Dancer standing in a spotlight

For many of us mobility professionals, the pandemic has shown both the good and bad in our roles. The craziness of everyone asking for data overnight. The lack of systems to pull data together - data that is probably on an excel spreadsheet and not in any system. The magic of finally being noticed. And the joy of people actually understanding what we do.

Those of us that have been in the industry for years (for me that is now over 20 years), trying to do the “tap dance” in front of leadership to make mobility part of the strategic conversation, as opposed to an operational after-thought, has been frustrating. I have often asked myself why this is the case. But mobility is often seen as a scary monster of problems that leadership does not want to hear about.

Immigration, tax, social security, the trailing partner (and what we are to do with them), as well as overall costs can make mobility a mind explosion for the C-suite executive, who just wants a ‘no noise’ solution to move their person from A to B. Sometimes we came out of the woodwork when some brave C-suite soul decided to take us on. The rest will leave us like Monsters, Inc firmly in the scary mobility closet!

Customer service

In my last company, that I had the pleasure of working at for 13 years, I used the fact that many of the C-suite were my customers - were themselves relocating. I built trust and respect from them during their moves and tried to use their follow up calls / meetings to formally present to them concerning their employees that had mobility / immigration needs.

Empty boardroom needs filling with leadership to hold the mobility strategic conversation

For me, that was the right approach, and it ultimately led to me presenting to the CEO’s leadership team on several occasions. We discussed immigration challenges and planned for talent and overall cost opportunities. From there, I asked those C-suite execs if I could attend their business line team meetings to spread the mobility knowledge and, finally, we got there.

It took time, patience, and a lot of team groundwork with other HR areas of expertise. This way I could understand what their challenges were. Make sure that I linked a mobility solution to a problem. And that I told the story in direct relation to their goals. It worked. It raised our profile and placed mobility in the strategic conversation.

Keep dancing!

Many of you will relate to the above, and maybe the COVID-19 pandemic was your opportunity to do the “tap dance.” Now, how do you keep that attention? I would suggest telling the story to them, as opposed to being on the back foot and waiting for them to ask. Data is going to be key to telling the story that you have been longing to tell.

Computer screen filled with data as part of the mobility strategic conversation

But what is that story and how do you make mobility part of the strategic conversation? It could be that you need to be a more attractive employer, but your mobility programs don’t reflect this. Alternatively, perhaps your story shows that your company is stuck in the 1990s, where having a global mindset may better serve your goals. Or perhaps your story is one of mobility contributing actively towards key talent retention.

Whatever your story, get ahead of the request and ask to present now, especially if costs are being looked at for the new year. All leadership is interested in budget, so in my experience it is always a good way to gain their attention and keep them engaged.

Leverage your relationships with the HR business partners. They are close to the business line issues and you can support each other by partnering with them. Work with your finance teams to understand the numbers they need to adhere to. Work with your talent teams to understand who they deem as top talent and what the gaps are to keeping them.

Top tips

Finally, when you present, keep these things in mind:

  1. Be confident! Enjoy your “tap dance” time.
  2. Make sure you are clear with your story.
  3. Make sure that the benefits of what you / your team can do are clear.
  4. Keep it simple, remember mobility is scary to many, keeping it high level is essential.
  5. Seek feedback and prepare to pivot to ensure you are hitting the mark for the next presentation.
  6. STAY IN THE LIMELIGHT and keep seeking opportunities to offer your services for HR strategy.

Lindsey Hare
Global Mobility & D&I Leader, North America.

This post was adapted from a piece in the RES Forum report on Cross-border deployment in times of crisis, published in December 2020, in association with BGRS, Ineo Mobility, and Harmony Relocation Network.