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HR Interview: Global Mobility

Frank Schuitema is the Director of Global Compensation for International Flavors & Fragrances Inc (IFF) in New York, New York. IFF is a leading global creator of flavors and fragrances used in a wide variety of consumer productsFrank Schuitema to millions of customers globally on a daily basis. Frank is responsible for the design, implementation, planning and administration of all non-executive compensation programs including job evaluation, benchmarking, market reviews, salary structure and variable pay and the administration of executive compensation programs. He also oversees the management of the global mobility program for IFF.

 

1. Please share a little bit about your background. How did you become involved in global mobility? What do you like about relocation? Dislike? What are your biggest challenges?

 
Frank: I’m originally from the Netherlands, but I moved to the U.S. four years ago. I was promoted in 2011 to the Director of Global Mobility role. Until recently I was living the dream because I was an expat. Now I’m localized!
On any given day I both like, and dislike, relocation for the same reason: the personal aspect of the job. As we know in relocation, the personal aspect of moving a family is always challenging as the impact it has on the transferee or assignee is substantial. Actually, I have to admit, before I became an expat I was far less sensitive to moving issues. But then, when I became an expat and went into temp living with two small children and the furnished home had no curtains, I quickly began to understand the frustration – even if it’s over relatively minor stuff.

 
Ultimately, after my experiences, I try to put myself in the transferee’s shoes. It helps me think through the move to provide logical benefits along with a dose of empathy. This is especially important when there are major cultural shifts going on – such as moving someone from China to the U.S.

 
What are the biggest challenges when it comes to relocation?

 
Frank: Mobility always has challenges, but here are the big ones:

 
Everyone is different. This is related to my previous answer but every person is different and has different needs. We can’t possibly meet all of them, all of the time, which can lead to a lot of frustration.

 
Senior leadership doesn’t like to hear complaints. Of course, it’s impossible to get by without any complaints. A couple of complaints are acceptable throughout the year, depending on the size and complexity of the program. But, given the emotional nature of relocation, when complaints erupt, they can really explode. They can also impact work performance, other transferees and the program as a whole. As the guardian of the mobility program and our vendors, I work very hard to listen to our partners, and our transferees, in order to squash issues before they escalate and impact others.

 
Budgeting and expense tracking can be hard to nail down. I have not seen a corporation that has fully integrated to deliver accurate budgeting and expense tracking. We do cost estimates, and we track expenses with our mobility vendor, but we fail to develop to a proper budget at year end. For example, we just got a hit to our cost center that we weren’t expecting – and, of course, the expense wasn’t in the budget. Exceptions to policy happen, but we really have to prevent these kinds of surprises. We are getting there, but it’s not easy.

 
Compliance. Enough said. Regulations are constantly changing. Immigration and tax rules are ever evolving. I think anyone in relocation would agree that it’s both critical, and difficult, to keep track of everything in a global program.

 
ROI matters. We always have to justify our relocations. Why are you sending them on an assignment? Did they accomplish what you sent them there for? When I sit with senior leaders, it’s the first question on the table. If the expat accomplishes what we’ve set them out to do, then that’s the ROI. But, that’s always a big “if….”

 
When crafting an RFP for relocation services, how do you prioritize your objectives?

 
Frank: When we did the RFP on the relocation program, we sat with a group of stakeholders that included legal, HR, finance, talent, compensation and procurement. We also conducted about 50 stakeholder interviews as a team, which gave us an idea of what was wrong with the current program and the things we needed to focus on. Prioritizing was, and should be, a team effort.

 
What is your process for designing an RFP? How do you come up with the questions? How do you scale the importance of each question?

 
Frank: We employ a two-step process: first we issue an RFI, and then the RFP. We invited 27 participants to respond, and then narrowed it down to five participants. In regards to questions, we identified high level questions with 2 – 3 of our most common relocation combinations (Amsterdam to Chennai, India and Paris to NY, for example). Then, we evaluated those questions with a scoring matrix to develop a ranking.

 
If you could pick the #1 most important question you ask in an RFP, what would it be?

 
Frank: First I’d like to say, price is not one of the top most important – it’s important, but it’s a disqualifier rather than a qualifier.

 

Our #1 most important question pertains to international coverage. IFF is active in 32 countries and we expect our vendors to be able to cover this.

 
Our #2 most important question is about technology – the use and availability of technology.

 
Are there any questions or supplier responses that you see time and again in RFPs that you feel have little to no value?

 
Frank: Vendors in relocation are always very willing to share ideas and talk with you. That’s great, but I want to know how you are different from everyone else. I want to know what I can learn from you that I can take into my program. Come and share your latest online portal, or new program ideas that cater to a diverse workforce. All of the boiler plate stuff – name address, town, etc. – doesn’t matter.

 
I’d like to see less “talk” about technology, and more “do.” Running a cost estimate, expense tracking against it, budgeting and all related processes need to be more integrated. I’ve heard a lot about this, but haven’t seen it in action yet. I realize it’s difficult, but that would be great.

 
Are there any trends you see happening in relocation that may impact the way you approach the RFP process in the future?

 
Frank: I think the trend has been moving towards more technology solutions. This is important, but it should not replace human contact. From experience, transferees want to speak to someone live.

 
Do you have any additional thoughts? Please share!

 
Frank: In closing, I believe you need to have some people on the corporate mobility team who have gone through a relocation/assignment and can help people understand the experience. I relocated to Paris as a single person and that was easy enough, but when it involved my family and to New York it was a whole different dynamic. To have someone on the team that understands this is extremely valuable.

 

 

Frank’s experience has given him wonderful insight into the world of mobility as a whole. He has experienced relocation from both ends both as an expat transferee and on the corporate global side. We love to hear what HR experts have to say about the process from RFP to localization. Do you agree with Frank’s points? Do you have anything to add?

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VP of Business Development Northeast Region

 

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