As an industry that used to be a tightly controlled relationship between corporate entities and travel bookers, the Internet has blown open the world of business travel unlike most other industries one can think of. With all of the world’s best accommodation deals available at the average workers’ fingertips, the job of finding and booking business travel is increasingly falling to the employee themselves, and the major beneficiaries of this change in the business model are online travel agents (OTAs) like Airbnb and Trivago who are supplying the platforms that make booking so easy. It seems like a win-win scenario: businesses are freed from the administrative burdens of securing bookings themselves, they’re free to find cheaper rates away from locked-in relationships with hotels, and workers are free to choose the accommodation that most suits their wants and needs. But could all this choice be a false friend to business?
Pushing up cost
One of the major benefits of the OTA booking model for business is that, theoretically, it helps reduce cost. The administrative burden of making bookings is lifted from the company themselves, so they can end up spending much less time and cash on business travel, while there is also the potential to find great deals that hotel companies simply can’t match. However, the increasing popularity of this model of business travel has created a supply problem, particularly in the world’s major cities like New York and London, which is pushing up the cost of accommodation on social booking platforms as a new glut of business travellers compete for beds with tourists.
As well as the supply issue, a more surprising problem is that there’s actually too much money pouring into the sector – something for which the business model wasn’t designed. Instead of ad-hoc visits by travellers and tourists, some of the best run and most attractive properties on OTAs are gaining a steady stream of revenue from business travellers that is pushing the rules surrounding letting and tax requirements to the limit in many countries. By turning empty rooms from an occasional revenue earner into a successful business, many Airbnb properties are attracting the attention of the authorities and finding themselves pushed into tighter regulation and higher tax bands – both of which add further to their cost.
The compliance factor
A second problem that has arisen thanks to this new booking model is one of compliance. One of the major advantages of a relationship with a corporate hotel or serviced apartment chain is the knowledge that each unit will be exactly the same wherever in the world it is booked, guaranteeing global mobility and making relocation smooth for the business. However, by outsourcing corporate housing to the OTA and the employee, the business gets much less visibility over exactly what is being booked and how it is being used. From a purely practical perspective, this means that the employer can’t always be sure what facilities are available or how good they are.
Elements of the accommodation such as the technology available can make a big difference – and issues such as unreliable or slow internet connections can have a major impact on the employee’s ability to work remotely. Other compliance issues can be more serious, and can even impact the worker’s safety. Corporate housing in hotels presents a uniform standard, but the sheer variety of accommodation offered through an OTA means there is a patchwork of standards which may or may not meet company policies. Everything from fire regulations to issues around safety in shared accommodation, as well as how check-in and check-out are managed, is different for each property – generating a totally new and burdensome bureaucratic jungle for corporate travel bookers to navigate that almost dwarfs the task of booking that OTAs were supposed to eliminate.
Despite these cost and compliance issues, the sector shows no signs of slowing down: Airbnb boasts a three-fold increase in corporate bookings year on year, which will surely only increase as more companies adopt the social travel model. Rather than pulling back, the sector appears to be changing to accommodate this phenomenon – setting up divisions or whole companies dedicated to servicing the corporate market in parallel to the domestic one. Airbnb Work was set up in 2014 specifically to serve multinational organisations, while other organisations have also sprung up with a model that addresses the concerns that businesses may have – such as those around technology and compliance with corporate rules. A secondary benefit of this change is likely to be an easing of the pressure on supply, as leisure and business travellers once again court different markets.
As we progress into a new decade, it’s becoming clear that businesses are increasingly striving towards increasing their international markets. Indeed, global mobility looks likely to become one of the key HR trends of 2020, with an ever-intensifying focus on transforming ordinary enterprises into worldwide institutions.
No longer are companies content to limit themselves to a single pool of consumers nor a single nationality of worker. Instead, they’re turning their gazes outward and allowing themselves to dip into an international labour pool while also growing their audience.
While global mobility is a trend in itself, we’re also seeing certain patterns emerging within this area specifically, from international commuting to AI and increased inclusivity, and because of this, it’s important for businesses who want to benefit from global mobility to have an understanding of these.
Driving change in 2020, it’s a good idea for businesses and business owners to familiarise themselves with these concepts and how they could advantage their companies as the world of commerce becomes ever more international.
