Selecting and outsourcing Mobility services

Just set the scene: Your management team have just announced that the global mobility and relocation functions will be outsourced along with general HR operations. They have made their decision based on the assumption that this will save money (although in reality savings are rarely achieved), and headcount. This is happening within a need to streamline HR operations following a merger, acquisition, company consolidation or as part of the strategic HR plan.

Whilst this may not be an easy decision to take on board initially, with the right mind-set and positive approach HR departments can ensure that this transition is a success for all stakeholders.

The below listed step-by-step tips will assist you to make outsourcing global mobility a big success, and ensure that you and your operational team can come out on top.

Involve yourself in the planning process

Have a clear project plan which incorporates the communications timeline, the resources and budget etc.  The sponsor, for what will be a large change management programme, is unlikely to have hands on operational global mobility or relocation knowledge, unlikely to be a subject matter expert, or be a service delivery expert.  You and your team have that invaluable knowledge and expertise and are the key resource that will make a success of this change.

In the planning process don’t just map the data, but map the people between the two organisations and engage both sides.  This will enable them to not only work together but to support each other as well throughout all the journey’s ups and downs.

Be ready for the knowledge transfer

Similar to an audit process, get your data and information up to date, clean and logically ordered as soon as you can.   However well documented the transferred information is,  be conscious that a vast amount of knowledge exists within the team, gained from experiences and situations that occur during your team’s day to day job,  and these will not necessarily be documented.  This information will be vital to share. 

The time it takes to complete the knowledge transfer is always longer than anticipated in the planning phase; so build this into the timetable!

Proactively support the initiative

It will happen with or without you.  It is always more rewarding to embrace the inevitable change than it is to resist it, whatever the outcome.  

Clarify the resources which you will need, to make changes happen and continue delivering day to day service excellence

Any management team which considers it possible to undertake a full outsourcing project, without extra resources, are heading for failure.  Resources are tight in all organisations, including service providers. Maintain good levels of service for your mobile workforce (expatriates, assignees, repatriations and those relocating) - you will still need to continue delivering your day job as well as work on the outsourcing project!

It is vital to bring in additional resources during this period. Only you will know whether they will be best suited to be tasked with the work required to achieve the outsourcing project, or to be involved in the day to day service delivery whilst your own team work on the project.  Preparation and knowledge transfer within the teams who work on either work stream also needs to be built into the plan with existing team members willing and available to be on hand to answer day to day questions.

Don’t under estimate the knowledge your own team will bring. They will come up with good suggestions that solve problems and dilemmas.

For large projects it is advisable to lead the team on a dedicated basis, delegating day to day tasks amongst your team members. Otherwise all too often the lead resource becomes overloaded with work, stress levels increase and clear thinking can become compromised.

Negotiate extra planning time before and after 'go-live'

At almost all stages there will be delays, as decisions will need to be made on a vast range of questions at each planning phase. It is important that the project policy decision maker who has the authority and knowledge to make quick decisions once presented with all the facts, is easily accessible throughout the process.  You and your team will be well placed to present the situation, the potential solutions and influence the best outcome with all the information available.

Be upfront with communication to your team, customers and current suppliers, where and when appropriate

People generally do not respond well to surprises and unannounced changes. Those directly involved in change processes cannot bear being left in the dark about what and when things will happen. Hold frequent meetings- even if there is nothing new to say, hold the meeting anyway and run through the achievements to date or why there are delays; involving everyone in the solutions. 

​Be linkedin to HR, for HR

Make sure you link into your own HR department and ensure they support you and your team throughout the journey you are about to embark on both before and after ‘go live’.


Outsourcing is an on-going journey which needs to be “worked” on by both the company and the appointed service provider. It is an ever evolving process on a daily basis. Different skill-sets may be required from the employees involved in the on-going services following the outsourcing process.  These may include decision making and influencing, supplier management, negotiation and communication skills and thus training for these new skills will be essential to ensure continued success. 


About the author: Clare Harrison
Clare has worked in the corporate global mobility and relocation industry for over 20 years; designing, supporting and delivering outsourcing projects from single supplier delivery to full range services. Clare has worked for HCR, UNILEVER and Willis, and currently advises on outsourcing at Collier HR Services.