Relocation industry responds to change and volatility

Against a backdrop of global volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, the 2017 EuRA Congress, held in Warsaw, provided useful insights for destination services providers and mobility teams.

Relocate magazine summer issue 2017 EURA relocation industry responds to change

Leigh Goodsell, EuRA 2017

Those who were able to tear themselves away from the relentless round of quick-fire meetings, or who were already au fait with the basics of marketing their businesses and engaging clients across social media, which were covered during the same time slot, were in for a treat if they attended Jon Harman’s session on the power of attention.The basic premise of this enlightening session, which put our frenetic work and personal lifestyles in perspective, was ‘Enough is enough. Let’s concentrate on one thing at a time and take back control of our inboxes and social media interruptions’.Pointing out that the brain tired easily and humans were easily distracted, Jon Harman highlighted research showing that we were hardwired to want treats and our working memory was limited, but thankfully the brain had the ability to change itself, and therefore there was hope on the horizon, both for ourselves and for future generations.

Takeaways for DSPs and mobility teams

Across the Relocate media, we have, for some years, been exploring the importance of neuroscience. This an area that the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has been championing for its 40,000-plus members as the route to supporting so many areas of HR – from engagement to workplace planning, talent, diversity, motivation, change management and, of course, international HRM.The Worldwide Employee Relocation Council (WERC) and the Canadian Employee Relocation Council (CERC) have also been championing the understanding of neuroscience to support global mobility and the strategic nature of modern HR roles as business partners.So it was good for destination services providers (DSP) to have the opportunity to get up to speed with the latest thinking and start to explore how a better understanding of neuroscience could help them in their day-to-day jobs, not only to manage an increasingly complex and fast-paced organisational role but also to empathise with their clients.This is not least because the global talent they support every day are probably stressed, overstretched, time pressed, and overwhelmed by endless demands on their time from all sorts of mobile devices and the conflicting pressure from office, home and employees as they prepare for their assignments.There were some practical takeaways that DSPs and mobility teams could use to make life easier for assignees and relocating families. Because the brain tires easily, don’t forget to look after that harassed couple in your car or the hyped-up Millennial who seems intent on doing your job for you by searching online for properties in dubious locations.Research shows that physical exercise, or simply moving the body, makes a real difference and gets oxygen to the brain. So ten minutes in the park between appointments is a good idea. As a long-term strategy, time spent with nature can counteract the damage caused by too much digital use.Allow time for breaks, with the offer of food and refreshment, even if the client wants to keep pressing on. Give space and time to get up, stretch your legs, enjoy some fresh air, and get some oxygen to the brain.Creating time to listen and really understand what is behind the relocatee’s decision-making process could make all the difference. It could be that they really want you, with all your expertise, just to take over and eliminate some of the choice. When people are tired, ‘decision fatigue’ sets in, so a list of properties to see and schools to visit from the DSP expert is could be just what is needed, if it is communicated well.

Declining social interaction and ‘working memory’

The other powerful takeaway from Jon Harman’s talk was around social interaction. Some people just aren’t comfortable with it, and this could become even more of a worry in the future if young people continue to spend most of their time engaging via social media and not face to face.Could it be that Millennials are rejecting time out with an experienced DSP – who knows where to find the right property for them, in the coolest location, with all the amenities, and within easy access of the office and pubic transport – because they just can’t face spending half a day alone in a car with a stranger? Maybe they don’t know how to engage.Jon Harman also highlighted the fact that human beings’ working memory had limited storage. However, long-term memory was pretty well unlimited – his point being that we could multitask, but we couldn’t solve two problems at once. Multitasking was really rapid task switching, he explained.So we shouldn’t fool ourselves: we are not computers. Science shows that intense work, such as strategic thinking, goal-setting and data analysis, can only be done for two or three hours at a time – maybe five or six hours if you really need to, but you can’t sustain good work and focus without a break.
The downside of doing everything on autopilot, or through technology, is that we are losing our working memory. The use of satnav, for example, is reducing our ability to read a map. The brain changes over time according to how we use it, which is why mental arithmetic and playing Sudoku are so important in keeping elderly people alert and happy.In our daily lives, the urgent is taking precedent over the important. Being responsive to the internet, social media and email 24/7 is equivalent to being wired for treats, the treat in this case being a ‘like’ on Facebook or the heart symbol on a tweet. This is all driven by the sense of missing out. The cost is productivity.Have you every wondered why you have your best ideas in the shower, or perhaps when you are out for a walk or driving? It is because you have uninterrupted time.That white noise in the office, the distraction of time-absorbing email, staff demands and emails, all diminish productivity. Have the confidence to simply put it on hold and really concentrate on what you are doing.Instead of living in a state of hyper-vigilance, check those emails and social media at set times of the day, not 110 times a day.These are new issues for DSPs to resolve. So next time you are texting over breakfast while the children watch TV, urging them to hurry up, eat and get their school bags ready, or you are complaining about the hours they spend on computer games, think about the example you may be setting as you check Facebook, download a report, or respond to an email.