While global mobility is a notion that all employers should be embracing and that many employees view in a favourable light, it’s important to understand the toll it can take on those it affects. Indeed, while many professionals appreciate the opportunity to travel around the world with work, priorities are shifting, and there is an increasing focus on the importance of family relationships and self-care too.
As a result, many employees are demonstrating a preference for shorter assignments – ones that allow them to safeguard their mental health, recharge their batteries, and spend more time with their loved ones.
This trend is particularly prevalent among younger millennials, who are now beginning to step into more senior corporate positions. Often children of divorce themselves, many have a more family-focused view than their predecessors, with a 2016 study indicating that millennial mothers spend almost an hour more a day with their children than the previous generation. Millennial fathers, too, are more family-oriented, spending roughly an hour a day with their children compared to only 16 minutes for baby boomer dads.
This means that not only will there be a trend for shorter assignments moving forward, but that those who commute internationally are likely to expect greater flexibility with regards to their working hours e.g. that they’ll show a preference toward a shorter working week that gives them more free time to spend with their loved ones.
Big data analytics and AI will enter the mainstream
Another big trend that’s likely to emerge is the increasing use of disruptive technologies such as AI and big data analytics. While these have made headlines for the last few years now, it’s almost inevitable that they’ll soon become the norm in the global mobility sector.
Experts suggest that global mobility professionals will begin using them as a way of streamlining management processes and communicating with a workforce that will be scattered across the globe, in order to minimise the number of hours expended on admin tasks, compliance issues, and so on.
An increased emphasis on diversity and inclusivity
In keeping with the theme of making their businesses more internationally minded, it’s also assumed that a greater emphasis will be placed on inclusivity and diversity – a seemingly natural but nonetheless positive consequence of dipping into a global talent pool.
While there has been a move toward this for many years, it’s argued that the concept is currently celebrated more in theory than in practice – something that’s likely to change as we move forward into 2020 and beyond.
Interestingly, studies have indicated that not only do increased inclusivity and diversity reap social benefits, but that they’re a business-savvy decision too. Indeed, research conducted in 2018 by Boston Consulting Group indicated that companies with a diverse leadership team not only recorded better business innovation results, but roughly 20 per cent more revenue than their more conservative counterparts.
With global mobility offering an opportunity to dip into a much-more diverse talent pool, this is a perfect time for employers to embrace this concept and marry increased global mobility with a more representative and – according to research – successful workforce.
Isn’t it time you considered how to implement these trends in your business? With a new decade on the horizon and everything to strive toward, there has never been a better time to embrace such changes.
As an inclusive country, the UK is a low-risk country for the majority of its workforce, a similar experience echoed in other LGBT-friendly locations such as America, Brazil and South Africa. But for employees in different areas around the globe, or those on international assignments to countries overseas, the welcome may not be quite as warm as it would be in these lower-risk destinations. When it comes to supporting LGBT employees’ global mobility, there’s a lot to consider – and it’s vital to be in the know to ensure the ultimate safety of your staff wherever they are in the world.
Global mobility for LGBT individuals
For global organisations, the majority of placements and international assignments are created based on the merit of the individual employee; whether they’re a rockstar in their field or hold a particularly vital skillset, this is the first consideration of most worldwide firms. But when it comes to LGBT staff members, there’s a little more to consider. In fact, according to statistics provided by Stonewall, more than half of the total countries worldwide don’t offer any form of protection against discrimination for LGBT individuals, and in some of these countries, sexual acts with those of the same gender may even be illegal under the law.
As such, there is more to consider than simply the individual’s skill set when considering their placement in a country abroad. International human resources are a must to ensure global diversity can remain as effective as possible within businesses. This means providing the support and tools for LGBT staff members to take the same opportunities as all other team members, leading to:
- The development and retaining of effective and talented LGBT staff members
- The improvement of the organsiation’s global reputation in regard to LGBT rights
- Compliance with LGBT discrimination laws across all countries, from the UK and beyond
Issues facing LGBT global mobility
For LGBT individuals, the act of working abroad can be a difficult one, especially when it comes to the various barriers they can face in the workplace as a result of the location in which they have been posted. These barriers can include anything from a lack of rights and protection, all the way through to the restriction of rights or even criminalisation in the most extreme cases. It’s vital that businesses are educated on the LGBT laws and barriers of a country before deciding upon sending an individual to a country that may be unsafe for them.
