Global Mobility: Why Looking at The Price Tag Is Not Always a Good Idea

Damien O'Farrell
6 min readMar 19, 2023

While it may seem like a provocative thing to say, looking at the price tag when relocating assignees may not always be the best idea. The main reason is that talent-density employees are extremely hard to find and to replace, so looking to save some money on their relocation may make them end up feeling undervalued valued and unsupported by the company, and in some cases, lead them to leave.

Recently, I was contacted in desperation by three HR managers in regarding three cases that had gone pear-shaped while relocating some of their colleagues to Italy. During our conversations, I probed as deeply as I could, and I discovered what I suspected before they confirmed it; they had gone with the cheapest option when purchasing immigration and destination services, which ended up costing them from every possible point of view imaginable. Picture dealing with irate assignees in the following three cases:

  • The vendor mishandled the importation of a car leaving the assignee unable to drive their vehicle.
  • A small group move was won by the vendor solely on price. However, given the labor-intensive nature of the non-EU immigration involved, service delivery was slow with chronic gaps in communication. No one was able to explain why the applications were not moving forward, thus leaving the assignees with a very bad taste in their mouths.
  • In another case, it would appear that the vendor was not able to handle the volume of work that they had, so properties got lost as well as very sought-after places in international schools. Needless to say, this left the assignees involved in the process very frustrated, weary, and angry.

Destination and immigration services by nature tend to be labor intensive, and this is especially true in certain markets. Just like a manufacturer of clothing may have to cut corners by moving production to a low-cost country, the same is true for a vendor that supplies destination services. In the case of global mobility services, in order to provide the service at a low price, a vendor may have no other choice but to try to reduce costs where possible, and this can include:

  • Hiring low-paid staff with limited experience.
  • Outsourcing the service to freelancers where monitoring the quality of service is challenging.
  • Taking on huge volumes of work to increase margins without sufficient staff.
  • Accepting commissions from realtors to increase earnings, thus possibly rendering the home search limited in terms of property choices.
  • Carrying out little or no vetting of third-party suppliers due to lack of resources.

For a successful relocation, I believe that the motto must be ‘Get it right, not make it right’. If you must keep repairing parts of the service delivery, the client will quickly lose faith, and it can be very challenging to restore their belief in you. The truth is, high touch, committed service comes at a cost. But let’s be honest, do we expect to find the finery of Hermès at H&M? The same is true of global mobility services. Excellent service delivery essentially refers to a committed and individualized service that provides clients with an exceptional client experience. Such services typically involve a high level of attention to detail, personalized interactions, and top-notch communication.

However, this means that the price you pay for high commitment regarding immigration and destination services will normally come with a heavier price tag, as they are designed to cater to the needs and requests of clients who understand that personalized services cannot be provided at a low fee if you want the best possible experience. These clients truly understand that such services can only be carried out if the people providing them are qualified, experienced, and, most of all, not overworked and stressed out. They also understand that it’s a small price to pay to keep their valuable assignees happy and content in the new destination, with no unpleasant distractions in service delivery keeping them from working well.

Cheap services may seem like a good deal at first, but they can end up costing you more money, time, and stress in the long run. One of the biggest drawbacks of using low-priced service providers is that they often lack the expertise, experience, and resources necessary to achieve high-quality results. This can lead to shoddy work, mistakes, and even compliance issues regarding immigration.

In addition, cheap services often do not offer the same level of customer support, communication, and accountability as more expensive vendors. They may be difficult to reach, unresponsive to your needs, or unwilling to take responsibility for any problems or complaints.

Ultimately, the decision to use low-fee global mobility services depends on your priorities, budget, and expectations. However, it’s important to weigh the potential risks and benefits carefully before making a choice and to do your research to find a provider who can assist your assignees in the best way possible, even if the fee is higher. This is often the price that needs to be paid for peace of mind, hassle-free immigration and relocation services, and the retention of valuable employees.

Five Reasons Why It’s Challenging to Replace Valuable Employees

In my opinion, trying to save on global mobility services for valuable and talent-density employees can have real additional costs. This is especially true if an employee decides to move on because they feel they were not supported enough during their move. If you believe that replacing such employees is not costly, I invite you to consider the following challenges that one can face when trying to replace valued and sought-after employees:

Unique Skills and Experience: Sought-after employees often possess unique skills and experience that are difficult to find in other candidates. They may have specialized knowledge, certifications, or experience that is in high demand in the industry, making them valuable to their employer.

Cultural Fit: Sought-after employees may have an established rapport and fit within the company culture that would be hard to replicate in a new hire. Their work style and personality may be closely aligned with the company values and goals, making them a valuable part of the team.

Relationships: Sought-after employees may have built strong relationships with clients, partners, and other stakeholders. Losing these relationships can have a negative impact on the company’s bottom line and reputation.

Time and Cost: Finding a suitable replacement for a sought-after employee can take time and cost resources. The hiring process may involve extensive searching, screening, interviewing, and training, which can be time-consuming and expensive. Additionally, companies may need to offer competitive compensation packages to attract top talent, which can further increase the cost of replacing a sought-after employee.

Risk of Losing Other Employees: Losing a sought-after employee can also lead to a domino effect, as other employees may become discouraged or feel undervalued if they see their colleagues leaving. This can lead to decreased morale, productivity, and increased turnover rates.

If you require any case-specific assistance, please feel free to contact me

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Damien O'Farrell

Global Mobility Specialist and Expat Coach with thirty plus years’ experience in providing high-touch immigration, relocation, & coaching services in Italy.