Moving workers, whether domestically or internationally, is a major headache for both HR and the employees involved. Ask Den Howlett, he’s done this a few times. Ask colleague Harald Reiter, who recently took up a new position, traveled to a new location only to find that there were problems with accommodation. I have my own tales of woe.
When done well, neither the company nor the employee is faced with unexpected surprises. When done poorly, employees feel cheated, betrayed and/or hopelessly frustrated. HR leaders feel frustrated to as they struggle to make things right for an employee who is sometimes halfway around the world.
For most companies, employee moves are low-volume occurrences that are one-off in their composition. Sometimes, the company is moving a brand-new, single, recent college graduate across the country while in other cases the company is moving an executive and his/her family halfway around the planet.
There are so many variables to consider in a move and many of these involve competencies which are rarely found within an HR group. For example, there are often important tax consequences for the company and employee as well as logistical concerns, customs issues, etc. for the employee.
It’s the uniqueness and infrequent nature of these moves that has traditionally kept them from being highly automated. Some aspects of the move process, for example calculating an estimate of the movement of personal property can be automated but the whole process is fraught with spreadsheets, little or no integration, and errors.
Moreover, this is a technology market that only appeals to a small subset of employers worldwide: the large multinationals, firms with highly mobile workforces and companies experiencing rapid growth.
With a modest potential market and a high degree of complexity, it’s no wonder this market has only seen piecemeal technology and integration over the years. HR organizations have relied upon outsourcers who provide many of the relocation services on behalf of their clients.
Cloud, integration and mobile technologies present an opportunity for better moving management. MOVE Guides has assembled a group of partners and partner solutions to work in concert with its own solutions.
The company has not only integrated these solutions and services, it has also normalized the master data definitions from one service or capability to another.
As a result, the company has been able to reduce the cost of relocations while improving transparency for everyone involved. Instead of employees being in the dark about where things rest with any aspect of their move, information now flows across all the various best-of-breed components and is available through MOVE Guides’ mobile applications.
Doing these relocations well and efficiently means that any solution must have an integrated process workflow as part of the product/service.
In a major relocation, there are many players/third parties involved and this increases the potential for something being dropped or inadvertently missed. Great workflow is needed to ensure the relocation process is addressing all of the required components. Such workflow also ensures the timely completion and assignment of responsibility to each of the myriad pieces and roles.
Having been through a couple of transfers and an expatriate assignment myself, I have witnessed firsthand the kind of things that can drop through the cracks or simply get fouled up. In my first experience, I was taken aback to find out how what I was promised by an operational executive did not match up with the relocation package that HR was going to implement.
In the second relocation, HR and I were still trying to sort out the correct tax gross up amounts affecting me and my family for over a year. And, the ex-pat assignment opened my eyes to a whole new galaxy of issues, costs and other factors that must be considered in such a change.
While I am grateful that I had a point person in HR to help me through these moves, I was also sympathetic to the fact that this HR person was 1,000 or more miles away and unfamiliar with the issues, vendors, etc. that I was dealing with elsewhere. As stated at the top of this piece, these moves are often unique, complex and multifaceted. Any solution that takes away some of the friction, waste, anxiety and frustration is welcome.
MOVE Guides is a multi-tenant solution that runs on the Amazon AWS public cloud. The company uses a number of open source technologies as part of its stack as well as a number of custom built components. Their architecture bears some similarity to that of Workday.
MOVE Guides, the company, has approximately 130 employees of which a third are in software engineering. The company has offices in the US, UK and Hong Kong.
Last month, I covered a number of HR vendors at the recent HR Tech show in Chicago. One of them, Papaya Global, caught my eye as they automate a lot of the time consuming, expensive and error-prone tasks associated with a company expanding their operations in another country.
Like MOVE Guides, they take a lot of friction, costs and errors out of the equation although each company is solving a different, but sometimes related, problem.
For companies that relocate employees, moves are very expensive (and potentially demoralizing if done poorly). For that reason alone, MOVE Guides should find a welcome reception in companies with such a workforce.
Brynne Kennedy, CEO Founder of MOVE Guides, shared some move statistics with me. She stated that over $100 billion is spent on global relocations with 89% of firms planning to increase the number of moves they make. That sounds like a good enough market for a software company to operate within.
Technologies like virtual presence might mitigate the need for some employee travel but it won’t necessarily stop the need to relocate key people in long-term operational roles. Likewise, some consulting and systems integrator work can be done virtually but certain long-term, complex projects require relocations. That too sounds promising for MOVE Guides.
The lack of integration, the inherent inefficiencies and the labor-intensive, error-prone alternatives are the best reasons for a firm like MOVE Guides to exist. That may be the best opportunity for MOVE Guides and its competitors.
Papaya Global and MOVE Guides might make for a great alliance partnership as companies that expand into new geographies are probably great candidates for relocating talent.
Integration with more ERP/HR/Finance, travel and other solutions will continue to make the MOVE Guides solution easier to deploy. The more services software solutions that MOVE Guides integrates with, the more valuable the solution will become. That must become MOVE Guides competitive advantage: a great network of product alliances that are all normalized with the MOVE Guides master data model.
Let’s see how this unfolds.
Image credit - Graphic via MOVE Guides, featured image via © Sven Vietense - fotolia