Mobility Trends Post COVID-19 (by Rene Stegmann, Relocation Africa Group MD)
Navigating with the ideological crystal ball (a superpower I wish I held in the C19 World) and looking at the World ahead what permanent changes do we see in delivering DSP services in Africa.
We all carry scars of this new COVID world, and it has heightened our awareness of our environment. In South Africa we had a complete lock-down, no exercise, no alcohol, no cigarettes, no movies, no sporting events, and no driving to work for a period of 5 weeks. When they relaxed the rules and we were allowed to go to the shops, I experienced anxiety around “when did I have to put my mask on” “what was it protecting me from”, and it took me a little time to feel comfortable, I ran out the door for exercise with this strange mask on my face and when it dropped people shouted at me saying put your mask back on.
We then slowly returned to the office and there was new protocol at the office – someone coughed – how do I react?, at shopping facilities with others, I wondered if they were standing too close to me, and pre-COVID these did not take up any of my thought processes.
I tell you this because I felt anxious about walking around my own neighbourhood, so it occurred to us that assignees moving to different countries are going to be experiencing this much more acutely. We are needing to ensure we manage, protect and comfort the assignee to feel safe with everything we do. I remember Bill Graebel saying at an Alliance meeting in 2019 “treat the assignee like your Grandma” – now I feel like this phrase means something completely different – not only are the assignees fragile and need more comfort they are also now more at risk. The simple things we do – we will now do differently.
COVID 19 has projected the world into a world of VUCA which is Africa normal a world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. This has given the world a common purpose and common understanding which will have a profound need to fundamentally change the way we treat the environment, human society, and the mindful way we look at the economics of the world.
These all relate to personal situations.
On the other extreme, government regulations are impacting our industry. For example: Due to unemployment in the US President Trump has signed an executive order to block various visa categories to ensure their local employment is safe guarded. Other nations like in the EU have restricted some countries from travel to protect the spread of the virus. These are trends of protectionism. These are two independent examples of how our industry is materially impacted.
Time is not always linear in the same way email leapfrogged us forward from faxes, COVID will leapfrog us to a place we don’t even understand yet.
The additional regulatory and legislative landscape are going to require forethought, planning and collaboration. We are going to have to review and align what can be provided vs what cannot be provided. What does this mean for all of us – We are going to need to be thinking proactively and almost consider the What if scenarios and be steering clearly away from What is in this for me! Perhaps starting a move away from extreme capitalism to a more inclusive and thoughtful way of working. May not sound realistic yet but my crystal ball buzzes at the sound of sustainable options into the future!
We perceive our clients are going to become more cost conscious, therefore this may have an impact on what they are willing to pay for certain services. We will be required to develop new ways of delivering the services (R&D) as well as adhere to additional precautionary measures and regulations which will make services we deliver more expensive. This is going to push the entire supply chain to find solutions ensuring we integrate the high personal touch with technology to achieve a potential lower cost solution.
In some of our African markets it is challenging and risky to offer some lower cost solutions like Self Service type delivery, we are going to have to look for solutions that meet compliance, duty of care and considerations to create efficiencies. But not all is lost – if we look as a DSP at providing a virtual orientation video/tour while the assignee is in their home country – the client would be saving costs on flights, visa’s, accommodation costs and most important time! There certainly will be an upside if we combine the use of technology for certain services but not compromise on the suppliers like your DSP’s who you entrust your assignees care.
In Africa due to property ownership being poorly regulated offering the obvious solution such as the DIY or Self Service would expose the assignee to various risks and neglect of duty of care. In countries like Angola one may be required to pay rentals of up to a year upfront. As this is a poorly regulated property ownership environment, assignees may be using a broker who has no jurisdiction over the property that he has been paid for. These mistakes can be to the tune of $60 000. In order to achieve the balance of cost savings vs self-service in Africa these DIY programs are more complex than may be perceived. Our focus is to ensure we are addressing the clients heightened senses of the impact of VUCA to ensure a sense of comfort and certainty while on assignment.
We know that technology alone will not fulfil the revolutionary push to completely digitise the mobility industry as there are people involved, and we all know moving people is more complicated than moving boxes. Therefore, we are going to need to enhance processes and reduce admin time through technology and digitisation but ensure that we are conscious of the “Happiness” and “Humanness” of the assignee at all times.
We predict that with digital offerings, companies are going to need to offer additional support to the assignee through methods which will support their need to be comfortable and certain of their process so a need to have a consultant and/or a call centre available 24/7 and possibly build video support (5G is coming) to ensure each stage of their relocation is supported and a resource available that can be referred to, to give them the required comfort and certainty.
There are also many safety issues, as Africa being a predominantly developing region, there are more desperate people. We are needing to ensure our communication around security gives assignees comfort and security to move to Africa confidently. Of course, due to this pandemic, their health security will be top of mind for most assignees and it is our responsibility to ensure they are informed that there are indeed high levels of medical resources in many African Countries but we do need to ensure that their evacuation solution is appropriate.
In conclusion, no-one knows what the future holds, but we do know Africa, and we have nearly 30 years’ experience dealing with assignees moving into Africa, and the challenges that COVID has thrown up have forced us to evolve rapidly. We are pivoting our solution with new innovations like our virtual orientation tour, which we were already working on prior to COVID due to the Amazon request for the integrated program in 2018/19 which had seedlings of what is to be our virtual orientation programs. We are confident that with heightened levels of communication we will be able to ensure as smooth a transition for all assignees into Africa.
In our business we are generating a Virtual Orientation Tour which will be presented to clients in a video format which will give them from their home country or from their Quarantined Accommodation a view of the city they are relocating too, it will cover all aspects of a traditional Orientation ensuring it encapsulates the full experience. This will potentially assist clients who are considering talent to be relocated to either convince them to consider the assignment without a physical orientation tour. Look out for the launch in August 2020.
The impact on the customer experience would be to reduce duplicity through efficient digital integration and enhance experiences such as orientation tours virtually, however relocating an assignee to a new host location with a virtual orientation tour, virtual property tours and possible sight unseen scenarios of properties which will lead assignees to potentially be feeling even less comfortable and requiring more human interactions with the local ground team. We need to ensure we are providing Certainty in the new style of delivery and not only concerned about the costs, the assignee’s well-being should be at the forefront of any company’s mind.
With all the unknowns we are going to have to remain flexible and agile to ensure that we adapt to each unique circumstance as we have learned in the past month’s things change rapidly. Communication will be key; we need long sensitive feelers and hyper responsive capabilities at all levels of the organisation and process to ensure we act quickly and appropriately for some of these eventualities. Don’t let fear get the better of us. Learn as we go. And we need to be doing this together and collaboratively with all stakeholders.
Rene Stegmann’s bio
I am Rene Stegmann, I live just below Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. I am the owner of The Relocation Africa Group covering Immigration, Destination Services, International Payroll and Expense Management as well as Research on Housing and Cost of living Surveys across the continent of Africa of which there are 54 countries. We have been in business for 28 years and continue to expand and diversify on the continent of Africa with our main purpose being to Help our clients Embrace the Unknown.
I hold a Masters in Strategic Marketing and did my thesis on Expatriate Hurdles in Africa, I have recently completed a Cambridge Program in Sustainable Development in the Post Capitalist World, as I hold some of these strategic thrusts close to my heart and value and hope the world can achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals for our plant and our children’s sake. I am married to Andrew and have two children aged 18 and 15 and 2 fur Boxers.
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