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HR Interview: The Future of Relocation

Last year, at a CMARC conference, I had the pleasure of meeting Maggie Huffman and Jason Beane, both of whom support relocation programs for Time Warner Cable. Maggie was a panelist speaking about global mobility and Jason was there to provide support and additional insights based on his experiences. Later, when I was asked to author this blog, I immediately thought of Maggie and Jason because they are both so engaging and they make it a point to stay on top of domestic and global relocation issues and trends.

Since Maggie and Jason are both successful professionals within the relocation industry, I was most interested to get their thoughts on the future of relocation and the impact that the new generation of leadership may, or may not, have on relocation and business in general. Without further ado:

Tell me a little bit about your background in the relocation industry.

Maggie: I have been working in the relocation industry for 11 years! My background is in global mobility assignment management, tax immigration and global benefits.  I actually began my career in the hotel industry as I

HR Time Warner Cable

Maggie Huffman

have a hospitality masters degree from a school in Switzerland. I was recruited by Hilton and eventually moved to the US, where I assumed the role of an HR generalist for the hotel in SouthPark, NC. I really thought I wanted to be in hospitality, but I learned quickly that HR was my passion. I began doing accounting, payroll and HR for the hotel, and then global mobility later on.

Jason:  I have been at Time Warner Cable for quite some time and I fell into relocation business because I had an interest in it already.  I have always been involved in HR in some capacity.  I began with a business degree and then grew into an HR generalist role. I ended up taking responsibility for benefits, onboarding, leave of absence and, eventually, relocation.

What significant changes have you seen happen in the industry over the past 5 years?

Maggie: To me, it seems like we are moving away from strictly domestic programs in favor of a global approach. We have also started elaborating on policy types. Relocation was commonly a one-size-fits-all program but, now, more companies are moving to policies that are routed in company culture and based on real transferee needs.

Jason: The technology has changed, which has allowed us to measure progress and fine tune policies. There are few gray areas. We have the tools to define and track all the details, rather than leaving program decisions undefined and open ended.

What trends in HR or relocation do you wish would phase out?

Maggie:  In the ideal world, one-off exceptions and “special” relocation programs need to phase out.

Jason: Definitely exceptions. We need to move away from supporting case by case treatment. Every employee has special needs and we simply cannot cater to them all and still manage a fair and simple program.

What trends in HR or relocation do you wish would take off?

Maggie: I believe we still have transferees that are not prepared to relocate to a new location. For this reason, I’d like to see more pre-move assessments. Pre-decision assessments can help us identify how much of an impact the relocation will have on the employee personally, financially and professionally. When you are dealing with human beings, this is critical! For example, we hear this all too often:

“I was so excited to accept the assignment due to the extra compensation involved, that I missed to consult with my spouse and three children and accepted the position pre-maturely.”

A pre-move assessment will take out the guess work, loop in the family and give us (the employer) a much better sense of whether or not the relocation will be a success. If we as employers don’t understand the stress being placed on the employee, we run the risk of losing a great leader. I would love for companies to buy into pre-decision counseling as a requirement. We are currently leveraging our internal sources in order to accomplish this task.

Jason: Confirm and ditto. Companies need to help employees be prepared for the new endeavor, including the relocation part of it!

HR Time Warner Cable

Jason Beane

I also feel that some general relocation counseling for transferees is frequently overlooked. I’d like transferees to be more fluid with what’s going on with their relocation. They should take ownership of their own relocation and should be aware of what is, and is not, covered by company policy in order to become a true participant in the process.

If you had a chance to look into a crystal ball, where will we be in 10 years?

Maggie: I don’t think we’ll be much further along. We may see advancement on the technology side, especially when it comes to mobile. Technology will be biggest driver. But, how transferees approach relocation, and how companies handle relocation, won’t change much.

Jason:  In 10 years, phone calls will be obsolete. Technology will be the leading driver of change.

How is the new generation of leadership going to impact the relocation industry? 

Maggie: Millennial will be in leadership roles and we will have a social media driven population. I think leaders will be more invested in people and focus on infusing more meaning or sense into a relocation, rather than just replacing bodies. Relocations will be much more focused and targeted to specific problems or training opportunities. As talent becomes more mobile, I think and hope that relocation policies will be married to corporate strategy.

Jason: I think we will see more strategic leaders. This is critical in every area of business, including relocation. I also think that companies will grow more excepting of different family statuses and, consequently, relocation benefits will be allocated to different partnerships. Leaders are already embracing this change – they are open to a more diverse background, orientations, atmospheres, education, etc.

Maggie Huffman currently serves as employee service center manager for relocation and employee programs for Time Warner Cable. She has more than 10 years of experience managing global mobility programs. Jason Beane currently serves as an employee service center specialist in relocation and education assistance for Time Warner Cable.

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RICK CALANNI
VP of Business Development Northeast Region

 

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