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I once had X relocations. Now I have X-Y relocations. My Relocation Management Company may not fit me anymore
I speak to a lot of people in my job (like a lot). A lot of HR professionals. And before the pandemic a number of these HR professionals were confiding in me. They were talking about all aspects of their relocation programs, and a few of them were telling me that they thought their relocation company was too big for them. They noted that the company they were with was slower to respond, less flexible than they required. They felt that they were being dictated to: told what their relocation processes should be, rather than being heard about what is important to them. Even worse, the relocation management company was including / reimbursing benefits that were not covered in the client’s relocation policies. They indicated that their account managers and relocation teams had changed, and sometimes even reported that they kept on changing. This might be a little unique to the Canadian relocation market as there was a major acquisition in the last little while, which meant a number of relocating employers went from a modestly sized relocation management company (RMC) to a very large RMC. At the same time, in the Canadian marketplace, a second relocation company grew by leaps and bounds. That’s the Canadian experience, but versions of this happen throughout the relocation industry, regardless of country.
And then COVID happened.
Well, currently in my conversations, the percentage of companies that are telling me that they think their relocation company is too big for them has ticked up a little bit. Why is this?
To interrupt that thought, it should be noted that I believe strongly that most, if not all, relocation companies and destination service companies did extremely good jobs in helping their clients through very challenging times as COVID shutdowns started happening around the world in March, 2020. RMC’s, destination service providers and immigration providers, became lifesavers and essential to HR teams across the globe.
However, when the dust settled down, a number of these RMC’s were left with depleted staffing levels and the remaining staff were stretched across a greater workload on a per unit basis (I have written about this before). And, at the exact same time, employers started to shrink their overall number of relocations. Not just in the face of the March shutdowns, but as a part of returning to the new normal. Some postponed relocations became cancelled relocations. Not all relocations that were deemed imperative before COVID seem so imperative now. Employers that once had 150 relocations per year, are estimating now that they will relocate 60 per year or less. Employers who once had 40 relocations per year may only relocate15 employees next year.
Why does such a change in volume matter?
Business models of Relocation Management Companies are based on the repeatability of the tasks at hand. Every relocation is unique, but there are enough commonalities, that organizing Relocation A is not greatly different than organizing Relocation B — both require homes to sell, goods to be moved, immigration permits to be obtained, temporary accommodation to be set-up, etc. The skills of their consultants can help manage the individual differences, within the context of this greater repeatability. This repeatability naturally creates a certain degree of structure (important) and inflexibility (good in some circumstances/bad in others). When an employer reduces its relocations from 70 to 30, AND do it in the context of some very challenging relocations during COVID, it is impossible for the employer not to see each transferee as an individual unit, requiring individual treatment, when before to look at them as a group of transferees with similar needs was required (HR’s being busy with other things). Reports churned out from RMC’s, aggregating cost data, providing valuable insights into relocation programs, etc. But those numbers were not about humans. Those numbers were about numbers. COVID and the shrinkage in volume has made everyone…an individual. No matter what anyone tells you, not all RMC’s are the same. They may be on the same platforms, may have the similar reports, but the difference is in the service delivery, in the care and attention to detail, in the time spent with the transferee and with the employer.
All RMC’s are likely very good at what they do (All Points is not right for some companies, but we can make recommendations to excellent ones that may be more appropriate), and may have their own specialties, but they are also good at what they do at different scales, and those scales have changed. And when it comes to vendor networks the thing to know is that the RMC’s may have virtually identical vendor networks, which give them that global scope, but how will they interact with those vendors?
New buying / procurement is going on during COVID
Procurement is ongoing during this time, as contracts come to the end of their life, or dissatisfaction has grown, or…it is just that time. So, my next article will give you the top things to look for in an RMC, if you are indeed, assessing the relocation industry landscape for the right vendor for you. What a teaser. See you next week!