What can data analytics do for the global mobility sector?

In a 2017 Deloitte Global Workforce Trends report, 53 per cent of companies reported aligning mobility with talent strategy as a chief challenge. Could data analytics be the solution?

Steven Van Belleghem, customer management expert and author of Customers the Day After Tomorrow
It’s no secret that in most companies HR is under pressure to reduce costs. As the international mobile workforce becomes increasingly more diverse, so do its policies to meet various business needs.As a result, companies with a global mobility agenda are operating in an ever more complex and fragmented environment. But could data be the answer?At its best, data analytics and metrics can measure, streamline and centralise the administration of international assignments. More importantly, the potential to save time could significantly enhance the performance and impact of global mobility and talent teams to play a more strategic role within their companies.

A wider role for global mobility

Steve Black, co-founder of Topia (formerly known as MOVE Guides), headquartered in London – who help HR teams across multinational firms move their employees around the world, notes there is a crucial role for data to play in global mobility.“10 years down the line, not only for HR but also for mobility specifically, it will be about using data to push the strategic agenda and be part of the conversation in the planning stages. Rather than waiting for the plan and figuring out how to use mobility to execute against that.”
But data still remains an elusive beast for many in the global mobility sector. According to a Mercer Insight 2015 report, a staggering 90 per cent of European companies do not use metrics to track assignment success and results, and only 21 per cent use specialist software to consolidate assignment data. The root of the problem? Lack of data confidence and an understanding of what data analytics can do.In his book, Confident Data Skills, author Kirill Eremenko, explains the value of data science and an analytical mindset. He notes that while many company divisions will already be familiar with business intelligence, it only has the limited ability to describe what has happened. Data science on the other hand, has the power to predict and analyse.
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“An ability to use data science tools eliminates the human burden of looking for insights manually, enabling you to focus on isolating bottlenecks, uncovering sales opportunities and evaluating the health of a business division.”However, Eremenko notes that many corporate professionals across multiple sectors, particularly HR and global mobility teams could have an ill-perceived concept of data due to a reliance on spreadsheet programmes such as Microsoft Excel and similar tools. “Excel can have the effect of over simplifying things and so people have a skewed perception of data. If the only data you know is Excel, you have to be open to changing your perception of analytics.”The reason being that in any database management system worth its salt, data and logic must be considered separately. Instead, Eremenko recommends professionals use Python and RStudio to analyse datasets in their sector.According to technology research firm Gartner, business data analytics can be ultimately divided into four key segments: What happened? Why did it happen? What will happen? And, more crucially, what do we do now?For mobility professionals, the combination of descriptive and predictive analytics could help them position their teams more effectively as a strategic asset. From knowing how many assignees are located across the globe to managing absence, employee retention rates and using real-time statistics to assess future assignment requirements.Creating a collective dashboard where all parties can access assignment information and a cost portfolio allows mobility teams to quickly access assignee profiles, helping to get the right talent to the right location at the right time. It also allows teams to track and ensure compliance issues are being dealt with effectively.For larger relocation programmes, data analytics can be invaluable for employers. At the end of an assignment, core data can be used to dissect the performance of assignees in one country over another and root out negative impacts to employee performance. Behavioural analysis on what motivates an employee can also precisely inform talent strategies across a particular demographic. To marry the best type of compensation and encourage the right kind of employee behaviour, for the best possible business outcome.
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Measuring the business impact

But while global mobility technology is advancing rapidly, complete data integration across mobility, HR, talent, reward and vendor systems is still yet to mature until employers understand how data analytics can be used to better deliver their mobility programmes.So, does this mean data training for HR and global mobility professionals? Not necessarily, says Steven Van Belleghem (pictured), customer management expert and author of Customers the Day After Tomorrow. “The good news, is that technology is becoming easier to understand and use than ever before but HR and mobility professionals do not need to become technical experts. They don’t need to understand how to programme algorithms either. What they do need to do, is perfectly understand the capabilities of data and what the business impact of using it is as a key to their sustainability.”In fact, Steven suggests working in reverse. “Too many companies work from the latest technology first. We need to reengineer that and work backwards. For HR or mobility teams, it would be to initially understand what elements you need to improve in the employee experience your offering. Viewing your employee as a customer the whole way through, then partner with a data scientist or specialist data firm that can help you execute that.”In the next three years, 87 per cent of companies will regard general data analytics as important or very important, according to a global mobility report by the Cranfield University School of Management. There is no doubt that data analytics can allow global mobility teams to consolidate information effectively and gain new insights from which to build evidence-based decisions. But first and foremost, HR teams will need to understand, with confidence, how data can truly improve the employee experience.“Fundamentally, it’s about knowing your business and your customers, whoever they are and then the technology, not the other way around”, adds Steven.


This article is taken from a series surrounding Relocate’s Festival of Global Mobility Thinking on 11 May 2018. The highly successful, interactive event included speakers such as Prof Dr Dimitry Kochenov, author of the Henley & Partners Quality of Nationality Index (QNI); and Dr Linda Holbeche, author of The Agile Organization. For more information and to find out how you can get involved in this unique event next year, contact: events@relocatemagazine.com 
For related news and features, visit our International Assignments section.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  ©2018. This article first appeared in the Spring 2018 edition of Relocate magazine, published by Profile Locations, Spray Hill, Hastings Road, Lamberhurst, Kent TN3 8JB. All rights reserved. This publication (or any part thereof) may not be reproduced in any form without the prior written permission of Profile Locations. Profile Locations accepts no liability for the accuracy of the contents or any opinions expressed herein. 

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