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Can Big Data Bring Relocation into the Future?

Who out there went to the recent Worlwide ERC Global Workforce Symposium in Chicago? I think it’s one of the best relocation conferences and events every year. We had a great time in the “Windy” city, which has a lot of history, skyscrapers and great places to eat. Fun fact: did you know that the Hilton Chicago (where the conference was held) is a famous landmark that overlooks Grant Park, Lake Michigan, and the Museum Campus? It is also the third-largest hotel in Chicago and has the largest total meeting and event space of any Chicago hotel. The hotel has housed every president of the United States since its opening in 1927!

But, I digress. The Worldwide ERC is celebrating its 50th year of proving counsel and support to the relocation industry and the customers we serve. Congratulations to Worldwide ERC – we look forward to the next 50 years!

The conference attendance was in excess of 1700 attendees with a mix of corporate mobility professionals and an array of service providers including professionals from relocation management companies, household goods moving companies, temporary housing companies, an assortment of global assignment support companies as well as a variety of other companies. While on the elevator going from floor to floor between sessions you could run into any number of attendees from various parts of the world. Besides attendees from all over the U.S., I met people from London, Scotland, Germany, Dubai, and Brazil.

There were a lot of sessions to choose from. I particularly enjoyed a discussion about “big data,” which is something we’re hearing a lot about lately. What does “big data” really mean? More importantly, what is big data really worth?

According to Debbie King with DSK Solutions, a data expert, “big data” can be defined as volume, variety, and velocity…both structured and unstructured. Unstructured data is what everyone is getting excited about – it includes fast paced information that comes to us in an unstructured way, such as text messages, emails, tweets, etc. Debbie believes that data is an asset and can be analyzed and interpreted to help associations make better decisions. Google is, of course, the master of collecting and repositioning data. But, did you know that we can use big data too?

Expats on assignment, for example, will receive more calls from recruiters than at any other point in their life because companies can now track employees and the opportunities they are receiving. Unfortunately, while the data is out there, it’s not as simple to collect as it sounds and therein lies the rub. Because of the volume of data available, analysts will need to plan and strategize about what data to collect and how to use it.
HR professionals should understand their audience and how to use big data. As an example, data can provide predictive analysis which would indicate that expats who take a cultural assessment up front, prior to accepting an assignment, are more likely to be successful than those who do not. It further indicates that when the family goes on the assignment with the assignee, the assignment will be far more successful. There is a decline in engagement and performance when the family is not on the assignment.

So, what will big data start to look like in the future? The consensus was that various systems where big data lives will converge instead of living in silos as it does today. This may make collection and analysis a bit easier. But, for the most part, we don’t know what the future will bring. We only know that we need to harness the power of information. As Mike Piker, VP of Global Total Rewards with Lenovo, said at the beginning of the conference:
“Each generation will reap what the former has sown.”

As we continue to learn, we will improve. I am truly excited to see what the future will being for relocation and HR.

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VP of Business Development Northeast Region


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