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Peggy Smith, President and CEO at Worldwide ERC

About this Episode

Peggy Smith

President and CEO at Worldwide ERC

Peggy Smith is one of the most well-known figures in the global mobility profession. She is the outgoing President and CEO at Worldwide ERC, a company which empowers mobile people through meaningful connection, unbiased information, inspired ideas and solutions and connects mobility professionals across the globe. It has been since 1964, shaping the future of a dynamic, innovative and growing mobility community. Smith is responsible for impacting the financial health and transparency of the organizations with which she works, and helping to expand the mobility community’s footprint in APAC, EMEA and LATAM regions.

In this in-depth interview, Peggy discusses why globalization is here to stay; shares her opinion that in five years time we're going to be working side-by-side with robots; discusses what pain points keep awake her corporate HR friends; and asserts the importance of employee experience.

Full Transcript


Brian Friedman: Hello, and welcome to The View From the Top, a podcast brought to you by Benivo. My name is Brian Friedman, and I'm the Strategy Director of Benivo, the world's leading welcome-as-a-service mobility tech company. Today's guest on The View From the Top is Peggy Smith, the President and CEO of Worldwide ERC. Now Worldwide ERC, and indeed Peggy Smith, probably need no, really no introduction at all. Founded over 55 years ago, ERC is undeniably the most influential trade group in the relocation services industry. It is based in Washington, D.C., but has offshoots in both Europe and Asia. What began as the employer relocation real estate advisory council, a U.S. domestic organization developed by a small number of individuals to address the growing needs of a nation moving its employees to increase productivity, has now evolved to become the premier trade association for talent management and global mobility knowledge. In 1964, there were just six members. Today, as Worldwide ERC, its network of professionals, partners, and stakeholders include nearly 1,600 corporations and some 10,000 service industry members across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Asia, and the Americas. ERC holds conferences in multiple locations globally, and its professional designations, GMS for global mobility professionals, and CRP, for U.S. domestic relocation professionals, are highly sought after within the industry. Peggy Smith holds a degree in marketing from Seattle University and began her career in that role at R.R. Donnelley, before moving into global mobility at Microsoft, where she was responsible for over 5,000 moves a year both domestically and globally. In 2010, Peggy took the top job at Worldwide ERC, where she is responsible for both setting their overall strategy in conjunction with the board of directors, and also overseeing day-to-day operations worldwide. So Peggy, welcome to The View From the Top, and many, many congratulations on your impressive achievements to date.

Peggy Smith: Terrific, Brian, and thank you. I'm so honored to participate in this series with you and with all your colleagues at Benivo, so delighted, delighted to spend some time.

Brian Friedman: Great, okay well let's dive straight into it. I've done a bit of an introduction about ERC and about you, Peggy, but just tell us a little bit about your current role. What's on the agenda at the moment, what's your day like, what's the staff in the organization like, what are the plans? Just tell us a little bit about ERC at the moment.

Peggy Smith: Yeah, absolutely. You know I always talk about stepping back to step forward and so in order to understand what the trade association environment is like and what Worldwide ERC is like you have to step back and say what is driving the broad economy, what's on the minds of CEOs. How is that filtering down into the HR business unit, and how then is that furthering penetrating across global mobility or mobility of the movement of talent, right? And so the trade association is part of that ecosystem that involves every element of global mobility. We just happen to sit in a place where we focus on advocacy in a variety of different areas, but when you ask what is going on there, you step back and say well what's happening in the war for talent, what's happening with talent scarcity, what are companies struggling with and how can the trade association help? And you know this, Brian, from your own personal journey. We're seeing tremendous opportunity and tremendous disruption and what a trade association can do in that environment is serve as a light house. So let me spend a few minutes talking about that disruption and that transformation. So we've watched business models go under massive change. We've watched the type of individual that is moving change. We're watching a younger generation come into the workforce that want different things than maybe my generation did. And so as a result of that, against the backdrop of largely historic unemployment levels, organizations are having to get creative. So the trade association cannot sit in that ecosystem without needing to undergo its own transformation. You can't be part of it and end up saying okay well we're gonna stay true to what we have felt and what delivered us to where we are. That doesn't work. So, about two years ago or so, we embarked on our own transformation, and we simply set a stake and a vision that we wanted to become a content engagement organization built on a world-class digital asset staff, and so that's the journey that we've been on as an organization. Here in the next 90 days, and at the end of our calendar year and for years to come we're gonna be able to see the richness of that investment deliver value back for our members as we've gone through our own transformation.

Brian Friedman: So does that mean you're becoming more digital or rather than face-to-face, or is that doing both, or? What's the balance between digital and real world?

Peggy Smith: Yeah, you know that's an excellent question, Brian. You know I believe it is both, and let me describe that to you. You know we're in the people business. Mobility is a people business, and so digital has a facet on that 'cause it can give you great insights, it can extend that in-person reach, but we don't intend to abandon that in-person reach. It's a viable component of what we do every day, in terms of the events that we plan, the live events that we plan. But where the digital assets help is extending that event so that we have sort of a pre-flight coming into something, and a post-flight and then carrying that throughout the year, so we're gonna pilot this year, you know more quarterly touchpoints that are digital, but with in some markets we would be doing an event say once a year or twice a year, but what we'd be able to do is continue through the digital environment by keeping them engaged. So, one of the dynamics that we have is we put in a community platform you can fill for technology, and that's a really robust digital environment for us, to steer the conversation particularly with or corporate friends and a safe area for them for talk among themselves, ask questions among themselves, and for us to help narrate the dialogue with them or sort of moderate the dialogue with them. So it is taking the best of digital and supplementing it with in-person and making sure we continue that dialogue throughout the year, so it's not just a running down or it's not purely just digital.

Brian Friedman: I think one of the things that's interesting, obviously there's various aspects to the relocation mobility profession, but some parts of it are very, very technical. So you know tax laws, immigration laws, are very much a question of right or wrong and compliance, but other parts are much softer and much more trend-driven, and what I think a lot of people in your community want, and certainly what I hear in the industry, is they want to know what everybody else is doing, you know there's no right or wrong answer. It's just what are others doing and what works for other people, and I think one thing that's interesting in all of this and I found it in my FEM days. I'm sure you find it with ERC. Is this feeling that almost one of the things that we're doing is sharing experiences between one organization and another, so that they can learn from each other in an area where there isn't necessarily a right or wrong answer.
Peggy Smith: Yeah you know you had a fantastic point there. We started, I piloted this past March and we carried it through a couple different venues what I would call, or what I do call it's not what I would call, a hackathon, and you might be familiar with that term from a software development environment.

Brian Friedman: Absolutely.

Peggy Smith: So I piloted this in March and I walked into a group of corporate professionals and asked them, can I try this pilot with this group. And so what we did it is exactly what you talked about, Brian. We sat around and we said, okay, we're gonna spend 10 minutes. I want everybody to throw up to us as moderators what your pain points were. And so you know it was everything. It was a whole, I mean we ended up with you know sheets and sheets of this and then we took, I think we had about two hours and then we had somebody make an elevator pitch for which of those specific pain points they wanted to tease out, and so you know whatever it might have been, cross-border movement, or extended business travel, whatever the topic was that they threw out the pitch, and then what we did was we had the room work the issue and what was amazing about this and one of the many things I love about our industry is that in that room were largely seasoned professionals and were, freshman that this was a first time and they were new and maybe they didn't have the network or they didn't understand and what became really fun to watch in front of my eyes was this natural sort of mentoring that had occurred. So the people that were more seasoned were like, hey, you know we've had that issue and this is what we did to solve it. And then likewise, even the seasoned professionals had challenges where you know they just needed a fresh set or somebody outside of their own environment to help them solve that. So we carried that down and we did it at our event in Atlanta in May and now what we've done, Brian, and you know just a few minutes ago we're talking about digital. Now we do that in our digital platform. So it's a quick way to sort of throw out pain points and get a collective group together to solve it and you know it is. It's a great use of people's skills. It's a great way for people to feel good about their contribution, and it's a great way for people to sort of get quick answers to dynamics or questions that they're facing in their day-to-day jobs.

