US mobility: where’s it heading?
Relocate Global explores hot topics in US global mobility with the chairman of the Worldwide ERC board.
See more features about global mobility in the US in the Autumn 2016 issue of Relocate magazine on our Digital Issues page.
More from our US mobility autumn series:
FM: US economic growth is weaker than expected for 2016, though recent press coverage indicates that the last quarter was promising. What does this mean for inbound relocation and domestic relocation, and for US companies seeking new markets overseas? Are employment and talent shortages an issue for Graebel and its clients? DC: Economic growth generally acts as a stimulus to relocation, domestically and overseas. When the economy is growing, companies are more focused on how to create new markets, capture market share, and innovate for growth, and are less focused on reducing spend across all categories, including mobility.At the same time, companies in search of growth need to tap new markets, so they can’t afford not to continue talent mobility programmes.What we’re seeing is companies trying to do more with less, to manage spend while getting the greatest return on investment. That means an increased focus on mobility policies and programme management, and more interest in best practices.FM: We know that the US is the single largest investor in the UK, and that many US companies regard the UK as the gateway to trading with other EU member states. How will the UK’s planned exit from the EU affect US businesses and the wider US economy? DC: It’s far too early to tell what impact Brexit will have. The UK and EU potentially have as much as two years of negotiation ahead of them as they decouple. And this disengagement isn’t happening in a vacuum – there are other dynamics at play within the EU. There could be further disruptions.Uncertainty tends to hinder corporate decisions on growth and investment strategy, as leaders take a wait-and-see attitude. There’s a lot of uncertainty in the world right now, with the US presidential election playing a destabilising role as well. At the same time, uncertainty and dynamic change, like Brexit, heightens the need for thoughtful talent management planning and strategy, with flexible mobility programmes that can be adjusted or redirected as circumstances evolve.The best substitute for a crystal ball is the ability to foresee a range of policy outcomes that impact mobility, and to have a game plan for each.FM: We would value your comments on the housing situation for inbound moves to the US, and for domestic moves. DC: A stronger dollar obviously makes inbound moves to the US more costly for companies in the UK and Europe, but they really don’t have any choice.Across virtually every industry sector, the US market simply is so huge that international companies cannot opt out, even in the face of less-favourable exchange rates. Currency-driven costs for mobility are a rounding error compared with the opportunity cost of a diminished presence in the world’s largest economy.For inbound moves to the US, the housing cost calculus is similar to currency impacts. Even if housing costs are on the rise in key US cities, the question is can you afford not to be here?Within the US, housing costs definitely impact investment and mobility decisions. I’ll give you two examples from Colorado, where Graebel is based. Charles Schwab has built a 47-acre campus in south suburban Denver that ultimately will employ 4,000 people – more than three times as many as its San Francisco headquarters, where housing costs are through the roof.Google is building a new campus in Boulder, with plans for up to 1,500 employees. Housing in Boulder is not cheap, but Boulder and nearby towns are much more affordable than Mountain View and surrounding communities in Silicon Valley.