Interconnectivity: augmenting your global mobility programme through API technology

‘How a business wins or loses is increasingly dependent on how well they connect to external party apps, devices and services.’
— (Fortune, 2015)

Through interconnectivity, all parties can share up-to-date and relevant data to contribute to the overall success of a global mobility programme. This is particularly helpful when trying to develop a coherent and all-encompassing global mobility strategy with multiple stakeholders across many office locations and time zones. Software which allows users to work from within an application which they are already familiar with and transfer relevant information quickly and easily (so it’s immediately available in the receiving application), will improve accuracy with relatively low implementation costs. Before now, this process was extremely complex and time-consuming to configure and set-up.   
Whilst systems ‘talking’ to one another has been done before, advances in technology means that system integrations utilising a ‘RESTful API’ are more efficient and cost-effective. For the tech-minded, RESTful APIs are an increasingly popular alternative to traditional web service protocols such as SOAP. Real-time two-way transfer of data between global mobility software and other internal and external applications will augment the core capabilities and efficiencies of the global mobility function. 
Below are some examples of how your global mobility software could be enhanced by a RESTful API:

Internal uses 

With integration between key HRIS and finance systems and the global mobility software core employee information such as demographic data, cost centres and payroll information as well as assignment details can be kept current and with intelligent workflow, global mobility teams can be prompted when these changes impact on assignments. 
Information held in talent management systems is increasingly important to empower global mobility in assignment selection and review discussions with the business. This is enhanced if data is held on employees who are willing to relocate, details of relevant skills, languages and working rights. 

External uses

By being connected with your vendors you can initiate and pass confidential data in a secure way. This can be particularly important when Personal Identifiable Information and compensation data is required by compliance vendors for tax and immigration. The two way flow means that global mobility teams can see the status of services managed such as the progress of tax return filings or how a home search is coming along.

Whilst businesses become more reliant on the ease and speed of information sharing, EY’s Global Mobility Effectiveness survey indicates that only 18% of Global Mobility teams have robust technology in place. For those who do have technology, this may be effective for managing assignments, however, it may not be API-ready and able to cope with integration; the key to future-proofing its usability in the workplace.      

3 Ways Machine Learning could optimise Global Mobility

Whilst on holiday last weekend, I relied exclusively on the knowledge of machines and people that I’d never met to make decisions on where I should eat and drink. Google Maps’ relatively new feature suggests top-rated places dependent on the time of day. So, at 1pm when I’m looking for somewhere to eat lunch, inexpensively and in the immediate vicinity, I am presented with a list of suitable eateries; all I have to do is select one. Google Maps then helpfully highlights this on my map for future reference and provides me with directions. Smart, useful and made possible with the power of Machine Learning.

So what is Machine Learning?

Machine learning (ML) - the ability for a machine to learn without explicit programming - is a long established concept that is seeing a surge in popularity and sophistication thanks to the development of new technologies (Forbes, 2016). Back in the 90s Amazon pioneered the ‘recommended for you’ feature and since then the ability to deliver key information at exactly the right moment has become extremely effective in providing better experiences and responses. ML, like in the examples above, could eventually help Global Mobility functions deliver more personalised experiences to those employees being selected for, or that are currently on, assignment.

3 future uses for ML in Global Mobility:

1. Identifying prospective assignees with similar attributes

Global Mobility software that communicates effectively with HR software could be key to supplying recommendations to the Global Mobility team. A comprehensive employee history could enable an intelligent system to suggest employees for assignment by comparing their data to existing and successful assignees or comparing a new opportunity with a former project and making candidate suggestions based on past successes.

For example, ML could identify candidate with the correct skills and documentation requirements. This could be particularly useful for organisations with Short Term Business Travellers or Commuter assignments where time is of the essence. Reducing the number of manual tasks for a Global Mobility team could alleviate pressure in these time bound situations and ensure that an employee is already fully compliant.

A significant advantage of ML is that these decisions are based on factual information rather than personal opinion. Without emotional involvement, machines and software can objectively view the suitability of each candidate without personal bias or preference. Although it makes sense for a human to make the ultimate decision, ML could help eliminate candidates that are immediately unsuitable, leaving the decision-maker with a list of only qualified candidates.

2. Recommendations from other employees who have been on a similar assignment (ratings etc.)

Like my experience with Google Maps at the weekend, providing information at the exact moment it’s needed could help Global Mobility teams deliver better experiences for employees on assignment. Collating relevant reviews and useful information from current and previous assignees on-demand could make the entire relocation process much easier. For example, ML could come to understand at which point in the process particular documentation is required and then provide an employee with the document in question, useful insights into how it should be completed and who it should be sent to.

3. Intelligent defaults

The auto-complete functionality that my devices use for addresses and payment details makes my online shopping experience much more efficient. In the future, the same could be said for Global Mobility technology. With a system that could identify patterns in behaviour, similar intelligent defaults could make putting a new case together much easier. Perhaps your organisation regularly sends employees to the same host location on the same policy type? A system which can auto-populate other fields based on this information could mean a case can be built in seconds.

In addition, intelligent defaults could help gather data in a meaningful and immediate way, which could help Global Mobility teams assess the productivity of an assignment and provide strategic business insights. Speedy access to easily digestible data could provide quantifiable and valid reports at board level, justifying costs and resources. Eventually ML could assist with demonstrating a clearer ROI by automatically interpreting this data into an easy-to-read format based on the most requested parameters, enabling teams to take corrective action or build on past successes.

There is no doubt that ML can be harnessed by the Global Mobility industry in a multitude of helpful and efficient ways. However, ML requires detailed data to perform effectively and, as we would expect, this data is often personal. Therefore, the product of the data privacy intrusion must be transparent and worth the sacrifice (Deloitte, 2017). Yet, if this exchange is fair and enhances our experiences we will (almost certainly) be willing to do so - exactly like I was happy to provide my location to Google.

Here are just three ways that ML could impact Global Mobility; how could it assist your team?

Evolving the workplace to the new workspace

Evolving attitudes to work and the work environment are facilitated by technology in the cloud which enables remote working without the traditional infrastructure of an office space. Technology enables businesses to collaborate across a range of locations and timezones and equally include candidates who may not be formally employed but have the skills that are required for a project.This has lead to the development of what is known as the ‘GIG’ economy.

You only have to mention ‘Uber’ or ‘Deliveroo’ to understand the scrutiny that the GIG economy has been under the last few years. Yet with 46% of HR professionals predicting 20% of  their workforce will be made up of self-employed or contractual workers (PwC, 2015) by 2022 the GIG economy is set to flourish. To flourish, however, employees will need to live in a intelligent mobile world, powered by technology.  

Flexible working is a major priority for Millennials and Generation Z who are likely to assess the suitability of a role against the possibility of a positive work/life balance. To achieve this in the future, research is suggesting that prospective employees will be in control of finding this balance; opting to perhaps have multiple ‘employers’ whilst working on a range of projects. 

International short-term assignment (STA) and short term business visitor (STBV) opportunities will work hand-in-hand with project-based employment; allowing organisations to ‘tap into’ the skills required for an agreed timeframe. Such levels of flexibility within the work environment call out for a robust form of technology that can handle easy deployment of resources (including assessing the workforce or prospective assignee for immigration and other suitabilities) and facilitate real-time tracking for compliance purposes. 

Collaborative technology that the assignee can utilise intuitively will give organisations the edge in the GIG economy when prospective employees are assessing competitive opportunities and assignments. Organisations with an intelligent tech infrastructure designed to make processes easier and more interactive will be far more favourable to the tech-savvy Millennials and Generation Z than older, less efficient practices.