Ten Tips for Achieving Better Collaboration Across Your Relocation Partner Network

Reaching optimal levels of information sharing and collaboration across all partners in the employee relocation process can yield many benefits, including positive employee experiences, strong program data and insights, and smooth, efficient processes for all. But how do arrive at that “kumbaya” state? We asked three global mobility specialists from very different industries for their advice, and here are the Top 10 Tips they had to share:

  1. Take the time to educate your partners about your company culture – the more they understand what you do, how you think, and why – the better they will be able to align with and support your goals. One contributor noted: “As the client, we own 90% of the tone of the onboarding process with our partners and how successful the outcome will be.”
  2. Where possible, host in-person visits to HQ or regional sites to help your partners truly absorb the atmosphere and how your employees work and interact with each other. Consider asking your partners to host such meetings, too, for the same reason.
  3. Appreciate – but don’t necessarily expect – partners to regularly go too far “above and beyond” what is within their contractual or service remit. All good partners, will, of course, do everything they can to deliver a positive experience. But the relationship is a two-way street, and you want your partners to be financially stable, viable businesses for the long term. Clients should clearly communicate to their partners that they should not feel obligated to provide extra services without a discussion around the impact to timeframes, policies, and costs.
  4. Invest in building equity in positive relationships BEFORE you need to draw on any dividends. Stressful or heightened situations are not the time to figure out how you work best together – make sure there is “money in the bank” for when you need it.
  5. Allow your partners to be human and understand that occasionally mistakes will be made. While a good partner will keep mishaps to a minimum, things can and do go awry, and it’s important to remember that you hired humans for a reason when they do.
  6. And speaking of mishaps…communicate frequently – and openly – about bumps in the road. If everyone on the team understands that, as one of our contributors puts it: “bad news doesn’t get better with time,” you can foster an atmosphere of early communication of challenges, ownership of mistakes and across-the-board collaboration to find the best solutions.  The more you all know, and the earlier you know it, the better equipped you are to arrive at successful resolutions.
  7. Share important milestones, updates, and meaningful experiences, too – staying in the know on the positive news is just as important as early notice when challenges arise.
  8. Involve all key stakeholders in the decision-making process.  Whether it’s at the RFP stage, or regular updates and performance reviews, having a good cross-section of departments present, including HR, operations, senior leadership, and procurement team members, who are listening and communicating with one another helps to foster better understanding and strong, lasting relationships.
  9. Invite your senior leadership team to share with your partners regular updates on company strategy, progress on goals, and roadmaps for the future.  The more they understand about where your company is going, and why, the better equipped they are to help you and your employees get there.
  10. And finally…but perhaps most importantly, stop calling them vendors or suppliers!  Words matter, and to achieve strong relationships, trust, and mutual respect, genuinely thinking of and referring to the companies you work with as important partners that are really an extension of your own team goes a very long way.

Would you like to learn more about how successful partner relationships can build a better experience for you and your team? Talk to an expert.

Sidebar: Creative Ideas for Successful Network Meetings

To make the most of the meeting time you have with your entire partner network, consider some innovative meeting agendas and team-building exercises. Two suggested examples:

  1. Involve transferees

By inviting transferees or assignees to talk about their relocation experience, your suppliers might realize that, for employees, it’s less about the policy and the compliance particulars, and more about successfully fulfilling the mission they are being sent to do. That was an eye-opening revelation for Merck, delivered via a global assignee who was focused on the noble task of researching and finding an Ebola vaccine. She made no mention of policy support specifics, and the teams realized it was up to them to communicate the key information and help employees comply with the necessary parameters and rules, but without having to focus on or think too much about them so they could concentrate on the bigger end game.

  1. Engage your partners in an empathy training exercise

Starting with the recognition that relocation is a major, life-changing event, and individuals will experience a range of emotions as they sever from one location and attach to another, the Delta Air Lines team believes that there is no better way to understand the reality of a person than by standing in their shoes. To that end, they convened their partner network to engage in a customized empathy mapping exercise.  With personas built on different roles within the company, unique assignee and family demographics, and varying origin and destination locations, the teams sat down to consider and discuss what each person might be thinking, feeling, hearing, and doing – along every step of the journey – and what they could do to make it a better, easier process. It not only helped everyone better understand the journey through transferees’ and family members’ eyes, but fostered greater empathy with other network partners, too, as they could truly see and understand how interdependent and connected their relationships are with each other in delivering a positive experience.

The above information was compiled during a Worldwide ERC® Spring 2021 educational session event – Partner Kumbaya: Building Strong Relationships. Moderated by Suddath’s Senior Vice President, Client Relations, Teela J. Gleason, CRP, GMS-T, we’d like to thank each of the three contributors:

  • Brett Lyons, CRP, GPHR, SHRM-SCP, Advisor, Relocation Programs, Chevron
  • Loko Mustapha, Senior Manager – Executive Compensation, Delta Air Lines
  • Heather Tuttle, Director, International Benefits, Merck/Organon