Brian Friedman: And when you get, you get into conversations with people. I'm sure you must be having them every day. What are the main pain points that you're seeing at the moment?

Peggy Smith: Well you know it's really interesting. I think it used to be for years and years we'd sit and talk to our corporate HR friends and ask them what was their number one, what kept them awake at night so to speak, and it was a tremendous amount of cost pressure, and I don't want to suggest, Brian, that cost isn't as important today but it has definitely moved and so what you're hearing are two different things. Their number one pain point, no matter where you are, is compliance with the specialization in immigration. The immigration laws are changing so rapidly. Even here in the United States, right, But around the globe you're watching companies sort of choose between a protectionist approach to immigration or to sort of a more welcoming approach, and it's not a bias, we're simply stating that you know you're watching countries. Canada has a one million tech workers by 2020 initiative that they wanna bring in, but you have other countries that are saying no, we wanna go the opposite direction. So that's a pain point, but the other exciting thing though that you're talking about when I spend time in the field is around experience, employee experience. And this I think is one of those direct results of leadership that you know we talked about just a few minutes ago, where leadership is simply saying you know we've got global unemployment at historic lows, how can we attract and retain and keep sticky employees. We really need to focus on their experience with us. It's not necessarily about the compensation, it's not necessarily about the benefits. They're important, but what kind of experience are we giving them while they are here so they can do their best work while here. And so when I get out in the field, that's really what I hear is this sort of concern and diligence and hypersensitivity around cyber/immigration or compliance/immigration, but then this excitement around redefining the employee experience.

Brian Friedman: Okay, I mean you raised two subjects there. You raised the question of immigration and protectionism, and then you also raised employee experience, and I'd like to drill down on each in turn. Let me just start off with the first one, the question of immigration, and the way certainly that I see it and I look from afar at your country and I look much closer at my own country, and I look at other countries around the world, is we seem to be nearer in an era of rising populism and nationalism and one of the side effects of that of course, is a rising concern about immigration and clearly as people working in large organizations we want to have the flexibility, the freedom, to move our employees around, so we can get the right person in the right job at the right time, and hopefully as swiftly as possible. I'm sure most mobility professionals would say life would be a lot easier if there were no immigration laws whatsoever. They then put on their other hats as citizens, and they actually say well actually we do want to have some immigration protections. And there's this conflict almost between the global corporations that we're working for and the more nationalist countries of which we are citizens. How do you see that playing out? I mean I always used to think that globalization was just always, always continue and was one of those defining characteristics of human nature, that the world just globalizes. But now I'm seeing this other trend of nationalism and I'm just wondering how you see that panning out. Do you see globalization trumping nationalism? Or do you see nationalism in someways restrict, restraining globalization?

Peggy Smith: I think it's a really important subject Brian and topic that you are keeping out here. You know, from my perspective, the term we often would say is, the genie is out of the bottle. I think globalization is here to stay. And you don't have to look back too many years, you know eight, nine , ten years ago when we had here in the United States, what we would term, the great recession. But it was a global impact, it was absolutely felt globally. It wasn't one country it was a global, it was felt around the world. And in each country, your own and then over in Asia, they all went through their own renormalization if you will. Our's was triggered by U.S. housing crisis. Your's might have been triggered by something else and likewise over in Asia, right. But we were all effected. It was all so interconnected. I don't see anything at all, that would suggest that globalization is going to go away. And that's largely driven by this mindset, a borderless environment that we live in, and it's a mindset. So when you talk about youth for example, they want a global experience, they want to have the capabilities to go live in Brazil, or go live in Australia, or go live in London. Their education environment, everything they came up really sort of created that opportunity for them in their, sort of their academics as well as the way that they look at the world. And let's talk about the academics for one minute here Brian. It used to be when you would go to university when I was younger and went to university, it was not a common practice to study abroad. It was a specialization. Now, if you don't offer that as part of your routine curriculum, you're not going to get kids. They are not going to want to come. So globalization is here to stay. How we operate within that economically, I think we have to what are we going to do, obviously trade discussions and that sort of get disrupted when different leaders come into different countries etc, or security, those kinds of things. What I think has maybe occurred, is confusion or lack of clarity, or a sort of framework around well how can you have globalization to remain economically viable and have voter security? And I think we blend those two and I'm not sure that's the right approach. So, having border security and for the UK, any country, Germany, United State, Canada to know who crosses their border, that's an important thing for any country to have. But where I think you have to create the balance is, well we got to know who crosses the border, but we also need to remember that you are going to have to have this fluid movement of talent. And so, it's really hard I think and the devil is in the details to figure out well, where you can create that so that the best of both can operate in a country. And not be a fear approach or an approach that says we don't know who crosses our borders therefore, or we don't want anybody to cross our border, that kind of dynamic.

Brian Friedman: Yeah, and it raises the question of course, because the companies themselves are very, very global and dynamic so, especially if you take the more modern companies the Amazon, Netflix, Facebooks, whatever, Trip Advisors, Uber you know there is hundreds of them. And if you take those sorts of companies, they can be headquartered anywhere, they can have their operations anywhere. And they can create whatever structure they want. And that makes a major challenge for governments, especially even when it comes to things like tax collection or even in terms of controlling the people in their countries. Because, if they don't let the people come to the jobs, the jobs will go to where the people are. We are seeing this almost face-off now between the nation and the corporation.

Peggy Smith: Oh yeah, absolutely and it's funny. I don't know if you did this deliberately or not in you question there Brian, but the companies you named you know you named Amazon, Netflix, and Uber they are all largely platform businesses. Now Amazon to a larger degree but both Netflix and Uber for example is a platform business. They don't necessarily own cars, they put the supply of cars up against demand from people that want to travel, right. Or needed a quick way to not travel but get a ride somewhere, right. So for them, borderless, it makes a lot of sense, right 'cause they are a platform business. So you know you see it with the Airbnbs, you see it with a variety of different, I mean Netflix is another one. I mean, they are now generating their own content but, largely a platform business. So, I think when you begin to peel this back to your very point, you are absolutely right. I think companies that need the global population, that need the global access to talent, and want the global opportunities for growth, they are going to really have I think, a formidable impact on policy to ensure that they can remain economically viable as a company.

Brian Friedman: Got it, yeah I think we are pretty much on the same page. I want to just move on to the other thing you talked about, when we talked about the two big issues that you saw. And you talk about employee experience, and going back in the day I think people talked about customer experience and then we are seeing employee experience, and the assignee experience. What are you seeing the companies are doing to enhance it, what is the employee experience, you know obviously I'm quite biased because Benivo is an employee experience company and that's what we do, and you now we come under that in the debate. But just tell me a bit about your experience of experience. And what you think makes a good assignee experience and what you're seeing companies doing to enhance it.

Peggy Smith: Yeah, well I will step back and pull it away not necessarily from just pure assignees, you know I love this question, I love this discussion and so I see it pop up in a variety of different things and I'm going to start with, when they use Generation V, so those roughly 20-21 and under right now. They are getting ready to graduate in the next year or two and come into the workforce. Their perspective, and what they want from an employer, is completely different from what I wanted. They don't necessarily look at themselves as staying at that employer for much more than two to three, maybe four years max, right. So they are looking for an employer that has a larger purpose. That they feel as though, by them providing their skills to that employer, for whatever the length of time, again a shorter length of time, that they are giving back to the greater good. Now, the greater good could be climate, it could be sustainability, it could be something local, philanthropic. It could be something else. That is a really important part for them. So they are going to making an employment decision, when you talk about employee experience, based upon what can I feel good about my giveback while I'm here. So that's one aspect of it. Certainly, there is in the tech vertical for example, a lot of those companies really got started in many ways by being an extension of the college environment. So you will frequently hear, at the tech companies I'm talking about, about a campus. Google's campus, those kinds of sort of environments so they extend that. So what is their day like? We talked a little about what's the company like, what's the company's mission? Now, let's drill into what is my day like? What is my environment like here? Do I feel welcomed? Does it feel inviting? Do I feel that it's part of a community? So it's not just, we are here 8-to-5. And that's an important distinction because the day is blended now. So you hear so much about, it's not work-life balance it's work-life integration. I mean, I am connected all the time. I'm sure you are connected as well. Meaning, to my phone or you know whatever. You are always connected. And so what is that day environment like.