In countries such as Hong Kong, Russia and Middle Eastern locations, the challenges faced by LGBT employees may be far more significant. In contrast to more LGBT-friendly destinations, the majority of companies within the countries stated do not recognise the rights of individuals who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual. However, these concepts may apply to locally-run businesses, but that does not necessarily mean that global companies should carry those same discriminatory policies or laws.
Using global diversity to your business’ advantage
With many multinational companies openly leading the way when it goes to changing the laws and behaviours surrounding LGBT culture in anti-LGBT locations, the ability for LGBT employees to reach their full potential is easier than ever, promoting global diversity as a positive element of your business practices. Ensuring you allow your LGBT employees to reach their full potential is a must to ensure your business can reach its full potential too.
Technology is unquestionably changing the modern marketplace for corporations and businesses when it comes to moving their employees or teams to branches in different countries. With many trends maximising the efficiency of mobility professionals, 2020 is rapidly shaping up to be a landmark year for managers looking to optimise their workforce and put their effort and energy where it truly matters.
So, what elements maximise the global mobility of the modern workforce and why are they so effective?
Talent sourcing platforms allow businesses to deploy analytics that can help earmark and identify the best candidate for any job. This can be as simple as finding employees that speak multiple languages, possess key performance criteria, or have worked on similar projects and can add value to work in a different region. If employees aren’t quite hitting the mark, these programs can help break down the skillset for the role into concrete keywords; letting you review your internal staff database or recruitment pool for potential quality hires or transfers when it comes to managing your international human resources.
Blockchain’s ability to store employee and team data can empower you to review that information more holistically and effectively. Transferring data between departments or countries can result in a segmented view of information and an inability to ‘see the big picture’. Choosing to securely store key data through global blockchain technologies means that businesses are provided with a concrete history of all transactions and interactions and allows the data to be updated from a single point of contact. This cuts down the fuss that comes from teams accessing data and the disruption that can stem from international relocation.
AI programs can take up some of the slack when it comes to handling employees looking for references from different international departments. Mobility managers can deploy chatbots to field questions from teams across the globe in many time zones and choose to personally respond if the assistant is unable to reach a satisfactory conclusion. Many artificial intelligence programs can help employees by providing answers to common problems, links to relevant knowledgebase information, or storing targeted queries and delivering them to their handlers. As the AI encounters more questions, it learns and improves; taking some of the strain off your mobility manager and providing 24/7 support to even the most over-stretched of teams. This way the system and its processes become more refined and more suitable to your unique business needs.
With VR and augmented reality programs on the rise, it has never been easier for individuals working in different geographic locations or time zones to be present for important meetings or data sharing. This can be as simple as holding a group conference call using a range of smart devices such as everyday laptops, phones, or tablets. Alternatively, using augmented reality elements on virtual platforms can allow your attendees to interact as if all your staff were in the same room together. They can also use virtual diagrams or pointers to visualise key projects, build decisions, or add value to the meeting in a way that would be impossible even if people were present in a shared physical space.
By Chris Debner – Strategic Global Mobility Advisory
CX – What we all experience
Think of Starbucks and the friendly messages that are written on your cups, or how easy it has become to return an unwanted Amazon purchase.
If you’ve not heard of CX yet, you have certainly experienced it. CX stands for customer experience and is defined as the sum of perceptions that customers of goods and services experience during the interaction between with an organization over the duration of the relationship. We are all customers, almost constantly…
It is how we become aware, discover, cultivate, purchase and advocate for a good or service. Companies are designing the customer experience carefully to create a pleasant and meaningful experience for their customers, so that they will return and maybe even recommend the goods or services to others.
Imagine if your company could leverage this experience and apply to your employees, to become more successful.
From CX to EX – More for us to experience
“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.”Stephen R. Covey
EX – employee experience is translating this concept to the workplace to create higher attraction, better employer image, engagement and resulting performance and retention.
Talent Management starts to take the responsibility to create engaging and meaningful employee experiences and employees’ perceptions during the course of the entire employee life cycle.
