable global mobility and HR to plan for the future responding to the business needs of their organisation, as well as market and currency changes in different regions.

Bringing design-thinking into global mobility to boost employee experience

Similarly, Deloitte was on hand to highlight the importance of the employee experience by placing the user at the centre of mobility. Curating the mobility journey around the employee’s needs to deliver consistent and high-quality experience is critical, the consultancy explained.Identifying the challenges is essential, as is listening to all the mobility users, including employees, services providers and business leaders. Ongoing measurement is also critical and involves instant feedback using a range of devices, from portals and chatbots to pulse assessments and surveys, apps and wearables.Deloitte’s approach is to leverage its global mobility expertise with design-thinking methodology. It typically works with clients as part of an interactive and immersive mobility experience lab. Deloitte regards the future of work as design-led, data-driven and digitally enabled.

Moving from software issues to the hard and soft side of global mobility

The Worldwide ERC Frankfurt Mobility Summit explored all these themes further in Frankfurt through focused round-tables and speakers. Representatives of AIRINC were on hand to discuss the findings of its 2019 Mobility Outlook Survey and the importance of mobility data for decision-making. It also demonstrated its Host Pay Calculator.Ema Boccagni of ECA International also encapsulated the concerns and challenges of the global mobility sector in her considered overview to delegates on ‘Rethinking Your Mobility Strategy’, in response to influences and external drivers for change.Perhaps reflecting the significant presence of technology platforms for global mobility firms, Boccagni noted that compliance remains a challenge. “Tax officials are talking more with immigration authorities,” she said. “Compliance is still one of the biggest risks. Compliance is never easy and now it is more and more difficult. Mobility is seen as an obstacle and this is not getting any better.”Looking at drivers for change, companies are seeing and talking to ECA International about the need to attract and retain talent, and how difficult has it become. “The majority say it has become more difficult, so they have to do more internally,” said Boccagni, with teams “working with talent management to tool future leaders and develop them.”In these times of lower global economic growth, “cost definitely” remains a key internal driver. “We are all asked to do more for less and it is more difficult to demonstrate savings. Global mobility takes care of expensive people, so it is us under scrutiny.”

How to make inclusion work in global mobility

With more diverse assignee populations, the focus is also on inclusion, said Boccagni, and how companies can make it desirable for all employees who need to work overseas and how to reconcile this with their existing strategy.Boccagni’s advice was to think of practical examples, such as introducing flexibility through segmentation or tiered policies. This led to a discussion around where mobility can best site itself within the business. Is it with talent? Rewards, compensation and benefits, or HR? Interestingly, in the room, the majority worked within HR and just one in talent management.Given the wide-ranging discussions, influences and developments all on show here in Frankfurt and the changes happening in the EU and beyond, it will be very interesting to see if this balance switches at next year’s Worldwide ERC Mobility Summit.
Subscribe to Relocate Extra, our monthly newsletter, to get all the latest international assignments and global mobility news.Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centreAccess hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory