man walking among some technology innovations

Written by a Global Mobility leader in the technology sector

This piece is from The RES Forum’s research paper – Technology in Cross-Border Working: disruptive force or old wine in new bottles, October 2021. You can download the paper here

“As we design the employee experience, it’s so important to decide when an activity should be done by a lovely warm human being, or when is better to automate it.”

This quote from Andrew Spence, HR Transformation Director at Glass Bead Consulting, is more than four years old. Taken from a piece in The People Space from May 2017, it pertains to technology and automation in HR. It’s a question that has been floating around the Global Mobility (GM) space for a long time, with no one able to find the right balance.

Automate too much and you alienate both the employees and the GM professionals trying to service them. Automate too little and you have a function stuck in the dark ages, unable to deal with the operational challenges that moving employees around the globe will throw at you. 

Technology in Cross-Border Working

I wholeheartedly believe in the power of technology in cross-border working. I also believe it can have transformational power if the function and the company are ready for change. However, the reality often fails to live up to the promise when it comes to the system many companies were sold. This is particularly the case for medium and smaller programs. 

I’ve come across many providers who developed technology that’s not specifically designed for GM, but still sell it as a tool to fix all problems – sometimes at a lower cost than other providers. What they fail to mention, however, is the hidden implementation costs and the additional developments companies are expected to wait (and pay) for. Often, they’re sold a dream which may only be available a few years down the line and at considerable extra expense. 

A good analogy is a game that’s free from the app store but has in app purchases that are essential to play it properly. Without the additional outlay, you’re left with an inferior, sometimes unplayable version of the game. 

Bigger isn’t always better

For smaller GM functions some technology may be the answer. However, in many cases they may be better off without a full-blown system, which is both expensive to buy and run. Importantly, many companies that want a GM system underestimate the complexity of implementation and the need to dedicate a full-time employee to the process. This is in addition to getting all policies and processes up to scratch, which can take several months, especially if undertaken alongside the day job. Many GM functions get stuck in the middle and while the aim was to “solve Global

Mobility through technology” they end up adding complexity to their processes.

“If your function or company isn’t quite ready for a full-blown system, there are other ways to revolutionise global mobility through technology.” [H3]

This option is equally available to companies who are ready for a full-blown system. Any company can harness the power of technology and truly change their function by choosing providers who offer something new. Something with the capacity to change the industry. These companies have typically found the right balance between using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and an actual human being. 

New kids on the tech block

Modern technology providers are changing the relocation industry, and, by extension, how companies manage cross-border working. Their apps are powered by AI and augmented by real people, available where and when you need them throughout your move. Using AI and smart technology enables them to offer the same services as traditional relo companies, but at a fraction of the cost. Most importantly, they’re the vanguard when it comes to employee experience. This is particularly true for Gen Z and Millennials – technology natives who expect a seamless experience through smartphone or tablet. 

Already moving employees around the world, companies using this blend of technology and the human touch are truly the future of Global Mobility, regardless of what kind of system you have.