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HR Interview: The Relationship between HR and Procurement

HR Interview

Andrew Ikall, UCB Pharmaceuticals

Anyone involved in the relocation industry knows that there is a new seat at the relocation table: procurement.  This has been quite a shift for relocation professionals and human resources managers alike because, historically, relocation has been strictly a function of HR.  In recent years, however, cost-cutting measures have caused more companies to charge procurement with sourcing the relocation vendor, which has changed the nature of the business and the relationship between key relocation players (third parties, HR, transferees, finance and so on).  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Most companies remain focused on implementing strategic HR practices that will benefit transferees and the company as a whole. We all need to work together to build the best relocation team and subsequent program.

When I think about the relationship between HR and procurement, I immediately think of Andrew Ikall, a friend of mine who has done an exceptional job at balancing procurement’s concerns with the needs of his transferees.  Andrew manages fleet and relocation services for UCB Pharmaceuticals, a specialty-focused biopharmaceutical company.  When we first met at a relocation conference, I found him interesting because his experience in relocation has been mostly with larger organizations and he has managed both in-house and outsourced programs. Consequently, he has interacted with procurement on several levels and has some great insights on how to collaborate for the greater good of both the business and the transferees.

Andrew was kind enough to partake in our HR Interview series. Without further ado:

1. Please explain your current position and responsibilities

I am the relocation and fleet manager at UCB, Inc. I consider my position to be a vendor management role for the third party providers that we work with, many of which are in relocation.  Prior to joining UCB, Inc.  I was responsible for relocation at Lowes as a senior relocation consultant. My main responsibility was to manage the corporate relocation program (by myself), which included about 700 moves a year.

2. Do you currently have an internal relationship with procurement? If so please define this relationship.

Yes, I do have a relationship with procurement.  UCB is Brussels based and I work in the North America office so I have a North America based procurement colleague and then another procurement colleague in Brussels. There are two procurement experts on the relocation side and then two on the fleet management side.

3. It’s unusual to see the same person responsible for both relocation and fleet management. Do you agree?

When I first came to UCB, I had no experience in fleet management.  All of my experience was in relocation and that is what I was hired to focus on. Personally, I feel that relocation is where the biggest struggles are and so the focus has been on establishing the best processes, which needs to be built from the inside of UCB and pushed out to our partners, as well as our employees who are relocating. Fleet Management, on the other hand, is a well-run machine and it is relatively easy to learn. I’ve enjoyed that part of it and having the two is a good fit for me.

4. When does procurement come “knocking on your door”? 

Procurement certainly knocked on my door when I first came to UCB. At UCB, as well as Lowes, fleet management and relocation had not been reviewed in many years. Since have a really big push for cost savings here (and anywhere, these days), procurement typically comes to visit when it’s time to review contracts and/or when they think they can find additional cost savings. Since I was hired, I’ve participated in RFPs for both services, so it is truly a partnership.

5. Is HR accountable to procurement for the relocation spend and, if so, in what ways and how often?

I wouldn’t say we’re accountable to procurement but they certainly identify our savings. I would say we are more accountable to finance for our spend, especially at UCB because our spend rolls into the different cost centers. We have different controllers coming back to us to substantiate the spend. They want to know what exceptions are being approved and why. These are the folks we all have to answer to.

Unfortunately exceptions have typically been the rule to the policy and our current goal is to rewrite our policies with an obvious focus on where the exceptions lie. Exceptions have grown big and quickly here at UCB. Our relocation spend has never been very visible but now it is because of our push on cost savings. As such, we provide finance with a monthly break down of exceptions by cost center and then the report gets sent to the director, manager and up to the VP. The report is a comparison of what we would have normally spent versus what the actual spend was.

6. Have you seen procurement play more of a role in procuring relocation in general these days than in the past?

Most definitely. I have seen procurement play more of a role in procuring relocation both at my previous position at Lowes and as well as here UCB. Previously, relocation contracts at both companies were managed by the relocation group rather than procurement. The internal people responsible for relocation were the ones who interviewed the relocation management companies and then decided who they were going to choose. As we are seeing procurement have more involvement, there is a more analytical approach with a focus on numbers and spend. However, we must always remember that relocation is not just always about the spend. There is so much more to consider when you are dealing with individuals and family members. There is a lot of personal stuff to remember, including their homes, their family and the overall stress of being uprooted. Service delivery is vital to success, so we (both procurement and relocation) have to strike a balance between financial concerns and human interest

Andrew Ikall is the Relocation and Fleet Manager for UCB Pharmaceuticals in Atlanta, GA.  A nine year veteran of the relocation industry, he holds a Bachelors of Science in Business from Appalachian State University. 


VP, Client Services

VP of Business Development Northeast Region


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