A survey conducted by IBM of 23,000 employees in 45 countries revealed that more positive employee experiences are linked to better performance, extra effort at work, and lower turnover intentions. The key organizational practices that drove more positive employee experiences are described in the survey as organizational trust; co-worker relationships; meaningful work; recognition, feedback and growth; empowerment and voice; and work-life balance.
Think of Google or Facebook offices and how they create employee experience, the Volkswagen policy that bans e-mails after office hours or IBM offering remote working.
“The battle for the hearts and minds of employees is played out daily through their workplace experiences.” IBM Smarter Workforce Institute
As customers we are used to be offered ever increasing levels of customisation in the goods and services that we buy. The logical evolution of this is that this approach evolves into other areas, and before long, if employers cannot enable their employees to customise their employee experience, whether in career path or in benefit packages, they will lose out to those that can.
It is a shift of the perception from the traditional way of seeing the employee as a resource to seeing the employee as a customer that needs to be attracted, engaged and retained. EX is therefore not just Talent Management, or workplace design, but rather a new paradigm that should permeate all interactions that an employee experiences during the employee life cycle.
Think of onboarding processes, technology user-experiences, self-directed learning, performance management processes and company purpose among many others.
EX drives culture and performance of an organisation. An increasing amount of companies are committing to it and the number of positions offered for Employee Experience Managers are on the rise. It will be a key success factor for companies to attract, engage and retain the future workforce.
EX in Mobility – one of most significant experiences
“It is beyond a doubt that all our knowledge begins with experience.” Immanuel Kant
International assignments are undisputed to be one the most significant experiences an employee can have during his or her career. It involves their families and creates great learning and developmental opportunities when living and working in other cultural contexts, but also creates risks of life stress, family separation, and reintegration risk on repatriation.
Imagine that you were in a position to create an employee experience where the vast majority of your assignees would be engaged performers who can be retained after their assignments.
The EX focus needs to be brought into mobility management. Many Mobility functions are still stuck in the paradigm that is all about administration and compliance. Compliance should be perceived for what it really is, a hygiene factor that has absolutely no power to create a positive experience for the employee. Only the absence of compliance has the potential to make employees unhappy. Learn more about it in my article Compliance – A hygiene factor.
Think of a filed tax return, a granted work permit or a kidnapping training.
Mobility management is slowly realizing their real purpose: To create a meaningful and engaging, stress free experience for employees and their families when they are being sent on an assignment.
The focus in Mobility also needs to shift to the paradigm of EX – employee experience.
EX in Mobility – how to
A good start would be to take a close look at all the interactions that an employee (and even their families) experience before, during and after an assignment. Look at how positive experiences look like and how negative perceptions are created. Besides your assignees and their families, you will realize that many of your stakeholders (business, talent management) are also employees that experience the way you conduct your business. And do not forget about the many external providers that you use, who interact with your employees and create EX.
If you are not able to come up with negative and positive experiences ask your stakeholders, they will be happy to tell you all about it.
The next step of this exercise is to consider what you can do to minimize or eliminate the identified negative employee experiences and to look for ways to create more of the positive ones, so that they can more effectively deliver on their new professional responsibilities when abroad.
A nice example comes from a large e-commerce company who lists all former assignees in a database as possible mentors for future assignees. This gives the former assignees a meaningful experience when sharing what they learned on their assignments and the future assignees a great way to prepare for the challenges lying ahead, benefiting from the support of employees who mastered the challenges.
Another example I came across, is a European material science company which focusses on the enhancement of the interaction between the business and mobility. The process was re-designed to create a meaningful communication between the two sides, where expectations from both sides were openly shared and a better understanding achieved.
There are many more examples out there and you can likely think of some that you witnessed yourself, when a change effort results in a better employee experience.
EX – the new paradigm for HR
To conclude, EX is the new paradigm that HR has to adapt for it is one of the most meaningful contributions to their companies success, when the right workforce can be attracted, engaged and retained. The leading companies are adopting the new paradigm, and those that don’t will fall behind. Mobility departments, being in charge of one of the most meaningful experiences in an employee’s career, need to shift their perception from compliance to their real purpose – the creation of meaningful and positive experiences for their assignees.