This is a 2019 SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition (#SHRM19) interview is with TRC Global Mobility, a 100 percent employee-owned relocation management company. Below is a quick Q&A with Jerry Furnaro, the Vice President of Global Marketing.
Who is TRC Global Mobility!? Tell us everything, just as you would someone approaching your booth and asking you this question at SHRM ‘19 in Las Vegas.
TRC Global Mobility is a 100 percent employee-owned relocation management company. We work with companies of all sizes and industries, helping to place their employees where they can make their best contribution to the company. Our objective is to minimize the drama and stress that can surround relocation and help employees become settled and productive as soon as practical.
We’re based in Milwaukee, with offices in Connecticut, Kentucky, London and Shanghai. Working with local destination service partners, we can deliver an end-to-end relocation experience in 150 countries worldwide. Our organization is flat, informal and collaborative: our president answers his own phone and makes his own coffee.
Most relocation companies were created to feed leads to a parent real estate or household goods moving company. A big TRC difference is that we’re completely independent from any parent company, so we have no conflicts of interest. We aren’t obligated to use the same brand of real estate company, for example, so we can work with the best suppliers for each move, focusing only on our client’s needs.
As an independent, employee-owned company, TRC is exceptionally nimble and flexible. We’ll share industry best practices, but ultimately, we build a customized, end-to-end solution that meets each client’s unique needs.
TRC is 100 percent employee owned, which we find really interesting. What benefits do you think this has for your clients? What about your employees?
For our clients, it’s a level of commitment they won’t find elsewhere. We are not a nine to five organization. I describe TRC as a 32-year-old startup: we’re energetic, scrappy and passionate, but we also have more than a generation of relocation industry experience.
Psychologists rank relocation as one of life’s most stressful experiences—right up there with death and divorce. As owners, our employees routinely go the extra mile—sometimes to a heroic level—to dial down that stress and keep relocations on track. One of our Relocation Counselors talked an extremely stressed transferee off the ledge (not literally, but close). On the Counselor’s wedding day, while she was having her makeup done.
For our employees: they’re not just employees, they’re owners. They have a direct financial stake in the success of our company, so they’re very conscious of the level of service they provide and how that affects the company. They don’t have a management vs. employee mindset, where they clock in for eight hours but don’t think much about the company overall. They’re keenly interested in how the company is doing and they make informed suggestions on how to improve service and processes and reduce costs. The management team listens and we adopt many of these suggestions. TRC’s culture is to question the routine and test the new as a matter of course.
Let us in on the magic. What’s it like working at TRC? How has working at an employee-owned company differed from other roles you have held?
We’re fun! Our offices and culture are not stuffy and top-down, and many of our employees work remotely, at least part of the time. Our culture is collaborative and we genuinely care about our co-owners. We get together after hours all the time to wind down, share stories and sometimes throw axes!
The relocation business has distinct busy periods—particularly the summer—and the stress level at most relocation companies is palpable. At TRC, it’s just as busy, but we support one another so seamlessly that the burden somehow seems lighter. I’ve worked in this industry for over 20 years, at three different relocation companies before TRC, and the TRC culture is truly different and inviting.
What effect does employee ownership have on retention?
Employee ownership is a real differentiator within the relocation industry and even for employees who are coming to TRC from outside the industry. In a competitive market for talent, it helps us to attract, and then to retain, great employees.
Newer employees with a whole career ahead of them aren’t always invested in their first professional job. But we’ve had a different experience: these employees are not only staying with us, they’re advancing into more responsible positions as they’re ready. They like the culture and appreciate the chance to be part of something larger that they can help shape.
What are the biggest challenges companies face when moving their employees globally? How do they overcome those challenges?
Many employees would prefer not to move, unless it’s a compelling opportunity. It’s disruptive and expensive. Spouse or partner careers and children are often a big consideration, as is real estate. Yet even with the advancement of virtual work and the supporting technology, there are times when a company simply needs boots on the ground. Managing a plant or starting an operation abroad are examples.
Companies offer relocation benefits to help mitigate some of the personal and financial concerns and to persuade the employee to take on an assignment. Some companies are offering more flexible relocation packages, with a la carte options to meet the employee and family’s specific needs.
Global moves, not surprisingly, tend to attract more intrepid types who won’t be too put out if everything isn’t exactly the way it is at home. Millennials are often the first to raise their hands for these assignments. For these assignments, it’s critically important that companies select employees who have not only the technical competence but also the personal attributes needed for success. A failed international assignment can cost a company $1million!
Interestingly, once these employees complete a successful assignment, they often become “global nomads”, moving from place to place. To reduce costs, there’s been a trend to “localize” some of these employees and move them permanently to an international location.
Domestic moves are a little more straightforward: there are no immigration, language or spouse employment restrictions. Yet they can be just as disruptive, and companies still need to determine how much relocation support they need to offer to attract and retain the talent they need. Particularly in highly competitive talent markets like technology, companies can use relocation benefits as a competitive advantage.
For anyone who won’t be able to make it to the TRC booth in Las Vegas, what do you want them to know?
If you’re having difficulty in attracting the talent you need and you haven’t considered relocation before, now might be the time. You pay for relocation services only as you use them, and a competent relocation management company can manage the entire process for you, from developing a competitive program and policies to sourcing and selecting suppliers and working with your relocating employees.
Relocation is extremely difficult to manage in-house: there are multiple suppliers to source and manage and more compliance issues than you can imagine. By outsourcing the process, you benefit from the provider’s expertise, supply chain network, volume discounts and relocation technology. At TRC, we always enjoy the opportunity to help startups and other companies build a relocation program from the ground up.
Visit the TRC Global Mobility booth #2740 at #SHRM19!