State of the industry

As ever, one of the conference’s most enlightening sessions was the state-of-the-industry leaders’ summit. Steve Cryne, of CERC, Peggy Smith, of WERC, and Jesse van Sas, of FIDI, the global alliance of professional international moving and relocation companies, looked at trends from the perspective of their organisations’ members.The basis of their conversation, moderated by EuRA’s Tad Zurlinden, was the results of a new CERC global mobility survey carried out by IPSOS, which sought the views of 10,000 employees in 20 countries. The survey was sponsored by BDO Global, the Council For Global Immigration, Crown World Mobility, Dwellworks, EuRA, Randstad Holding, TheMIGroup, and Weichert Workforce Mobility.The research recorded a fall in the number of employees willing to relocate abroad. Only around 18 per cent of respondents said they would be ‘very likely’ to relocate for up to two years and take a full-time job in another country if offered a 10 per cent pay increase to do so. In 2012, the figure was 25 per cent.“At a time when many regions of the world are transitioning to knowledge-based economies, and living standards improve, it is not surprising to see a measurable decline in the number of employees willing to relocate for employment since 2012,” commented Steve Cryne.Over a quarter of respondents said they were ‘somewhat likely’ to relocate. Just under a quarter were ‘not very likely’, 31 per cent were ‘not at all likely’.Around 17 per cent indicated they would be willing to relocate permanently in 2017. If there was a guarantee of a full-time job, the proportion indicating they were ‘very likely’ to relocate increased to almost 28 per cent. The figure dropped to only 7 per cent if there was no guarantee of full-time employment.At three in ten or more, those working in marketing, advertising or public relations, arts, entertainment or recreation, aerospace/defence, mining, natural resources or forestry, and the oil and gas industry were the most inclined to say they were very likely to consider temporary relocation for up to two years if given a 10 per cent increase in salary.Those who were most enticed by the prospect included senior executives and decision-makers, those aged under 35, business owners, and those who were unmarried.The proportion of employees willing to relocate as much as doubled when some extra incentives were on offer. These included a guaranteed option to return to their current role after two years, paid language training, airline tickets for family visits, and immigration and/or career assistance for a spouse or partner.However, employees proved less motivated to relocate, regardless of virtually all incentives, than they were in 2012. For Steve Cryne, “the growing populist opposition towards migration and more restrictive immigration regulations in some countries are factors that will discourage employees from considering a move to those destinations”.Nearly 37 per cent of respondents strongly agreed that the country the foreign assignment sent them to was a major factor in their decision to relocate or not.Compared with the 2012 survey, fewer said they wanted to relocate to the US, though, at three in ten, the US remained the country employees most wanted to relocate to. It was followed by Canada, the UK, Australia, Germany and Switzerland.

Unpacking the survey’s findings

WERC’s Peggy Smith commented that, because the survey was carried out after the inauguration of the new Trump government, its findings reflected what she was hearing in the US. The strong business agenda was liked, but potential changes to immigration were not.She had observed a bit of energy around some protectionism, and was interested to see how that would affect WERC members.Ms Smith was also seeing an explosion of business travellers. There was a growing trend for employees to want to change jobs every 18 to 24 months, and companies were having to embrace the needs of Generation Z, she said. She explained that, while she was bullish about mobility, it was different from the mobility of five years ago.Peggy Smith acknowledged that more could be done to market mobility around experience. On the West Coast of the US, mobility was more progressive, yielding good results. If you achieve, you get a mobility assignment, but employers need help with getting to that position.Steve Cryne felt that too many governments were not keeping up with the needs of business. Archaic views on migration and immigration and stealing jobs from domestic workforces were unhelpful and did not reflect reality. Every single country was talking about shortage of skilled talent, and all were chasing a small number of people with skills and experience, he explained.He felt that business had to be at the table with government to build the success of a country, and that mobility had a role in doing that. He also felt the new government in Canada was speaking the right language, welcoming a global talent stream with open arms, and that the Canadian population was behind this approach.Jesse van Sas had observed a creeping reluctance to move. He wondered how it would play out if many over-40s saw expatriation as a step in their career progression, while younger people were looking for experiences.Speaking about removals and the long term, Mr van Sas commented that the industry had responded to various changes over the years; this was natural in any sector. With regard to Brexit, he felt that, once it had happened, the insecurity would go away. If insecurity persists, however, organisations don’t invest, and that is detrimental.

Championing mobility

Jesse van Sas made the point that business must get its head around strategic growth and the advantages of mobility. As an industry sector, mobility needed to get this message across to senior levels of business, and this was the most important thing we, as business leaders, could do.For the moving sector, numbers are increasing but shipments are smaller. Mr van Sas observed that young people didn’t place the same value on taking their possessions with them, preferring to buy when they reached their destination. For the removals sector, however, there was the same admin cost for a smaller move, and less revenue. Mr van Sas urged the industry to hold up a mirror and tell clients what was happening in their market and region.Steve Cryne felt it was an exciting time to be in the mobility industry. Businesses were looking outward – they had to be global, because domestic markets were not big enough. Predictions from management consultancies were that we would see significant growth. Those firms that could harness technology and have new solutions would succeed.Mr Cryne ended by urging the relocation profession to get into the headspace of decision-makers and explain how valuable global mobility is.
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