The role of the global mobility expert requires a ‘Jack of all trades’ mentality. How should professionals cope with the task of blending the role of HR expert with immigration administrator, home moving expert, recruiter and project manager?

Global mobility professionals are in an influential position in today’s workforce, with the responsibility for a range of essential global assignments and critical business travel that supports a company’s business strategy. Today’s internal corporate mobility professional is a blend of HR expert, recruiter, immigration administrator, household goods moving consultant and project manager with a profound understanding about the entire mobility process. But more often, their capabilities and that of their mobility teams are stretched to provide far-reaching oversight, and charged with managing all opportunities of global business. Companies are hesitant to increase their internal mobility teams, and are aware that they need reliable partners to expand their global reach and bring capabilities that both align with and broaden their internal competencies.

A Redefined Role for Relocation Management Companies

Along with the increased demands on mobility teams, relocation service providers have been tasked with increasing responsibilities to support the needs of corporate clients and their relocating employees. In recent years, the tendency to outsource for additional relocation support has been on the rise. Many companies such as SAP are recognising the benefits of scalability, specialised expertise and global reach.

The flexible relocation outsourcing models have made this approach to meeting mobility needs increasingly accessible to companies..

Relocation management services: this offering enables companies to outsource their entire end-to-end mobility process – including assignment management and needed secondary services.
Secondary services: opting to outsource select relocation services, such as visa & immigration, helps companies to incorporate specific resources and support they need.
Household goods services: any move requiring goods to be shipped will involve a company outsourcing the household goods shipment – this can either be managed directly or through a move management service.

A Benchmark for Mobility Outsourcing

The mobility program at SAP is active in the Americas, EMEA and APAC including 2,000 international moves per year, plus international travel, resulting in ongoing challenges related to global assignments, transfers, and related compliance requirements. Finding solutions for those challenges requires a strong partnership between the company and its RMC partner to ensure the partner functions as an extension of the internal global mobility team. They recognise that is not possible to accomplish internally without building a much larger team and incorporating on-site specialists.

Like many global businesses today, SAP’s internal mobility team faces challenges to execute relocations in limited timeframes, large volumes and uncharted locations – it can be nearly impossible to accomplish the move without an RMC partnership that has deep and wide expertise with experience to ensure the correct actions are taken every step of the way. SAP shares mobility responsibilities with their RMC with the internal team being responsible initially and a seamless hand off to their RMC partner is required in order to determine the most suitable relocation package, address compliance issues and understand and obtain approval of costs.

Operate Globally by Providing Specialised Support Locally

There is a significant dilemma in the mobility arena for companies today: it is difficult to be both global and local, but business objectives demand it. With strict governance models in some areas around policy and benefits packages, companies are discovering the need to be more consistent and more aware of each region’s workforce arrangements, which is increasingly more challenging.

For SAP, business travellers are an increasingly serious aspect of global mobility, particularly in the EMEA region, where countries are in close proximity to each other. While employees might not see this as a big issue, especially since in many cases they can travel with relative ease from one country or location to another, the company is still required to be vigilant about compliance for business travellers at all times.

In the European market the laws change quickly creating additional challenges for companies that can be addressed through a RMC partner with a comprehensive network that can provide local expertise and policy tracking. Although it is not a large region geographically, with so many countries in such close proximity that have so many different laws, the complexity is high. Additionally, there can be countless country combinations, each with their own immigration and border requirements. Without local expertise and previously established relationships it can be a challenge for companies to know how to provide effective on-the-ground support for employees, such as when to sign commitments during the global mobility process or how accelerate the speed of delivery of services.

An Investment in Mobility

One of the most significant drivers in enduring, successful organisations is their ability to transform as rapidly as their environment. In the global arena, this means incorporating new ways of recruiting, managing, moving, integrating talent, and helping employees deliver an optimal performance. Investing in mobility enables companies to achieve their business objectives, address business needs by ensuring the right employees are located in the right place at the right time, grow and take care of employees. RMC partners can offer value with added efficiencies both inside and outside of companies by ensuring the mobility function has a seat at the planning table to demonstrate through insight and data how important it is for mobility to be included in the company’s strategy from the ground up.

The ability to scale the mobility program is a must-have for global companies; both for the current environment and the future, and an exceptional outsourcing partner can adapt and grow with a company’s needs and requirements. Effective and innovative technology, accurate estimating tools and accurately tracking and reporting through an RMC partner provides absolute access to mobility program data that enables companies to continually fine-tune processes, improve program management and identify greater cost efficiencies. Most importantly, it can enable companies to keep delivering a high-quality mobility experience for employees.

As companies enter emerging or developed markets for the first time, or expand their global business in an area, they need to be able to project costs and talent requirements, and provide consistent, high-quality assignment and travel experiences to their employees. They must support their global, mobile workforce in a way that retains their best and brightest employees, fulfils the company’s current objectives, and positions effectively for its future goals. For many companies, that can only be accomplished with a RMC that understands their culture and business so well they are a seamless and powerful extension of their own team.

Tanya Thouw is Head of Global Mobility for SAP and oversees international HR and mobility, and is responsible for all global assignments (short, long-term and permanent moves), transfers, international business travel, and related compliance.