The unfortunate certainties of life are death, taxes and, in the case of corporate mobility managers, the never-ending pressure to reduce costs. I am constantly asked by clients to help them achieve that delicate balance between maintaining benefits levels that keep employees engaged and productive while avoiding cost spiral.
Beyond the policy provisions themselves that account for 98% of all costs, clients should examine the processes they use to administer mobility. Every program I review is ripe with opportunities to improve their operational efficiencies. This can be difficult for mobility managers comfortable and familiar with their current processes to acknowledge or see, but often our “outside” perspective can shed light on improvements.
What follows are a number of time tested ideas that might lead to efficiencies and/or cost savings for you:
- Authorization process: Are there redundant forms that need to be filled out, or multiple levels of approvals? For example, there may be a paper form being filled out by a recruiter, then passed on to a team member to input online, then someone else needs to approve. If there is a question or dispute, the process then goes in reverse order to obtain the needed information. This can add days to the process, when time is critical for the Counselor to reach out to the employee and begin the process. How does this process cause delays in the employee’s actions? Do they list prematurely, or establish unrealistic expectations without timely counseling?
- Repayment agreements: How are they collected? Look for duplications of effort—one person distributes the agreement, another collects it, it is then forwarded to a third person, all before the move is initiated. You can see where I’m going here. Is the repayment communicated early on in the policy and/or with the candidate?
- Home Sale: The biggest potential savings is to prevent premature listings (see #1). This can cause over pricing and lead to more inventory. Examine marketing timeframes, days on market, appraisal process, inventory process and inspections. For example, there are companies that opt for only a Broker Market Analysis because it is faster and less costly than an appraisal; however, relying exclusively on this data could potentially cost a lot more if the property comes into inventory. On the other hand, offering marketing incentives can increase visibility on a property which generates more offers, thereby expediting the marketing process.
- Pre-decision assistance: This is a very effective strategy proven to minimize losses, decrease requests for exceptions, and reduce marketing timeframes. The employee collects information early on that can expedite his or her decision to accept a move or assignment and reduce the overall timeframe and expenses throughout the move for “unforeseen” obstacles. The data can be used for discussion with the manager or recruiter to customize benefits around unusual circumstances. For example, the family may be reluctant to move because the children are in the middle of their school year, and they aren’t familiar with the new town.
- The company may opt to provide a pre-decision trip to look at additional communities, or allow the employee to stay in temporary living while the family waits out the school year (upon acceptance of the move). The biggest cost savings (that is often overlooked) is the reduction of failed moves and assignments that could have been avoided with preventative measures that come from information obtained early on through pre-decision assistance.
- Equity Advance: Look at the timeframes and disbursement process, as well as how repairs are handled. Going back to the idea of #5, repairs should be made early on to minimize the likelihood of a sale fall-through.
- Household Goods: No matter how detailed the policy, this is an area that tends to experience a lot of exception requests. Our Weichert Move Network routinely works with clients, reviewing authorizations, claims and specific household items that should be handled differently and manage “pre-approved” exceptions that avoid costly delays. WMN worked with one client to reduce claims by 12% just by evaluating which items are susceptible to damage and creating a new method for inventorying and handling these items.
- Educate stakeholders: We developed just-in-time training to bring new stakeholders up to speed: A “back to basics” perspective on their program and the opportunity to look at each component of the program with a fresh set of eyes to identify where spend should be allocated.
- Finally, introducing process improvement requires clear stakeholder communication and education. Often these stakeholders are financially responsible for the move but don’t live in the role of mobility every day. This is where having objective advice and compelling cost information can help you build a persuasive argument for process improvements.
Are there any areas in your process that could be made more efficient, or recent changes that you implemented? Please feel free to share them with me.