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Jessica Valentin, Johnson & Johnson

Up, up and away: J&J’s staff relocation programme

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With over 125,000 employees in more than 60 countries, international brand Johnson & Johnson (J&J) had approximately 1550 employees on a mix of assignments – including long and short term assignments, one way moves, and commuter assignments globally in 2016. On that note, APAC is hosting approximately 26% of the total assignee population.

Human Resources spoke to its head of talent mobility advisory services (Asia Pacific), Jessica M. Valentín in this exclusive. Read on as she reveals challenges, solutions and trends on staff relocation in the APAC region.

With such a huge workforce, J&J prides on having a variety of policies to accommodate to various business and employee scenarios. Valentin noted that J&J makes an effort to remain competitive with market practices. Seeing a shift in both internal and external workforce expectations, the firm believes in regular reviews of its mobility policies.

Top trends observed

On the topic of changing expectations, Valentin highlighted some of the biggest trends within the organisation – one of which is the increase in one-way moves.

Elaborating on its driving factor, she commented: “(The increase) is driven by a mix of self-initiations, employee willingness to localise, and the cost/benefit of having local-based colleagues run businesses in a respective market.”

Conversely, she noted a decrease in long-term assignments as another key trend – which could due to the increasing flexibility of work and the use of commuter assignments.

The other major trend Valentin brought forward is the renewed focus on ROI. With cost not being the only factor, J&J seeks to align its investments to the internal and external workforce. What that means for J&J is, ensuring it can cover skills or capability gaps in certain markets as well as provide developmental assignments for employees to obtain new skills in different geographies.

She said: “At J&J, I like to have the conversation a bit differently. Rather than discuss cost, we craft these conversations around investment.”

“Another way to consider this might be to what extent is this investment accelerating an individual’s career experience or helping achieve specific business outcomes,” she added.

With cost not being the only factor, J&J seeks to align its investments to the internal and external workforce.

When it boils down to dollars and cents

Regardless, cost is clearly a consideration when it comes to any business. When it comes to staff relocation, it extends to increased quality, speed to market, cost avoidance or innovation suddenly the conversation shifts.

“Now we are asking ourselves, did this investment (assignment) lead to an increased benefit either to the business or to the individual. It makes the cost conversation a broader conversation,” Valentine advised mobility professionals.

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The elements behind an expat package

For first-time mobility leaders, Valentin warns not to oversimplify implications on various social, economic, and geopolitical effect on mobility.

“The world changes fast – every day. Whether it is tax and legislation modifications, immigration changes, or global trends and surveys; the importance of these elements can shift day-to-day. Connecting these to the overall strategy is where mobility professionals might get stuck,” she said. Although the operation execution for mobility is crucial, she also mentioned that it should only be a chapter of a larger story.

With that said, Valentin reminds mobility professionals to always consider the assignee’s life stage when it comes to designing an expat package. For example, some assignees may come with partners, pets, elderlies.

Similarly, there are elements which can be removed or supplemented – and this allows you to consider high and low cost options while also considering individual assignee’s life stage.

She commented: “Designing an expat package that can relate 100% to all participants is almost impossible, but we hold ourselves accountable to respond.”

“Respond in a way that considers our colleague (and his or her family) so that they feel secure, informed, and welcomed before, during and after assignment,” Valentin further said.

Another factor to consider when designing an expat package would be to understand the employee’s motivation for the move.

Leading by example, the J&J mobility team forges an important relationship with its vendors and partners to respond to expatriates in light of the changes circumstances of life. With plans to do more voice of customer (VOC) in the coming year, J&J aims understand how the response impacts the expatriate experience.

Another factor to consider when designing an expat package would be to understand the employee’s motivation for the move.

Valentin advised: “Whether it’s to gain life experience or to set themselves apart from others in the industry, understanding this motivation helps to design competitive and attractive packages for current and future expatriate population.”

The road ahead

With the rise of remote work, urbanisation, and shifts in demographics; mobility professionals enter a stage where there will be a need to separate relocation from mobility.

“When we do this, we see that the conversation is no longer just about moving someone to a complete a task or project, but thinking about understanding the task/job/role at hand and what will be required to complete it,” said Valentin.

With that said, workforce planning becomes a critical element to understanding the future of mobility. She advises to take “the relocation out of the picture” so you are left with understanding the requirements, pre skills and experiences.

“When you have a clear view of that, it becomes clear whether the equations work well or and what needs to be done,” she said. In some cases, it could involve a relocation, but in others, it might involve leveraging learning & development to build skills or COEs in certain geographies.

In conclusion, she pointed out: “Mobility can bring jobs to people just as much as moving people to jobs – and that is the future.”

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