Brian Friedman: It gets addicted.

Peggy Smith: Yeah exactly, somebody is going to come up with an 11 step program for us. But within that, so now you take it even one step sort of further and you say okay, I'm always going to be connected. Now let's take this all the way down to then what are the suite of benefits, right, and so you'll hear is it competitive pay? 'Cause everybody wants to be paid competitively. Okay, that's fine. What's the benefits like that are traditional benefits? But then what I am hearing around employee experience Brian, is this set of benefits that are tailored to you. That you have some flexibility with. So for example, let's say that you are a single parent. So you might prefer a set of benefits that the company can offer that helps you with your childcare. Or helps you to find a nanny. Or let's say you don't have children and you have pets. Well you know, you maybe prefer to have something with pets. Or let's say you live in a part of the world that drivers are common. And so you might want a stipend in your compensation that gives you a driver. So that's really then saying, okay, what's the experience and how can I help with that. And then I'm going to add one really kind of fun thing that I think is a trend that is getting ready to take off. And that is, we are so connected as I mentioned a moment ago and I would assert that most of us, our business days start on Sunday afternoon or evening. Because, you're wanted, you watch your emails start to load up 'cause as people unwind their weekends and kind of get a jumpstart on Monday morning. So, you'll see, it's not a heavy thing. There's no reading, so you'll start to see it load up. By the time we get to Friday, we are done. We are cooked. You know, we are done. So, I had the privilege a few months ago of meeting an economist Dr. Marci Rossell, and we talked about this. And it didn't hit me until she said this. But if you study university, right, most universities really do not attend to children or youths excuse me, having classes on Fridays. So now you've got this youth that are going to be coming into the workforce as I mentioned. They are not used to going to classes on Fridays. They don't want to go to classes on Fridays. So you are starting to see companies offer, well you don't work on Fridays, or you only work until noon as a company. And some are piloting it with summer hours. Some are piloting it in different ways. So I share that because I think they are saying, we believe in work-life integration. We know that you are plugged in all the time. The employee experience I want to have you have, is to understand our company's mission, understand what our greater good is. Understand what the environment might be like for you to come and work in your physical environment. If you are coming into a physical environment. But then, understand the benefits that I can tailor to you. And then couple that with, you know what, we want you to get wellness of mind so we are not going to have office on, you know we don't need to work on Fridays. Or you work three hours, or things along those lines. So, this is just at its infancy, all of this, and think we are going to see some intense creativity come out from HR departments around the employee experience. I'm going to add one other thing Brian. And that is that I believe this is a space that mobility can play a huge impact to an organization. And that is largely driven from the fact that we know people want an experience. The day of coming into the employment world and saying oh I have to have a house, or a this, and I want all these acquisitions, no. If you interview youth, they want an experience. If you want to be an attractive employer, and keep that youth for whatever length of time. Where can you offer them an experience that is going to cross a border. Mobility has a huge role to play in this. And it doesn't have to be a long term assignment. It can be an extended business traveller trip. It can be something even smaller than that. But offer them that experience where they can cross a border and you're going to get the widening of the pipe for your talent to come there. Not everybody might be a fit, but I think it's one of the great things, and I think it's under tapped, that mobility doesn't stand up and champion more of that for the organization and make it a strategic lever to attracting talent rather than I need you to be here. Let me come to an environment where I can choose to go work there. I don't know if that makes sense, but Brian, in my voice I get super excited and passionate about the potential.

Brian Friedman: You and me both Peggy. I remember seeing a survey recently, I think it was in the UK. And I think it said something like, 80% of all new graduates want to work overseas, at some point in their career. There's that feeling that this generation of employees the idea of well as you were talking of earlier, staying in the same job for an entire career but staying in the same location for an entire career is very much last century, last millennium. But then the other question I think that we are seeing and certainly it's something we take on very much at Benivo is that we are looking at the generation who are, I'll call them the Trip Advisor generation, or the Amazon generation. And what I mean by that, is when they buy something, they go onto Amazon. They don't just look, in fact they probably don't pay that much attention to what the company says about its own product. What they are more interested in, are the user's reviews. What do other people say--

Peggy Smith: Yeah.

Brian Friedman: who have experienced that. And similarly, if they go on Trip Advisor to book a holiday they are looking to see what other people have said about wherever they are planning to go. And to me, when I look at mobility, I think most assignees have really only got one question they want to ask, well they want the answer to. Which is, what do people like me do? So if it's a question of I don't know, opening a local bank account, well my colleagues which bank account did they use?

Peggy Smith: Yes.

Brian Friedman: If I'm going to ask, what is the best way to commute to work? What is the sort of best accommodation for someone like me working for a company like this to get? And I think that's what we are starting to see and if we're doing that, I am sure others will be looking at it too. This whole question of enhancing the assignee experience so that it is hyper-personalized to their individual experience, in their company, at that time, at their level. Which is probably something that mobility hasn't done before. Certainly not if we go back five years, it was much more standardized. But I think these days, and that's going to be the challenge going forward. Is that I think we are going to see this demand on hyper-personalized information and assistance. And also, they want it now. They don't want to phone somebody, get a call back a few hours later. They want it online in bite sized chunks, the same way they would do it if they went onto Trip Advisor.

Peggy Smith: Yeah, you know you're absolutely I think spot on there, Brian. I think peer evaluation is, I don't know if that's the term that's out there in the industry, but I'd call it the peer evalutation. We rely far heavily around, you know, even if you look at movies. Rotten tomatoes, you don't know the person that went to see the movie but that rating has an importance to you, and you bring that in. So, I absolutely think that this is something that they will take a look at. And the digital platforms, allow that to occur. And it's funny, as you were sharing that, Brian it wasn't too many years ago, when we would talk about long term assignments, and the number one thing that people were always worried about, was what's going to be my job when my assignment ends? Do you know what? That doesn't get discussed any longer. That's not discussed, because they look at the assignment, almost like a one-way opportunity and they're not worried on the backside of that assignment of not finding employment because they're going to become more valuable by having crossed that border, learned a new culture, and done that. So, again it wasn't that long ago that that was a thing. Well, don't lose touch of your assignee, and your assignee would worry well what's going to be my job? You don't hear that conversation at all any longer. And the groups that are starting their employment, early into their employment, not just starting it, but let's say early into their employment. You know what they come ready with? A network. And that is the most powerful thing to them. They are networked, and the digital platforms allow them within their own little platforms, allow them to have that. And so, if something were to happen in their employment in that, either by choice or by not, they're plugged in. And unemployment being where it is, it doesn't raise a concern for them. And, it's really interesting times, sometimes.

Brian Friedman: It is a very interesting time and I think that comes onto, I'd like to ask you about our industry as a whole because I think nobody knows it better than you do. And we've seen a lot of mergers and acquisitions in the last couple of years. One company taking over another, for reasons of market dominance. And maybe an account has been struggling or maybe it's spreading the costs of the technology over a broader client base. But we are seeing quite a bit of consolidation in the industry. But, we are also seeing disrupters coming in, I can think of a few come in with new ways of doing it. Do you think, in overall terms, there's going to be further consolidation amongst the suppliers? Or, do you think that in fact, there's going to be well a lot of industries tend to consolidate down to a fairly small number of suppliers. Do you think we are going to see consolidation, and if so, is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Peggy Smith: So, I do. I think we are going to see further consolidation. And the way that I look at this, Brian, and you know this as well, I mean you're a seat on the executives too, and that is that you have to relieve the RMCs or the GMNs or however you want to call that layer there. But then underneath that, you've got various verticals. You've got household goods, you've got temp accommodations, you've got immigration, you know the list, right. What I think is happening is, and I'm going to date myself here a little bit with the Rubik's Cube, but I know that Rubik's Cube you have a lot of moving parts to get to solids on all sides, right. So what's happening I think in the verticals, is your own mini disruptions. So, you're seeing sort of mini disruptions, destination services, you're seeing it in temp accommodations, you're seeing it in household goods. And certainly here in the United States, in real estate. And what's happening with those that naturally have an impact on the broader, sort of, integration that has occurred. And to your very point, we watch companies do unique acquisitions or partnerships. So, we watched everything from Topia acquire acquisition of Polaris. We've watched the relationship between Deloitte and Berry Appleman. And that's just to name a few, I mean there are several out there, other examples. So, I do feel as though there's more to come. When an industry gets disrupted, it might start off as a small, sort of, one thing in one area. But now, I think we are full tilt into this within the mobility industry. We're completely in. You're seeing it in all various areas, and I think it will occur for a period of time. I think what will come out the backside of this, will be more platforms. You know again, think back to what we were talking about, Airbnb and uber. Not to name those companies, but just a platform approach to business. And I also think you are going to see a potential change in peaking around subscriptions. Now, I don't really yet know how I think about subscriptions and how it plays in our world. But here's what I do know, Brian. Subscription businesses are projected to grow 9 times greater than the Standard and Poor's 500. Okay, if you just told me five years ago, and I am going to be myopic on the U.S. for a second. That I would have fresh food delivered to my door weekly, right, through a Blue Apron or those kinds of things. We would have thought you're crazy. But the top five subscription models, Amazon, Blue Apron is another one, Birch Box which is like personal goods, Dollar Shave Club. Think about that for just a second. Shaving has been around for centuries, I suppose Brian, I don't know. (laughs) Yet, here they are, one of the top five subscription businesses? You know, that's crazy, if you step back and think about it. So, I do feel like there is more disruption to occur but ultimately, on the backside of it, I do think you get efficiencies and I think you get growth. But, as in any disruptive model, certainly there are casualties. I mean, we talked earlier about Netflix. Look what happened in that content environment. Blockbuster here in the United States, owned that space. Everybody went and they got their dvds and dah dah dah. Netflix came onto the scene with a really simple statement, no late fees. Now, look at them. They're a content powerhouse. So, in Blockbuster, what happened? They are no longer there. So, I do think we are, as an industry right in that center of the storm, or the eye of the storm in the hurricane, for that massive disruption with more to occur. And I don't think we should be afraid of it. I think we should, get in there, be excited about it, and look to the backside of it. I think those that are in denial about it, that's a troublesome or worrisome I think mindset to be in.

Brian Friedman: Yeah, I hear you and I agree with you there. Tell me, if we put your sort of dreamer hat on, or your sort of visionary hat on, and we go forward say 10 years. What do you think are the biggest changes we are going to see in the industry? What will the industry look like in 10 years time? And throw in anything you like there. Throw in platforms, throw in artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality, throw in demographics, politics. What do you think the industry will look like in 10 years time? (laughs)

Peggy Smith: Well, as an American in your first engagement with somebody, or your first interview, keep politics and religion out of it. So I'll be very delicate there. You know, what I would say that I see occurring, and you hit on a couple of these things. Artificial intelligence, automation, those kinds of dynamics. I see, and I don't know if it's 10 years out. I think it's going to happen much quicker than that. And this all ties back to some of our earlier conversation around unemployment levels and population replacement rates which we didn't really talk too much about. But, while there's 7 billion people in the world, there just aren't enough people to keep the next generation economically viable. Say, for the continent of Africa, right, where their population replacement rate is quite robust. But the rest of us, the rest of the developed world major countries within the European feeder, don't have that luxury. So, in order to remain economically viable, I think in five years time, Brian, we're going to be working side-by-side with robots. And, I think that's definitely going to occur, number one. And, number two, it think automation of routine tasks are just going to continue to accelerate. As technology gets more robust, and so that it's more economical, and you are going to see that take over as well in a big way. You know, I also think that, I'm very bullish around mobility. I think you're going to see a lot more people moving for their job opportunities, and it may not be the traditional move that we are experiencing today. But, as we noted earlier, the genie is out of the bottle. So, I think mobility is going to be very healthy. We are at, what I consider, almost the pinnacle of what I call the work-everywhere-work-anywhere revolution. This is now the internet of things. You know, revolution they went through industrial and technology, and now the IoT is sort of here. So, I believe we are going to add a subset of that, or maybe its own revolution, is this work-anywhere-work-everywhere revolution. And, there's nothing I see economically on the horizon that will change that. Now, because you asked me a little bit about politics, I will throw a little bit of a cloud cover over this. And that is to suggest, that politics will change. Depending on who gets elected, and what different countries choose to do. So, I think that could have an impact. Everything that I'm sharing with you, all sort of goes against, we've had really robust growth, economically, globally for a protracted period of time. We might see some headwinds in the not too distant future. That might slow that down. I'm not, by no means, I'm not an economist, I'm not suggesting recessions are around the corner. I'm simply saying, look, every good run up, does have a downturn. So that I think, we are probably going to be closer to that downturn. 'Cause we've had a number of good years of good growth. So just the economic environment to me suggests, that could change. Here's one other thing though. And I think this is a little bit of a darker cloud. And that is, cybersecurity. So, that is not going to go away. Economies will ebb and flow. Leaders will be voted in, voted out. You know that will change. Two things I know, that I believe will stay the same. And that is, unemployment will remain low. There aren't enough people for the jobs so we are going to be working next to robots that will have a lot of intelligence. But our job, I think, will be more strategic into an organization. And then, throw over that, cybersecurity. That's not going to go away, it doesn't matter who is in power in any country or what the economic world is. Cybersecurity is a daily threat. And the more information we give into a digital platform, the richer that is for somebody to go and figure out how to go and steal that, and violate that. And you can pick up a trade rag nearly daily, and see where there's another breach of something. It doesn't really matter what it is. No country, no company I think, is immune from that. So that's what I see after on the horizon. But fun, we're going to have fun Brian. We're going to have fun.

Brian Friedman: That sounds good. So, we are nearly out of time but I just wanted to ask you one last question. A bit more about you and your personal experience, Peggy. The question is this. Who inspired you in your career, when you set out or you must have met so many people as you were working through the profession. And as part of that, what lessons did they teach you? And what lessons would you pass onto people coming into global mobility today? It's a big question.

Peggy Smith: It's a big question. It will only take another hour here, no I promise I won't. It's a great question and I might start maybe on the backside of that, as what I would advise people coming in. And, either new into their career, new into their profession and I don't know that this is terribly different from people that are in it. So let me play that through a bit here. I believe in lifelong learning. I believe in putting yourself in an environment where you can learn. Now, in doing that, I think 1) you need to find your voice and you need to not be afraid to ask. And I don't think the people that come in, are inhibited by that. I also feel like you need to have a network of people. And what I created, is people that I never really named formal mentors. I'm somebody that doesn't, I don't have too much structure around that. But I have a tremendous amount of informal mentors who they may not know they are mentoring me, but they are. So what I looked for, and I would encourage people to look for this, is you have to find somebody, sometimes it's a celebrity, sometimes it's an individual, who speaks to you and your persona. So for example, it's somebody that you might admire because of how they deliver a presentation. You might admire because of how they think deliberately. You might admire for what they have accomplished. You might admire for whatever that is that speaks to you. So within that construct, Brian, I tried to create this virtual set of mentors. And so I'm like wow, you know what? I really like how that person stands up and delivers a speech. So I'm going to study everything I can about that person. I'm going to try to emulate them, I'm going to research them, 'cause that's what I want to be. That's my aspire to state and that environment. This person I really like for this reason, and this person I really like for that reason. So, to me it's that combination, and it's saying be a lifelong learner. Don't be afraid to ask the questions, and then create that network of mentors. That again, they don't have to all be named. And a lot of us, Brian, another pivot on this. A lot of us get called into meetings. I've been in meetings, even in my current role, and in my prior roles, where you're sitting around the table going oh my gosh, why do I need to be here? When we are talking about how paint dries, right. And when I got caught in those moments, what I tended to do was to say, what is one thing I can take out of this meeting? And it may not have anything to do with paint drying, but it might be watching somebody influence resources that they didn't control. Or it might be watching somebody craft an argument to win over a point, so to speak. And so it was always searching for what I could walk away with, and take back and improve upon myself about. So, lifelong learning, key. Building a network of trusted mentors is key. And I think that goes anywhere you go.

Brian Friedman: Okay, thank you very much Peggy. It's been absolutely fascinating and a delight to have you on the podcast. So I am sure I am speaking for all the listeners as well. Thank you very much for giving us your time and being on The View From The Top. Thank you Peggy.

Peggy Smith: Thank you Brian, I have appreciated the opportunity and I look forward to seeing you out in the field in the not too distant future.

Brian Friedman: Absolutely, I'll see you in Boston later on this year at your annual convention. And thank you to all our listeners for tuning into The View From The Top. A podcast brought to you by Benivo. We look forward to catching up again, with another guest, this time next week.

Episode Host

Brian Friedman Headshot

Brian Friedman

Strategy Director, Benivo

Special Guest

Peggy Smith Headshot

Peggy Smith

President and CEO at Worldwide ERC

Episode Details

October 10, 2019

43 minutes

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Transcript

Full Transcript


Brian Friedman: Hello, and welcome to The View From the Top, a podcast brought to you by Benivo. My name is Brian Friedman, and I'm the Strategy Director of Benivo, the world's leading welcome-as-a-service mobility tech company. Today's guest on The View From the Top is Peggy Smith, the President and CEO of Worldwide ERC. Now Worldwide ERC, and indeed Peggy Smith, probably need no, really no introduction at all. Founded over 55 years ago, ERC is undeniably the most influential trade group in the relocation services industry. It is based in Washington, D.C., but has offshoots in both Europe and Asia. What began as the employer relocation real estate advisory council, a U.S. domestic organization developed by a small number of individuals to address the growing needs of a nation moving its employees to increase productivity, has now evolved to become the premier trade association for talent management and global mobility knowledge. In 1964, there were just six members. Today, as Worldwide ERC, its network of professionals, partners, and stakeholders include nearly 1,600 corporations and some 10,000 service industry members across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Asia, and the Americas. ERC holds conferences in multiple locations globally, and its professional designations, GMS for global mobility professionals, and CRP, for U.S. domestic relocation professionals, are highly sought after within the industry. Peggy Smith holds a degree in marketing from Seattle University and began her career in that role at R.R. Donnelley, before moving into global mobility at Microsoft, where she was responsible for over 5,000 moves a year both domestically and globally. In 2010, Peggy took the top job at Worldwide ERC, where she is responsible for both setting their overall strategy in conjunction with the board of directors, and also overseeing day-to-day operations worldwide. So Peggy, welcome to The View From the Top, and many, many congratulations on your impressive achievements to date.

Peggy Smith: Terrific, Brian, and thank you. I'm so honored to participate in this series with you and with all your colleagues at Benivo, so delighted, delighted to spend some time.

Brian Friedman: Great, okay well let's dive straight into it. I've done a bit of an introduction about ERC and about you, Peggy, but just tell us a little bit about your current role. What's on the agenda at the moment, what's your day like, what's the staff in the organization like, what are the plans? Just tell us a little bit about ERC at the moment.

Peggy Smith: Yeah, absolutely. You know I always talk about stepping back to step forward and so in order to understand what the trade association environment is like and what Worldwide ERC is like you have to step back and say what is driving the broad economy, what's on the minds of CEOs. How is that filtering down into the HR business unit, and how then is that furthering penetrating across global mobility or mobility of the movement of talent, right? And so the trade association is part of that ecosystem that involves every element of global mobility. We just happen to sit in a place where we focus on advocacy in a variety of different areas, but when you ask what is going on there, you step back and say well what's happening in the war for talent, what's happening with talent scarcity, what are companies struggling with and how can the trade association help? And you know this, Brian, from your own personal journey. We're seeing tremendous opportunity and tremendous disruption and what a trade association can do in that environment is serve as a light house. So let me spend a few minutes talking about that disruption and that transformation. So we've watched business models go under massive change. We've watched the type of individual that is moving change. We're watching a younger generation come into the workforce that want different things than maybe my generation did. And so as a result of that, against the backdrop of largely historic unemployment levels, organizations are having to get creative. So the trade association cannot sit in that ecosystem without needing to undergo its own transformation. You can't be part of it and end up saying okay well we're gonna stay true to what we have felt and what delivered us to where we are. That doesn't work. So, about two years ago or so, we embarked on our own transformation, and we simply set a stake and a vision that we wanted to become a content engagement organization built on a world-class digital asset staff, and so that's the journey that we've been on as an organization. Here in the next 90 days, and at the end of our calendar year and for years to come we're gonna be able to see the richness of that investment deliver value back for our members as we've gone through our own transformation.

Brian Friedman: So does that mean you're becoming more digital or rather than face-to-face, or is that doing both, or? What's the balance between digital and real world?

Peggy Smith: Yeah, you know that's an excellent question, Brian. You know I believe it is both, and let me describe that to you. You know we're in the people business. Mobility is a people business, and so digital has a facet on that 'cause it can give you great insights, it can extend that in-person reach, but we don't intend to abandon that in-person reach. It's a viable component of what we do every day, in terms of the events that we plan, the live events that we plan. But where the digital assets help is extending that event so that we have sort of a pre-flight coming into something, and a post-flight and then carrying that throughout the year, so we're gonna pilot this year, you know more quarterly touchpoints that are digital, but with in some markets we would be doing an event say once a year or twice a year, but what we'd be able to do is continue through the digital environment by keeping them engaged. So, one of the dynamics that we have is we put in a community platform you can fill for technology, and that's a really robust digital environment for us, to steer the conversation particularly with or corporate friends and a safe area for them for talk among themselves, ask questions among themselves, and for us to help narrate the dialogue with them or sort of moderate the dialogue with them. So it is taking the best of digital and supplementing it with in-person and making sure we continue that dialogue throughout the year, so it's not just a running down or it's not purely just digital.

Brian Friedman: I think one of the things that's interesting, obviously there's various aspects to the relocation mobility profession, but some parts of it are very, very technical. So you know tax laws, immigration laws, are very much a question of right or wrong and compliance, but other parts are much softer and much more trend-driven, and what I think a lot of people in your community want, and certainly what I hear in the industry, is they want to know what everybody else is doing, you know there's no right or wrong answer. It's just what are others doing and what works for other people, and I think one thing that's interesting in all of this and I found it in my FEM days. I'm sure you find it with ERC. Is this feeling that almost one of the things that we're doing is sharing experiences between one organization and another, so that they can learn from each other in an area where there isn't necessarily a right or wrong answer.
Peggy Smith: Yeah you know you had a fantastic point there. We started, I piloted this past March and we carried it through a couple different venues what I would call, or what I do call it's not what I would call, a hackathon, and you might be familiar with that term from a software development environment.

Brian Friedman: Absolutely.

