Striking the Balance between Touch & Tech in Relocation Management

Technology changes everything. And that includes relocation management.

As is often the case, technology has divided the relocation management industry into two service models: pre-tech and post-tech. The traditional, pre-tech camp remains heavy on human interaction and manual labor. The modern, post-tech camp is digital and largely automated.

The question is: which approach better serves employees and employers—and will going forward? Better yet, is there best-of-both-worlds solution…and if so, where can you find it?


What a Long, Strange Trip it’s Been  

People have been relocating for work for hundreds of years—for exploration, colonization, trade etc., without the benefit of relocation assistance.

However, after the Industrial Revolution began in the late 1700’s, manufacturers started offering basic relocation assistance—housing and transportation—to incent workers to migrate from rural to urban areas.

Then, following World War II, the post-war economic boom led to the rise of corporate relocation as we know it today. This sparked the development of third-party relocation management companies, or RMCs.

For decades, RMCs managed relocation the same way. Today, traditional RMCs continue to use many of these same processes.


Pre-Tech: Traditional, High-touch Relocation Services     

Under the traditional relocation service model, people—specifically, relocation consultants/specialists—do most of the heavy lifting.

Here’s how it works: when an employee accepts a job offer or promotion with relocation benefits, the employer’s RMC assigns one of its relocation consultants to the case. That consultant helps the employee plan their relocation, connects them with providers (movers, realtors, etc.), explains their benefits, and keeps a running tally of expenses.

Communication largely takes place via phone call, video chat, email and other traditional methods. While it’s reassuring for employees to have access to a dedicated professional, the process is time-consuming and can involve a frustrating volume of back-and-forth (especially when working across different time zones).

In addition, employers may not always be current on the status of each relocation—not to mention their program spending—due to lags in recordkeeping and reporting.

As you’d expect, all this highly-personalized service is quite expensive—especially since most RMCs add commissions to every service they arrange.

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Post-Tech: Modern, Digital Relocation Services   

In 2011, the first relocation management software appeared on the market—a response to the growing complexity of relocation, the preferences of tech-savvy employees and skyrocketing costs.

Modern relocation software allows employees to plan and manage their entire move online, allowing them to:

  1. Get quotations and book the services of movers, realtors, lenders right from their portal
  2. Automatically track their benefits/expenses in real-time
  3. Get to know their soon-to-be city and employer

And relocation software benefits employers, too, by enabling them to:

  1. Oversee their program status and costs in real-time, via a program dashboard and reports
  2. Simplify document and tax management—electronically
  3. Dramatically cut costs, thanks to the cost-efficiencies of technology and automation

Furthermore, because tech-based relocation providers generally charge for software license fees (rather than tack-on commissions), it not only multiplies savings, but creates a savings-focused mindset.

However, some say that even the best technology can’t compensate for the human touch. What if an employee has questions or runs into trouble? Will this imperil their relocation experience?


Striking the Balance between Touch and Tech    

Fortunately for employers and employees, this isn’t an either/or choice. Some traditional RMCs are starting to incorporate more technology into their processes, while some tech-based providers are enhancing their software with limited access to live specialists.

Best of all, at UrbanBound, synthesizing touch and tech has always been our guiding principle.

We pioneered tech-based relocation in 2011—read our origin story!—and have always been the largest software-based relocation provider. Every relocating employee under our care receives their own personalized benefits portal, as well as a dedicated relocation specialist to guide them on their journey. Their employers enjoy similar support.    

Our software and services complement all types of relocation policies, from fully-covered executive plans to formerly unsupported lump sum disbursements—thanks to our UB Marketplace solution. In addition, our clients typically see savings of up to 66% when they switch from a traditional RMC, while employee satisfaction increases.

Keep in mind: as younger generations of employees increasingly receive relocation opportunities, the demand for tech-based relocation services will only continue to grow.

However, software will never replace the human touch—and at UrbanBound, it never will.

Human Resources Today