How to Reframe Talent Mobility Amid Supply Chain Constraints 11.9.2022 | Ellie Sullivan

The accelerated pace of change, shifting demographics and morphing personal priorities have forever changed the world of work, leaving the talent mobility landscape a little less manicured and a lot more rugged. A robust debate at a recent industry roundtable underlined the harsh reality that many supply chain partners have reached the breaking point.

As mobility professionals, it’s our responsibility to be enthusiastic (and informed) supporters of this change for our clients, guiding them toward strategies that will help them overcome talent shortages and supply chain constraints to ensure their long-term success. If they’ve got a map in hand, they’ll be more willing to trade in those sensible walking shoes for crampons and face that rugged terrain head-on, right?

Okay, enough hiking metaphors.

Here’s what you need to know about the current reality of mobility, and how we need to re-frame our role and value to our stakeholders to overcome the hurdles of the modern world of work.

The Trickle-Down Impact of Talent Shortages

Quiet quitting and the great resignation have fueled a global talent shortage. Despite increasing interest rates, record inflation and a pending recession, demand for talent remains incredibly strong with record levels of job vacancies.  There are signs the hot job market is cooling — but workers still have bargaining power for now with front-line workers and technical talent in critical demand.

These shortages are compounded by immigration backlogs clogging the system and worsening the talent imbalance.

Universal supply chain challenges are also hurting businesses far and wide, many of which are beyond anyone’s control, like flight delays and limited staff at ports of entry due to covid and weather-related issues.

The Aches and Pains of the Mobility Supply Chain

According to participants in the roundtable, the relocation supply chain is suffering a massive labor shortage.  Whether temporary housing or household goods providers, destination service providers or relocation management companies, the entire mobility ecosystem has been impacted, resulting in systemic challenges that are not likely to subside quickly.

Despite implementing creative recruiting strategies and apprentice programs, offering higher compensation, and enticing workers with sign-on bonuses, career development programs, and enhanced benefits, suppliers report they just can’t get staff to show up. Employees are ghosting them for better jobs or more flexible schedules.  If managers aren’t packing and loading themselves, they are responding to more vocal inquiries from clients; “when will my household goods be delivered? what is taking so long? and why can’t you give me a more precise timeframe”?

Suppliers across the ecosystem are lamenting the challenge of dealing with these labor shortages while up against rising service expectations and increased pressure to reduce costs.  For instance, it was common to deploy a four-person crew for the typical household goods pack and load.  Today they’re lucky to be able to deploy two people, which means the job takes longer and routinely triggers scheduling problems on the delivery end.

Although technology can provide some answers, suppliers across the spectrum agree those solutions come with a hefty price tag, which reduces margins and magnifies the strain of higher expectations and lower costs.  As one provider said, “Clients expect a Four Seasons experience on a Super 8 budget, and still want mints on the pillow.”

Clients expect a Four Seasons experience on a Super 8 budget, and still want mints on the pillow.

Another issue pressuring industry partners is the complexity of RFPs required by today’s procurement professionals.  Many solicit long-range price commitments which are impossible given exorbitant inflation.  Suppliers are also frequently required to examine and confirm compliance with 20, 30 and even 100+ pages of data protection, ESG and technology criteria.  This demands additional scrutiny and resources and raises the cost of doing business.

Zeroing in on the Employer Perspective

The knock-on impact of these challenges is exacerbating the situation for clients, too! They are under immense pressure to supply relocation services faster while managing a wider variety of move types, compliance and quarantine travel restrictions, and higher client expectations. They are also dealing with their own talent shortages and burnout from being so thinly staffed.

The same employers that are having trouble finding drivers to get their goods to market have difficulty understanding the significant impact on service providers. These realities and mismatched expectations are lengthening timelines from a pre-pandemic cycle that was fairly predictable, to a post-pandemic schedule that is at least twice as long!

Balancing the Mobility Ecosystem

Each member of the mobility ecosystem plays a vital role – including the employees we relocate. Given the Amazon effect (what I refer to as an unrealistic ideal of instant gratification), it’s not easy to set reasonable expectations, especially when the average attention span is a mere 8 seconds!

Thankfully, our industry is devoted to exceptional service!  Most providers take great pride in personalized counseling, intuitive technology, and a wide variety of communication tools that demonstrate empathy and improve understanding.

To ensure better service and minimize inflating demand, suppliers recommend working with preferred partners and giving them enough time to research alternatives instead of bringing the same ‘move’ to multiple partners.  To make RFPs less onerous, suppliers recommend that procurement streamline due diligence with just a few providers and require more extensive research only with selected finalists.

Through greater honesty and transparency, we can nurture more effective relationships built on realistic expectations and support a more sustainable community.

A shift in the right direction will require a commitment – from all stakeholders – to deeper education and an openness to new perspectives. Collectively, we can rebalance our ecosystem and ensure a healthy industry as we navigate these challenging times.

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Written by Ellie Sullivan


Ellie Sullivan, SCRP, SGMS-T, has over 30 years of experience overseeing critical mobility advisory initiatives, including policy benchmarking, proprietary research and tracking global trends and best practices. She is also the creator of our proprietary Optimization Lab format, which brings together Weichert SMEs and client stakeholders for day-long workshops to analyze current program challenges, identify solutions and create a road map to the ideal future state.

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