Peggy Smith: So I piloted this in March and I walked into a group of corporate professionals and asked them, can I try this pilot with this group. And so what we did it is exactly what you talked about, Brian. We sat around and we said, okay, we're gonna spend 10 minutes. I want everybody to throw up to us as moderators what your pain points were. And so you know it was everything. It was a whole, I mean we ended up with you know sheets and sheets of this and then we took, I think we had about two hours and then we had somebody make an elevator pitch for which of those specific pain points they wanted to tease out, and so you know whatever it might have been, cross-border movement, or extended business travel, whatever the topic was that they threw out the pitch, and then what we did was we had the room work the issue and what was amazing about this and one of the many things I love about our industry is that in that room were largely seasoned professionals and were, freshman that this was a first time and they were new and maybe they didn't have the network or they didn't understand and what became really fun to watch in front of my eyes was this natural sort of mentoring that had occurred. So the people that were more seasoned were like, hey, you know we've had that issue and this is what we did to solve it. And then likewise, even the seasoned professionals had challenges where you know they just needed a fresh set or somebody outside of their own environment to help them solve that. So we carried that down and we did it at our event in Atlanta in May and now what we've done, Brian, and you know just a few minutes ago we're talking about digital. Now we do that in our digital platform. So it's a quick way to sort of throw out pain points and get a collective group together to solve it and you know it is. It's a great use of people's skills. It's a great way for people to feel good about their contribution, and it's a great way for people to sort of get quick answers to dynamics or questions that they're facing in their day-to-day jobs.

Brian Friedman: And when you get, you get into conversations with people. I'm sure you must be having them every day. What are the main pain points that you're seeing at the moment?

Peggy Smith: Well you know it's really interesting. I think it used to be for years and years we'd sit and talk to our corporate HR friends and ask them what was their number one, what kept them awake at night so to speak, and it was a tremendous amount of cost pressure, and I don't want to suggest, Brian, that cost isn't as important today but it has definitely moved and so what you're hearing are two different things. Their number one pain point, no matter where you are, is compliance with the specialization in immigration. The immigration laws are changing so rapidly. Even here in the United States, right, But around the globe you're watching companies sort of choose between a protectionist approach to immigration or to sort of a more welcoming approach, and it's not a bias, we're simply stating that you know you're watching countries. Canada has a one million tech workers by 2020 initiative that they wanna bring in, but you have other countries that are saying no, we wanna go the opposite direction. So that's a pain point, but the other exciting thing though that you're talking about when I spend time in the field is around experience, employee experience. And this I think is one of those direct results of leadership that you know we talked about just a few minutes ago, where leadership is simply saying you know we've got global unemployment at historic lows, how can we attract and retain and keep sticky employees. We really need to focus on their experience with us. It's not necessarily about the compensation, it's not necessarily about the benefits. They're important, but what kind of experience are we giving them while they are here so they can do their best work while here. And so when I get out in the field, that's really what I hear is this sort of concern and diligence and hypersensitivity around cyber/immigration or compliance/immigration, but then this excitement around redefining the employee experience.

Brian Friedman: Okay, I mean you raised two subjects there. You raised the question of immigration and protectionism, and then you also raised employee experience, and I'd like to drill down on each in turn. Let me just start off with the first one, the question of immigration, and the way certainly that I see it and I look from afar at your country and I look much closer at my own country, and I look at other countries around the world, is we seem to be nearer in an era of rising populism and nationalism and one of the side effects of that of course, is a rising concern about immigration and clearly as people working in large organizations we want to have the flexibility, the freedom, to move our employees around, so we can get the right person in the right job at the right time, and hopefully as swiftly as possible. I'm sure most mobility professionals would say life would be a lot easier if there were no immigration laws whatsoever. They then put on their other hats as citizens, and they actually say well actually we do want to have some immigration protections. And there's this conflict almost between the global corporations that we're working for and the more nationalist countries of which we are citizens. How do you see that playing out? I mean I always used to think that globalization was just always, always continue and was one of those defining characteristics of human nature, that the world just globalizes. But now I'm seeing this other trend of nationalism and I'm just wondering how you see that panning out. Do you see globalization trumping nationalism? Or do you see nationalism in someways restrict, restraining globalization?

Peggy Smith: I think it's a really important subject Brian and topic that you are keeping out here. You know, from my perspective, the term we often would say is, the genie is out of the bottle. I think globalization is here to stay. And you don't have to look back too many years, you know eight, nine , ten years ago when we had here in the United States, what we would term, the great recession. But it was a global impact, it was absolutely felt globally. It wasn't one country it was a global, it was felt around the world. And in each country, your own and then over in Asia, they all went through their own renormalization if you will. Our's was triggered by U.S. housing crisis. Your's might have been triggered by something else and likewise over in Asia, right. But we were all effected. It was all so interconnected. I don't see anything at all, that would suggest that globalization is going to go away. And that's largely driven by this mindset, a borderless environment that we live in, and it's a mindset. So when you talk about youth for example, they want a global experience, they want to have the capabilities to go live in Brazil, or go live in Australia, or go live in London. Their education environment, everything they came up really sort of created that opportunity for them in their, sort of their academics as well as the way that they look at the world. And let's talk about the academics for one minute here Brian. It used to be when you would go to university when I was younger and went to university, it was not a common practice to study abroad. It was a specialization. Now, if you don't offer that as part of your routine curriculum, you're not going to get kids. They are not going to want to come. So globalization is here to stay. How we operate within that economically, I think we have to what are we going to do, obviously trade discussions and that sort of get disrupted when different leaders come into different countries etc, or security, those kinds of things. What I think has maybe occurred, is confusion or lack of clarity, or a sort of framework around well how can you have globalization to remain economically viable and have voter security? And I think we blend those two and I'm not sure that's the right approach. So, having border security and for the UK, any country, Germany, United State, Canada to know who crosses their border, that's an important thing for any country to have. But where I think you have to create the balance is, well we got to know who crosses the border, but we also need to remember that you are going to have to have this fluid movement of talent. And so, it's really hard I think and the devil is in the details to figure out well, where you can create that so that the best of both can operate in a country. And not be a fear approach or an approach that says we don't know who crosses our borders therefore, or we don't want anybody to cross our border, that kind of dynamic.

Brian Friedman: Yeah, and it raises the question of course, because the companies themselves are very, very global and dynamic so, especially if you take the more modern companies the Amazon, Netflix, Facebooks, whatever, Trip Advisors, Uber you know there is hundreds of them. And if you take those sorts of companies, they can be headquartered anywhere, they can have their operations anywhere. And they can create whatever structure they want. And that makes a major challenge for governments, especially even when it comes to things like tax collection or even in terms of controlling the people in their countries. Because, if they don't let the people come to the jobs, the jobs will go to where the people are. We are seeing this almost face-off now between the nation and the corporation.

Peggy Smith: Oh yeah, absolutely and it's funny. I don't know if you did this deliberately or not in you question there Brian, but the companies you named you know you named Amazon, Netflix, and Uber they are all largely platform businesses. Now Amazon to a larger degree but both Netflix and Uber for example is a platform business. They don't necessarily own cars, they put the supply of cars up against demand from people that want to travel, right. Or needed a quick way to not travel but get a ride somewhere, right. So for them, borderless, it makes a lot of sense, right 'cause they are a platform business. So you know you see it with the Airbnbs, you see it with a variety of different, I mean Netflix is another one. I mean, they are now generating their own content but, largely a platform business. So, I think when you begin to peel this back to your very point, you are absolutely right. I think companies that need the global population, that need the global access to talent, and want the global opportunities for growth, they are going to really have I think, a formidable impact on policy to ensure that they can remain economically viable as a company.

Brian Friedman: Got it, yeah I think we are pretty much on the same page. I want to just move on to the other thing you talked about, when we talked about the two big issues that you saw. And you talk about employee experience, and going back in the day I think people talked about customer experience and then we are seeing employee experience, and the assignee experience. What are you seeing the companies are doing to enhance it, what is the employee experience, you know obviously I'm quite biased because Benivo is an employee experience company and that's what we do, and you now we come under that in the debate. But just tell me a bit about your experience of experience. And what you think makes a good assignee experience and what you're seeing companies doing to enhance it.

