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Accomplishing More -- With Less

This is part of a special advertising section on the Outlook for 2012.

Sunday, October 2, 2011
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Cartus has a unique perspective on the evolving and intensifying challenges faced by human resource professionals, because the relocation business is, in many ways, a mirror of those challenges. Mobility-service providers are increasingly being asked and expected to serve as seamless extensions of client HR departments, so our sector evolves and responds based on HR needs.

What we all know is that HR professionals are having to do more with less, as organizations' top leaders seek to mobilize their workforces in response to changing company goals. The biggest change is that, as HR practitioners' time and resources are squeezed, their ability to continue providing strategic guidance to the organization -- especially in terms of talent management -- is coming under pressure. At the same time, their input in these areas is needed more than ever.

At Cartus, we regularly survey our clients' HR professionals. Because of the size of our client base, we think the results tell us a lot about companies' most intense pressures and needs. Most recently, respondents to our latest "Biggest Challenges" survey named cost control, recruiting and talent management as among the top issues confronting their organizations. Complicating the situation is the counterintuitive nature of the current employment situation in the United States; there may be a lot of talent available, but often, it is not the right talent to move the company forward. Getting that right talent, in the right place, means that "cost control" and "talent management" not only intersect, but often conflict, making simultaneous management complex.

Moving forward, the U.S. domestic situation will continue to be dominated by the real-estate-market hangover, in which marketing strategies and new approaches to employee assistance will be key to talent recruitment. The ability to use relocation effectively as part of domestic restructuring or growth strategies has come under increasing cost pressure, just as market dynamics have raised the costs of domestic relocations. The challenge for our industry is to find ways to support the restructuring and growth of our client companies domestically, with strategic policy approaches that control costs, while accomplishing specific HR goals.

Globally, the pressures are equally great. Despite the challenges being faced by many global economies, new markets offer opportunities and the push for global expansion is greater than ever -- at exactly the time that HR is stretched thin. Global mobility and talent management can be more costly and increase the pressure to make moves productive.

One way of increasing move productivity is with more emphasis on effective candidate assessment prior to making an international-assignment decision. Once the decision is made, enhanced forms of support come into play, such as on-the-ground destination support, cross-cultural training and language training. More broadly, our industry is responding to changing imperatives by developing support for new approaches to mobility and new types of assignments, which are as strategic as they are tactical.

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These are some of the issues and challenges that have changed and deepened the relationship between HR departments and their relocation-services providers. Trends in our industry mirror those in other business services, where more of the traditional in-house functions and the more complex global scenarios are being outsourced, especially to suppliers who are already trusted, based on existing relationships.

Our research and client trends suggest that HR is using this approach specifically to pursue its ultimate goal of becoming less of an administrative department and more of what it should be -- a key strategic player in the larger business plan -- which is where its greatest value lies.

Developing and executing on "boardroom presentable" strategies will continue to be a key focus for HR leaders and their organizations. And, as it often does, pressure on resources is producing better solutions -- HR is tightening its focus on identifying and implementing best practices, streamlining processes and integrating solutions with appropriate resources. In this respect, "what's next" is the same as what's happening right now. HR is outsourcing and will continue to do so in two key areas: non-strategic functions, which can be managed successfully and cost-effectively by suppliers, and functions that require specialized expertise or capabilities, particularly in a global marketplace.

These are demanding times for HR departments, but if there is a silver lining in the pressures they are facing, it is that necessity has caused them and their suppliers to find better ways to do more with less -- and, in the process, has helped HR evolve into a more important player in organizational success.

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