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Outlook 2010: The Promise of Containerized Transit for Relocation Flexibility

This is part of a special advertising section on the challenges facing HR executives in the coming year.

Friday, October 2, 2009
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You've heard the saying: If you don't like the weather today, wait until tomorrow -- it will change. But the question is: Will you need sunscreen? An umbrella? A snow shovel?

The current business season is certainly in flux. In this period of significant challenges, businesses must not only justify every penny, but also find new efficiencies. This has been especially true for HR over the last three years, and has translated into fewer resources for relocation.

Our 2009 research of corporate relocation executives, titled Atlas 2009 Corporate Relocation Survey, found that nearly half of them entered 2009 with the expectation that their company's relocation budgets would shrink, and the number of firms offering lump-sum relocation benefits and partial reimbursements has surged in the last two years. "More for less" is the new mantra. And it is likely to stay awhile. 

How an employee's household goods are transported carries both an opportunity to gain efficiency and the potential for decreased quality. Understanding the shifting currents in the moving and storage industry can help HR professionals capitalize on the former -- and avoid the latter.

Evolving Transportation Services

Moving can be a complicated process. That is why many companies rely on transportation partners who understand the anxiety and answer with reassuring professionalism as they provide the full service of packing, loading and transporting households. Such partnerships are an investment in well-being -- for the employee, the family and the organization.

On the other side is the self-service move. This sector of the transportation industry caters to individuals who are willing to assume the risks and responsibilities of moving themselves. Providers typically offer few service enhancements; the customer is "on his own" to pack, load and even transport his goods.

More recently, containerized transportation has emerged as a third option with distinct benefits. It can provide accelerated delivery times with specific delivery dates and can, but does not always, include professional packing and loading. It offers the ability to service small shipments with excellent security and the flexibility to meet the needs of many types of relocatees. For customers who wish to shoulder some of the work themselves, containerized transit offers a "hands-on" option.

Understanding Containerized Transit

The containerized sector is growing, giving rise to new companies with vastly different service models. HR professionals should know the differences and potential pitfalls. For example: Is the container designed to withstand the rigors of interstate transit? Does the claims experience bear this out? Does the provider bring sufficient infrastructure to all points in the transportation and storage continuum? What is the transit time? Are there coverage options to protect the employee's goods?

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Our company's experience shows that two out of three customers of self-service containerized transportation ultimately decide to purchase additional services for packing, loading, etc. So the most important question may be: What are the service options? Or, can the provider fulfill the customer's expectations?

The Role of Containerized Transit in Policy

Containerized transportation is not optimal for every employee or every move. There is no substitute for the highly personalized attention of a professional van operator and skilled crew. Also, costs for transportation, whether packed in a van or inside a vault, can vary significantly based on myriad factors.

So, the question remains: What role, if any, should containerized transportation play in a company's relocation efforts? You can answer this question by learning about the market's diverse offerings and making choices consistent with individual needs of employees. With a grasp of the pros and cons, you are better equipped to assess providers and their capacity to provide the services that are efficient and effective.

Containerization offers one more tool with which to provide a relocation benefit. It should not be viewed as a one-size-fits-all tool, but as a flexible enhancement to relocation policies. It allows the HR manager to stay ahead of business in flux, to have at hand an umbrella, sunscreen, or whatever the season calls for.

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