TRC was pleased to be a part of the 2023 EuRA International Relocation Congress in Dublin, which marked EuRA’s 25th anniversary. We congratulate EuRA CEO Tad Zurlinden and Chief Operating Officer Dominic Tidey on their 25 years of association and industry leadership! Though based in EMEA, the EuRA Congress has become increasingly global, with sizable delegations from The Americas and Asia among the 750 attendees. This made the program and the online and offline discussions even more stimulating.
There were a few recurring topics and discussions throughout the Congress.
Sustainability in Mobility (ESG)
Sustainability was a significant and recurring theme throughout the Congress. In EMEA, awareness of and action on this issue are much more advanced than in the US. Many TV ads for consumer products like laundry detergent tout environmentally friendly packaging (back to the future with cardboard boxes instead of plastic), and even restaurant menus have sustainability statements.
Recognizing that the mobility industry has much room for improvement in this area, CERC (Canadian Employee Relocation Council), CHPA (Corporate Housing Providers Association), EuRA, FIDI Global Alliance, IAM (International Association of Movers) and Worldwide ERC (WERC) joined forces to create the Coalition for Greener Mobility.
Representatives from these organizations reported on the group’s objectives and progress so far. WERC President & CEO Lynn Shotwell emphasized that this would be a decades-long initiative, not a quick fix. The representatives stressed that regardless of company positions or personal feelings on this issue, sustainability is becoming required to do business with many EMEA or US multinational companies.
In the US, the SEC recently released a 400-page document that outlines how all publicly traded companies will be held accountable for reporting on their carbon footprint, including their global supply chain. This has raised questions and challenges from corporations in America and will likely result in a lawsuit claiming the SEC is overreaching its authority. The EU is working on similar initiatives.
While legislation and specific requirements might be fluid, regulations in some form are imminent, and getting ahead of them is crucial. Forming the Coalition and building some form of standardization now will help with lobbying and stating the industry’s position before we are simply told what to do.
The housing shortage we are facing in the US is a global phenomenon. Most countries are simply not building enough new housing, particularly more affordable housing, to meet the demand. It is creating headaches and added costs for assignees and companies alike. Because assignees cannot find suitable permanent housing, they are staying longer in temporary housing. Temporary housing is also in short supply, and the quality and convenience of the accommodations on offer are frequently inferior to what we had in the past.
EuRA, WERC and CERC are lobbying their governments for more housing-friendly policies as part of their government affairs activities. Ultimately, though, many of the issues are local, with restrictive building policies and NIMBY communities limiting the amount, scope and scale of development.
The State of the Industry
Another recurring online and offline topic at the Congress was relocation volume. The consensus was that after a year of recovery in 2022, first quarter volume was down in EMEA and The Americas. Nevertheless, most were cautiously optimistic about the typically busy summer season.
WERC’s Shotwell noted that the US and global economic situations are currently complicated, with strong headwinds and conflicting forces. For example, the Fed continues to raise rates to fight inflation, which hurts the housing market. Inflation makes everything related to housing and moving more expensive, making many companies think twice before relocating an employee.
Another paradox is that while layoffs in some industries are picking up, there is still a systemic labor shortage. Moreover, the situation in EMEA is even more dire than in the US as the population is older and retirement ages are generally younger.
Assignment Types and Changes
Several panelists noted that the pandemic accelerated some trends that were already underway:
- More short-term assignments and markedly fewer traditional assignments
- More individuals and couples relocating and fewer families
- More requests for policy flexibility from assignees
- More say in the assignment location for prospective assignees
- More self-initiated moves and use of global nomad visas
While some of these changes might result in a better customer experience, the panelists noted they could also bring administrative headaches, visa and immigration issues and duty of care concerns for employers. Companies cannot just allow employees to work elsewhere for under six months and call it a “business trip.” Assignees are often unaware of or unconcerned about these issues (the panelists used the term “in compliance unawareness”).
Some assignees are becoming non-sponsored volunteers to work from a different location than their home country without company benefits. In this case, destination services are not being funded by the company, so the mindset is shifting from B2B between the destination service provider (DSP) and corporate to B2C between the DSP and the customer (the assignee).
As of 2023, 51 countries have adopted a digital nomad visa, which allows temporary remote work in that country. The tax situation will vary from country to country, with some wanting to receive full tax, some a reduced rate and some no tax at all.
RMC/DSP Plenary Session
A panel of relocation management companies (RMCs) and destination services (DSP) experts discussed the supply chain’s critical issues. Much of the session focused on technology, including APIs, not only with clients but also with supplier partners. Significant cost savings and data integrity are realized by eliminating redundant manual data entry. From a customer experience perspective, a frequent assignee complaint is having to give the same information to different providers repeatedly (not just verifying the info but providing it repeatedly).
The Rise of the Mobility Ecosystem
In Guardians of the Galaxy – Being a Valued Partner in the Talent Mobility Ecosystem, the panel introduced the emerging concept of the talent mobility ecosystem. Rather than a traditional, linear service model, the players have fluid and constantly evolving relationships, necessitating flexibility and adaptability.
The panel discussed emerging chatbot technologies that can enhance the customer experience. For example, assignees can access the chatbot via the RMC’s relocation app and ask questions about their policy.
Data and Privacy Considerations
The panelists noted that for companies operating globally, there are conflicting regulations and policies surrounding data retention. GDPR requires the deletion of personal data that is no longer necessary in relation to the purpose for which it was collected or processed. On the other hand, the IRS might require data to be retained for seven years or longer.
Some companies wish to collect and track more general data, like the age and gender of assignees, to help them plan and strategize for the future. Their workaround for purge requirements is to anonymize aggregate data so it is not tied to specific names or PII.
As always, the EuRA International Relocation Congress was a stimulating few days. We will continue to discuss and strategize around these important issues in the coming weeks and months.