Peggy Smith: Yeah, well I will step back and pull it away not necessarily from just pure assignees, you know I love this question, I love this discussion and so I see it pop up in a variety of different things and I'm going to start with, when they use Generation V, so those roughly 20-21 and under right now. They are getting ready to graduate in the next year or two and come into the workforce. Their perspective, and what they want from an employer, is completely different from what I wanted. They don't necessarily look at themselves as staying at that employer for much more than two to three, maybe four years max, right. So they are looking for an employer that has a larger purpose. That they feel as though, by them providing their skills to that employer, for whatever the length of time, again a shorter length of time, that they are giving back to the greater good. Now, the greater good could be climate, it could be sustainability, it could be something local, philanthropic. It could be something else. That is a really important part for them. So they are going to making an employment decision, when you talk about employee experience, based upon what can I feel good about my giveback while I'm here. So that's one aspect of it. Certainly, there is in the tech vertical for example, a lot of those companies really got started in many ways by being an extension of the college environment. So you will frequently hear, at the tech companies I'm talking about, about a campus. Google's campus, those kinds of sort of environments so they extend that. So what is their day like? We talked a little about what's the company like, what's the company's mission? Now, let's drill into what is my day like? What is my environment like here? Do I feel welcomed? Does it feel inviting? Do I feel that it's part of a community? So it's not just, we are here 8-to-5. And that's an important distinction because the day is blended now. So you hear so much about, it's not work-life balance it's work-life integration. I mean, I am connected all the time. I'm sure you are connected as well. Meaning, to my phone or you know whatever. You are always connected. And so what is that day environment like.

Brian Friedman: It gets addicted.

Peggy Smith: Yeah exactly, somebody is going to come up with an 11 step program for us. But within that, so now you take it even one step sort of further and you say okay, I'm always going to be connected. Now let's take this all the way down to then what are the suite of benefits, right, and so you'll hear is it competitive pay? 'Cause everybody wants to be paid competitively. Okay, that's fine. What's the benefits like that are traditional benefits? But then what I am hearing around employee experience Brian, is this set of benefits that are tailored to you. That you have some flexibility with. So for example, let's say that you are a single parent. So you might prefer a set of benefits that the company can offer that helps you with your childcare. Or helps you to find a nanny. Or let's say you don't have children and you have pets. Well you know, you maybe prefer to have something with pets. Or let's say you live in a part of the world that drivers are common. And so you might want a stipend in your compensation that gives you a driver. So that's really then saying, okay, what's the experience and how can I help with that. And then I'm going to add one really kind of fun thing that I think is a trend that is getting ready to take off. And that is, we are so connected as I mentioned a moment ago and I would assert that most of us, our business days start on Sunday afternoon or evening. Because, you're wanted, you watch your emails start to load up 'cause as people unwind their weekends and kind of get a jumpstart on Monday morning. So, you'll see, it's not a heavy thing. There's no reading, so you'll start to see it load up. By the time we get to Friday, we are done. We are cooked. You know, we are done. So, I had the privilege a few months ago of meeting an economist Dr. Marci Rossell, and we talked about this. And it didn't hit me until she said this. But if you study university, right, most universities really do not attend to children or youths excuse me, having classes on Fridays. So now you've got this youth that are going to be coming into the workforce as I mentioned. They are not used to going to classes on Fridays. They don't want to go to classes on Fridays. So you are starting to see companies offer, well you don't work on Fridays, or you only work until noon as a company. And some are piloting it with summer hours. Some are piloting it in different ways. So I share that because I think they are saying, we believe in work-life integration. We know that you are plugged in all the time. The employee experience I want to have you have, is to understand our company's mission, understand what our greater good is. Understand what the environment might be like for you to come and work in your physical environment. If you are coming into a physical environment. But then, understand the benefits that I can tailor to you. And then couple that with, you know what, we want you to get wellness of mind so we are not going to have office on, you know we don't need to work on Fridays. Or you work three hours, or things along those lines. So, this is just at its infancy, all of this, and think we are going to see some intense creativity come out from HR departments around the employee experience. I'm going to add one other thing Brian. And that is that I believe this is a space that mobility can play a huge impact to an organization. And that is largely driven from the fact that we know people want an experience. The day of coming into the employment world and saying oh I have to have a house, or a this, and I want all these acquisitions, no. If you interview youth, they want an experience. If you want to be an attractive employer, and keep that youth for whatever length of time. Where can you offer them an experience that is going to cross a border. Mobility has a huge role to play in this. And it doesn't have to be a long term assignment. It can be an extended business traveller trip. It can be something even smaller than that. But offer them that experience where they can cross a border and you're going to get the widening of the pipe for your talent to come there. Not everybody might be a fit, but I think it's one of the great things, and I think it's under tapped, that mobility doesn't stand up and champion more of that for the organization and make it a strategic lever to attracting talent rather than I need you to be here. Let me come to an environment where I can choose to go work there. I don't know if that makes sense, but Brian, in my voice I get super excited and passionate about the potential.

Brian Friedman: You and me both Peggy. I remember seeing a survey recently, I think it was in the UK. And I think it said something like, 80% of all new graduates want to work overseas, at some point in their career. There's that feeling that this generation of employees the idea of well as you were talking of earlier, staying in the same job for an entire career but staying in the same location for an entire career is very much last century, last millennium. But then the other question I think that we are seeing and certainly it's something we take on very much at Benivo is that we are looking at the generation who are, I'll call them the Trip Advisor generation, or the Amazon generation. And what I mean by that, is when they buy something, they go onto Amazon. They don't just look, in fact they probably don't pay that much attention to what the company says about its own product. What they are more interested in, are the user's reviews. What do other people say--

Peggy Smith: Yeah.

Brian Friedman: who have experienced that. And similarly, if they go on Trip Advisor to book a holiday they are looking to see what other people have said about wherever they are planning to go. And to me, when I look at mobility, I think most assignees have really only got one question they want to ask, well they want the answer to. Which is, what do people like me do? So if it's a question of I don't know, opening a local bank account, well my colleagues which bank account did they use?

Peggy Smith: Yes.

Brian Friedman: If I'm going to ask, what is the best way to commute to work? What is the sort of best accommodation for someone like me working for a company like this to get? And I think that's what we are starting to see and if we're doing that, I am sure others will be looking at it too. This whole question of enhancing the assignee experience so that it is hyper-personalized to their individual experience, in their company, at that time, at their level. Which is probably something that mobility hasn't done before. Certainly not if we go back five years, it was much more standardized. But I think these days, and that's going to be the challenge going forward. Is that I think we are going to see this demand on hyper-personalized information and assistance. And also, they want it now. They don't want to phone somebody, get a call back a few hours later. They want it online in bite sized chunks, the same way they would do it if they went onto Trip Advisor.

Peggy Smith: Yeah, you know you're absolutely I think spot on there, Brian. I think peer evaluation is, I don't know if that's the term that's out there in the industry, but I'd call it the peer evalutation. We rely far heavily around, you know, even if you look at movies. Rotten tomatoes, you don't know the person that went to see the movie but that rating has an importance to you, and you bring that in. So, I absolutely think that this is something that they will take a look at. And the digital platforms, allow that to occur. And it's funny, as you were sharing that, Brian it wasn't too many years ago, when we would talk about long term assignments, and the number one thing that people were always worried about, was what's going to be my job when my assignment ends? Do you know what? That doesn't get discussed any longer. That's not discussed, because they look at the assignment, almost like a one-way opportunity and they're not worried on the backside of that assignment of not finding employment because they're going to become more valuable by having crossed that border, learned a new culture, and done that. So, again it wasn't that long ago that that was a thing. Well, don't lose touch of your assignee, and your assignee would worry well what's going to be my job? You don't hear that conversation at all any longer. And the groups that are starting their employment, early into their employment, not just starting it, but let's say early into their employment. You know what they come ready with? A network. And that is the most powerful thing to them. They are networked, and the digital platforms allow them within their own little platforms, allow them to have that. And so, if something were to happen in their employment in that, either by choice or by not, they're plugged in. And unemployment being where it is, it doesn't raise a concern for them. And, it's really interesting times, sometimes.

