[ Gepubliceerd in ReLocate, augustus 2016 ]
Whatever the cause, there is palpable shift in the nature of how we do business. Blame it on the millennials if you wish, but when even our 95-year old grandfather cant Skype us to his heart’s content, we have to wonder: is this dependence on technology exclusive to this generation or merely a sign of changing times? We asked several relocates about their experiences and how they are coping with the changing face of business.
Lisa Johnson, Consulting Services Global Practice Leader of Crown World Mobility says: “The differences for this generation seem to fall into two big categories. First, there are a number of studies that show millennials worldwide expect to gain some international experience during their careers as well as expecting career progress to happen with a shorter timeline than in the past.
The second big difference has to do with how information is communicated and the options that are open to millennials. There is a need to provide information and communicate using apps, texts, emails and less around policy documents and face to face or phone calls. Technology and how information is received is the other shift in any industry that, of course, also impacts Mobility.”
Lisa Johnson finds that the most recurrent questions faced by relocates today are around low cost ways in which they can provide their services to early career employees. Discovering which technology lends itself to developing apps and updated services fast enough is a big one, especially as many destination service providers have to operate within a limited budget and time-frame.
The New Normal
Walter Vermeiren, Senior Vice President EMEA of Altair Global, agrees that the difference in demands is mainly a result of changing times. “The environment changes and as a consequences the people living in that environment change.” Yet, that doesn’t change the fact that, one, there’s a difference in the type of requests and two, to make a difference as DSP in a technically driven society where most information is at hand you will have to adapt, no matter what age-group you’re dealing with.
Because millennials are usually younger when they set off on their first foreign adventure they lack experience. Walter Vermeeren: “Millennials are of course the younger transferees who are frequently single and in most cases don’t have children. This is very different compared to the classic expats we saw 20 years ago. Many of the millennials are very confident. And many will have travelled or studied abroad before they start their professional career. Also most of them would have enjoyed a student life without too many financial problems, be it in Europe, Asia or the USA. I wouldn’t want to call them a ‘spoiled generation’ but it is fair to say that this is a generation that takes a lot for granted. Essentially, we’re looking at a group of independent workers who don’t necessarily expect relocation support but who simply assume that everything they do will go smoothly. And that means that the customer has changed drastically for relocation providers.”
Lisa Johnson elaborates: “We find a lot of younger early career employees have never moved before. They don’t know what they don’t know, so the irony is that companies want to give them cash options and DIY move solutions! But most employees are not experts at moving. How much will it cost? Is immigration compliance important? Can I live anywhere I want without being concerned about safety? Why can’t I negotiate my own lease?”
Corrective actions are not unfamiliar, Walter Vermeiren writes. “A good example is a lease agreement signed without any relocation assistance, and we all know what can go wrong then: from dodgy contracts, overpaying for a property or landlords who refuse to take care of essential repairs, by bypassing professional support, millennials can be left disappointed from the moment they arrive in their new home country. Situations like these usually mean a difficult job for the relocation service provider and the millennial having to ask for emergency support. All this can end up costing the employer a much higher service fee than anticipated.”
Lisa Johnson points out an ironic consequence: “The emergence of technology designed to support low cost moves is creating a shift in services. Yes, you can move more cheaply or even find your own apartment, but you have to add human support in order to advise the millennial employee on the more practical side of things.”
Troubleshooting The Gap
Even so, we are dealing with actual physical human beings and a gap between brain and technology, let alone vital components to a move abroad. This means that problem solving will probably continue to be a substantial chunk of the job. Adjusting your services and communication to the specific needs of your millennial clients will surely help to minimize the number of hours spent troubleshooting. So how to relocate your millennials as smoothly as possible?
“The best offer to the millennials is a list of services they can choose from, with a few mandatory services on the list. And the service list cannot be changed for a financial benefit if they don’t use it,” says Walter Vermeiren. “Start compiling your list by talking to millennials to see what they really expect. DSP’s should work with their customer to develop this kind of list and be even more pro-active if possible, according to what they can provide and to what the customer wants to provide. And communicating works best using modern technology. Keep it fast, short and simple!”
“Use apps, timelines, texts and infographics instead of the typical HR policy document,” Lisa Johnson adds. “Information in any industry is being produced and shared in new ways. Uber is a great example of getting what you need when you need it, just as airbnb is. I believe we’ll see a general shift where for example housing options for millennials are presented in a way not dissimilar to the airbnb model. At the same time, technology is shifting faster than guidelines and security measures, so there are concerns around these ‘uber mobility’ solutions.”
When asked how he sees the future of relocation services, Walter Vermeiren tells us that “The millennials will grow older, which means we’ll likely level out a bit with regards to expectations and services required. But newer generations are hot on their heels: the Z-generation or i-Generation, or the digital natives. They’ll expect more online but highly personalized services through all the media they use (TV, Smartphone, PC, Smartwatch and other things to come, 24/24!!). They like to share goods and so co-housing will become more of an option, and a service for DSP’s. This Z-generation was not financially pampered, and is growing up in a very uncertain environment, so they will look for more certainty, which is where DSP’s come in by once again providing guaranteed services and support.”
Lisa Johnson has a more philosophical approach to the future of relocation services: “Every company is aware of the fact that the majority of employees are millennials and that they are driving certain shifts around career paths and experiences. They want work to be meaningful, have time for activities outside of work or want to be sure they can work for a company that does meaningful things. We will all benefit from these attitudes.”
Computers, tablets, gaming consoles and smartphones are firmly embedded in our everyday lives. Browsing through several white papers by global mobility companies (Xonex, Living Abroad, Crown) teaches us that:
1 – One of the greatest values of relocation technology is its ability to deliver pre-assignment resources to candidates through multiple platforms;
2 – Tools should be streamlined, allow 24/7 access, reduce disruption, and offset problems in the new location. All of these features add up to faster assimilation into a new location, with less employee and family stress;
3 – Relocation technology should be easy to use, must be fully functional on mobile platforms, giving an assignee greater convenience, connectivity and control of their relocation process.