Digitisation and employee experience in global mobility

Digitisation is a key aspect of employee experience (EX) in global mobility. But what impact has the pandemic had on its ongoing rollout and what does it mean for the future of the GM function?

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A number of papers exploring digitisation and its link with employee experience (EX) in global mobility have been published recently. The latest is from Crown World Mobility.They highlight how global mobility is becoming more strategically embedded in corporate structures, with the function increasingly overlapping and integrating with the wider talent, people, finance, data and compliance functions as the mobility landscape and employee expectations change.
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Key trends from the last ten years shaping the future

Crown World Mobility’s white paper, EX Priorities in the Wake of the Pandemic, identifies the increasingly important role of employee experience (EX) for engagement and performance – and how company culture, industry, technology and employee populations impact EX priorities in global mobility. Crown’s report complements findings from Santa Fe Relocation’s paper, 10/10: Digital transformation at pace: Santa Fe’s reflection on the last 10 years. This outlines the top 10 key trends over the past 10 years, including technology as an enabler for GM functions, the shift to employee-driven programmes and the change in skillset of global mobility expertise towards the strategic/advisory.Both reports conclude that global mobility functions must continue to adapt with speed and agility to keep up with the demands of a multigenerational workforce and a fast-shifting global mobility landscape.

Digitisation in global mobility before the pandemic

Crown World Mobility identifies digitisation, a trend hastened by the pandemic, as a key facet of the fast-developing idea of Employee Experience (EX). For Crown, Employee Experience (EX) is an umbrella term that describes the interface of customer experience (CX), user experience (UX), assignee experience (AX) and global mobility experience (GMX).Before the pandemic, says Crown World Mobility, there was a big emphasis on developing CX through self-service technology platforms and replacing tedious manual administration processes with digital tools to capture key relocation and assignment documentation and monitor progress. This shift is also recognised in Santa Fe’s award-winning research. It found that since 2011, the use of specialist global mobility software among respondents increased significantly from 13% in 2011 to 75% in 2020. 

Meeting global people’s needs

Packages too were becoming more personalised and flexible before the pandemic. Technology-enabled virtual tours and relocation management software are now commonplace and lightening the load on international assignees, global mobility, relocation and destination service provider teams. Santa Fe predicts the trend in assignment packages from segmented to more personalised approaches supported by technology will continue.Importantly for talent attraction, retention and sustainable businesses, the worldwide relocation management company further believes that blind selection will increasingly become integrated into recruitment and selection to support equality, diversity and inclusion alongside growth in flexible and part-time assignments.Each of these trends underlines the importance of global mobility working across internal and professional boundaries to ensure the function supports, drives and aligns with wider corporate goals.

Emerging trends post-pandemic

Among Santa Fe’s top ten trends is the progressively more complex compliance, tax and immigration environment. The rise of commuter assignments and hybrid work-from-anywhere solutions to talent shortages are becoming more embedded both in practice and employee expectations. Yet the pandemic further showed how vital human contact is for globally mobile populations alongside technology efficiency. This is both from a wellbeing and a wider engagement/employee experience perspective. In the past 18 months, global assignees, their partners, families and colleagues often found themselves in unprecedented situations. These included being stranded in host, home or transit countries, having to quarantine or start a new assignment or school remotely.This called for global mobility teams and individuals to go above and beyond their job role and personally take control. Many examples can be found among this year’s Relocate and Think Global People Award winners

Combining digital tools with human contact

For Crown World Mobility, one of the biggest trends post-pandemic is exactly this shifting balance between technology and human support at the nexus of EX and CX. There’s no doubt the pandemic put the focus on both sides of this equation. “I think finding the balance of digital and traditional (human-to-human) support is going to be a big area of focus,” says Liana Ciatto, VP, Global Account Management, Crown World Mobility, in the white paper. Zoom and online meeting tools have become a mainstay of virtual desktops in offices, homes and schools. Communities and volunteers – including in the global mobility and international education sector – have also rallied round to welcome people into their new assignments and classes. Combining these two important aspects, expatriate networking forums like those offered by Relocate Award winner NetExpat alongside its assessment and coaching services have proved a lifeline for globally mobile populations and global mobility expertise, again underlining the importance of technology in employee experience. 

A health crisis puts wellbeing firmly in the frame

The stresses caused by the Covid-19 crisis, including working and educating from home, have also put mental and physical wellbeing high on corporate and individuals’ agendas. In the conclusion to its report, Crown World Mobility sees mental health and wellbeing as a standout corporate trend alongside inclusion, sustainability and technology. According to health insurer AXA Global Healthcare, this shift is significant for global mobility teams. Its study shows assignees are now looking at health insurance as a key aspect of their overall assignment package than pre-pandemic. Yet there is a disconnect here with what they are currently being offered. It’s in this context that Santa Fe notes how duty of care has risen up business leaders’ priority list. In 2018, it was a top priority for 26%. In 2020, the figure was 38%. It is clearly an area where global mobility expertise can work alongside the HR and other functions to deliver strategic insight and balance EX, CX and GMX. “The pandemic and its lockdowns really raised awareness of how mental health issues can harm the workforce, and the important role employers have to support their people,” explains Lucie McGrath, UK Health and Benefits Director, Willis Towers Watson. “As we move to a hybrid model of home and office working, employers are keen to use that broader understanding to reshape their benefits packages. Online healthcare, wellbeing apps, and mental health strategies are growing areas of interest for many HR leaders keen to revamp the benefits package.” 

Technology and the future

Healthcare technology is being joined with travel management platforms that offer employees and global mobility teams – which will potentially adapt to become responsible for a wider range of assignment types – ease of use with the all-important personal touch.AI is also taking centre stage. For example, new-to-the-market Melon, a travel management platform, means travel programme managers can control travel options by setting personalised algorithms and individual spend levels for each employee. The platform’s AI technology then offers choices based on learned behaviours to align with company travel policies and programme goals, while taking traveller preferences and loyalty affiliations into consideration. Both Crown World Mobility and Santa Fe suggest there will be an increasing accent on AI and data analytic skills in global mobility. “Using data and insights to help not only understand what our customers and employees need/want, but also how they feel to ensure that we are creating an easier, low friction experience,” says Liana Ciatto of Crown World Mobility. “While data isn’t necessarily sexy, it is a critical component and can help to spotlight leading indicators so that we can ‘fail fast’. As the pandemic taught us, sometimes we don’t have the luxury of time.”

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