GUEST POST BY SUE LATINA-COHEN, GENERAL MANAGER GLOBAL RELOCATIONS, TOLL TRANSITIONS
Technology is so embedded in our day-to-day life that we don’t even notice anymore. It is evidenced by our reliance on GPS and Banking apps, ride share apps and trackers, paying for parking spaces on an app, looking for the best price for petrol, library cards, gym memberships and where would your best photos of a holiday be without Instagram. It is all at our fingertips and on our mobile devices.
Apps and digital access are successful mediums for relocation practices as well including applications that ease the way with relocation program management, immigration processing, tax filing, real estate/rental listings, inventories for household goods and live service statuses. Apps that capture household goods inventories and real estate condition photos and reports are being used across the globe. It is typical for relocating employees to have “video briefings” with relocation coordinators and suppliers whether they are in the same state, across the continent, or the world.
All of these technologies are seen as valuable and lead to a more efficient, timely and smooth processes. A quick survey of industry relocation practices reveals dozens of examples of clients and suppliers singing the praises of digital experiences for global and domestic relocation. And likewise for Toll, as we have benefitted from implementing advanced relocation management tools and providing improved digital interfaces for our clients and customers as well.
The HR Mobility community endorses the digital advances, promoted as the preferred method of streamlining and improving the “talent’s experience in relocation, while of course reducing costs and increasing efficiencies. The benefits appeal to clients and organisations driven to keep costs contained, and there is an increasing temptation by organisations to completely eliminate the on the ground “service offerings” for the “talent” to save money. But is technology the solution alone?
I submit that the “talent” are not inanimate objects and nor are they operating in virtual reality. As a relocation service provider with the “last kilometre” of delivery on the ground, I can attest that we are indeed supporting real human beings. These living, breathing people and their families often encounter quite challenging situations such as limited rental housing and schooling availability, changes in culture and day to day living practices. More than in the past, most inbound customers are faced with difficult decisions on the ground in their new country, with circumstances that are not evident in the digital world nor solved by an app. And difficulties in settling in and finding a home can still lead to loss of the “talent” or reduced productivity.
The support provided by people on the ground from Relocation Consultants, Mobility professionals, experts in removals management, company buddy systems and all the relocation professionals in the chain of delivery are critical resources even today in the fast-paced “techy” relocation world.
Technology does not read the look of anxiety on the spouse’s face after realising what they thought was going to be the perfect house is not and offer a reassurance that the house will be found. Relocation Consultants often find themselves defusing the stress of the children in the car after hours of looking for a property with a “Wiggles sing-a-long”, or delivering a birthday cake to a quarantined family during covid.
Relocation Consultants look at potential properties through the eyes of the employee finding a property that not only “ticks” all the requirement boxes but matches their style and sense of home.
A story that comes to mind is of an expat transferring from the east-coast of the USA to Melbourne. The expat, her husband and 7 year-old daughter, in their last week in the departure location, were frantically working to prepare for their relocation.
They had packed-up their beautiful 4-bedroom,white clapboard colonial home during a snow- storm, wrapped up all the details of school and medical records, sold two cars, sent the dog off into quarantine and attended three farewell parties. Once packed they made their way with a stop to visit family in Arizona.
It was discovered upon arrival that the Mum was in fact very unwell and in hospital. After a two-day visit, and an agonising decision, they continued on and boarded their flights to Australia. Several days later, out on their house hunting trip with the local Relocation Consultant, the RC noticed in her rear view mirror the rapidly declining health of the expat in the back seat. The RC proceeded to get an immediate appointment at a doctor’s office within the hour and with some medication for a chest infection, they rescheduled for later in the week.
The very next day, the expat received word that her mother-in-law passed away in Arizona.
Life happens when people relocate and it is the knowledge, care and warmth of the local Relocation Consultants and team that make the difference. The family did honour their mother, resumed house hunting and found a most suitable life in Melbourne – and one that has continued for more than 20 years.
The kindness and support of the Relocation Consultant continued through their days of mourning and settling in, even attending the grandparent’s day for the daughter several months after moving into the community. These are the things that are held dearest in that family’s memories of their relocation that occurred decades ago.
That expat was me, with my husband, Dan and daughter, Mariah. Our Relocation Consultant, Helen is remembered to this day and honoured for her care, thoughtfulness and kindness.
So, what is a successful equation in taking advantage of all the digital interfaces and providing a supportive and caring experience for the people and their families that we serve?
I acknowledge that it is possible for relocations to happen with a “digital only” approach. However, I believe that digital capability is best deployed as a support tool in the supply chain of dedicated relocation professionals on the ground, being assured that the ultimate success of the family’s transition is best held in the hands and hearts of knowledgeable caring people.
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