Brian Friedman: It is a very interesting time and I think that comes onto, I'd like to ask you about our industry as a whole because I think nobody knows it better than you do. And we've seen a lot of mergers and acquisitions in the last couple of years. One company taking over another, for reasons of market dominance. And maybe an account has been struggling or maybe it's spreading the costs of the technology over a broader client base. But we are seeing quite a bit of consolidation in the industry. But, we are also seeing disrupters coming in, I can think of a few come in with new ways of doing it. Do you think, in overall terms, there's going to be further consolidation amongst the suppliers? Or, do you think that in fact, there's going to be well a lot of industries tend to consolidate down to a fairly small number of suppliers. Do you think we are going to see consolidation, and if so, is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Peggy Smith: So, I do. I think we are going to see further consolidation. And the way that I look at this, Brian, and you know this as well, I mean you're a seat on the executives too, and that is that you have to relieve the RMCs or the GMNs or however you want to call that layer there. But then underneath that, you've got various verticals. You've got household goods, you've got temp accommodations, you've got immigration, you know the list, right. What I think is happening is, and I'm going to date myself here a little bit with the Rubik's Cube, but I know that Rubik's Cube you have a lot of moving parts to get to solids on all sides, right. So what's happening I think in the verticals, is your own mini disruptions. So, you're seeing sort of mini disruptions, destination services, you're seeing it in temp accommodations, you're seeing it in household goods. And certainly here in the United States, in real estate. And what's happening with those that naturally have an impact on the broader, sort of, integration that has occurred. And to your very point, we watch companies do unique acquisitions or partnerships. So, we watched everything from Topia acquire acquisition of Polaris. We've watched the relationship between Deloitte and Berry Appleman. And that's just to name a few, I mean there are several out there, other examples. So, I do feel as though there's more to come. When an industry gets disrupted, it might start off as a small, sort of, one thing in one area. But now, I think we are full tilt into this within the mobility industry. We're completely in. You're seeing it in all various areas, and I think it will occur for a period of time. I think what will come out the backside of this, will be more platforms. You know again, think back to what we were talking about, Airbnb and uber. Not to name those companies, but just a platform approach to business. And I also think you are going to see a potential change in peaking around subscriptions. Now, I don't really yet know how I think about subscriptions and how it plays in our world. But here's what I do know, Brian. Subscription businesses are projected to grow 9 times greater than the Standard and Poor's 500. Okay, if you just told me five years ago, and I am going to be myopic on the U.S. for a second. That I would have fresh food delivered to my door weekly, right, through a Blue Apron or those kinds of things. We would have thought you're crazy. But the top five subscription models, Amazon, Blue Apron is another one, Birch Box which is like personal goods, Dollar Shave Club. Think about that for just a second. Shaving has been around for centuries, I suppose Brian, I don't know. (laughs) Yet, here they are, one of the top five subscription businesses? You know, that's crazy, if you step back and think about it. So, I do feel like there is more disruption to occur but ultimately, on the backside of it, I do think you get efficiencies and I think you get growth. But, as in any disruptive model, certainly there are casualties. I mean, we talked earlier about Netflix. Look what happened in that content environment. Blockbuster here in the United States, owned that space. Everybody went and they got their dvds and dah dah dah. Netflix came onto the scene with a really simple statement, no late fees. Now, look at them. They're a content powerhouse. So, in Blockbuster, what happened? They are no longer there. So, I do think we are, as an industry right in that center of the storm, or the eye of the storm in the hurricane, for that massive disruption with more to occur. And I don't think we should be afraid of it. I think we should, get in there, be excited about it, and look to the backside of it. I think those that are in denial about it, that's a troublesome or worrisome I think mindset to be in.

Brian Friedman: Yeah, I hear you and I agree with you there. Tell me, if we put your sort of dreamer hat on, or your sort of visionary hat on, and we go forward say 10 years. What do you think are the biggest changes we are going to see in the industry? What will the industry look like in 10 years time? And throw in anything you like there. Throw in platforms, throw in artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality, throw in demographics, politics. What do you think the industry will look like in 10 years time? (laughs)

Peggy Smith: Well, as an American in your first engagement with somebody, or your first interview, keep politics and religion out of it. So I'll be very delicate there. You know, what I would say that I see occurring, and you hit on a couple of these things. Artificial intelligence, automation, those kinds of dynamics. I see, and I don't know if it's 10 years out. I think it's going to happen much quicker than that. And this all ties back to some of our earlier conversation around unemployment levels and population replacement rates which we didn't really talk too much about. But, while there's 7 billion people in the world, there just aren't enough people to keep the next generation economically viable. Say, for the continent of Africa, right, where their population replacement rate is quite robust. But the rest of us, the rest of the developed world major countries within the European feeder, don't have that luxury. So, in order to remain economically viable, I think in five years time, Brian, we're going to be working side-by-side with robots. And, I think that's definitely going to occur, number one. And, number two, it think automation of routine tasks are just going to continue to accelerate. As technology gets more robust, and so that it's more economical, and you are going to see that take over as well in a big way. You know, I also think that, I'm very bullish around mobility. I think you're going to see a lot more people moving for their job opportunities, and it may not be the traditional move that we are experiencing today. But, as we noted earlier, the genie is out of the bottle. So, I think mobility is going to be very healthy. We are at, what I consider, almost the pinnacle of what I call the work-everywhere-work-anywhere revolution. This is now the internet of things. You know, revolution they went through industrial and technology, and now the IoT is sort of here. So, I believe we are going to add a subset of that, or maybe its own revolution, is this work-anywhere-work-everywhere revolution. And, there's nothing I see economically on the horizon that will change that. Now, because you asked me a little bit about politics, I will throw a little bit of a cloud cover over this. And that is to suggest, that politics will change. Depending on who gets elected, and what different countries choose to do. So, I think that could have an impact. Everything that I'm sharing with you, all sort of goes against, we've had really robust growth, economically, globally for a protracted period of time. We might see some headwinds in the not too distant future. That might slow that down. I'm not, by no means, I'm not an economist, I'm not suggesting recessions are around the corner. I'm simply saying, look, every good run up, does have a downturn. So that I think, we are probably going to be closer to that downturn. 'Cause we've had a number of good years of good growth. So just the economic environment to me suggests, that could change. Here's one other thing though. And I think this is a little bit of a darker cloud. And that is, cybersecurity. So, that is not going to go away. Economies will ebb and flow. Leaders will be voted in, voted out. You know that will change. Two things I know, that I believe will stay the same. And that is, unemployment will remain low. There aren't enough people for the jobs so we are going to be working next to robots that will have a lot of intelligence. But our job, I think, will be more strategic into an organization. And then, throw over that, cybersecurity. That's not going to go away, it doesn't matter who is in power in any country or what the economic world is. Cybersecurity is a daily threat. And the more information we give into a digital platform, the richer that is for somebody to go and figure out how to go and steal that, and violate that. And you can pick up a trade rag nearly daily, and see where there's another breach of something. It doesn't really matter what it is. No country, no company I think, is immune from that. So that's what I see after on the horizon. But fun, we're going to have fun Brian. We're going to have fun.

Brian Friedman: That sounds good. So, we are nearly out of time but I just wanted to ask you one last question. A bit more about you and your personal experience, Peggy. The question is this. Who inspired you in your career, when you set out or you must have met so many people as you were working through the profession. And as part of that, what lessons did they teach you? And what lessons would you pass onto people coming into global mobility today? It's a big question.

Peggy Smith: It's a big question. It will only take another hour here, no I promise I won't. It's a great question and I might start maybe on the backside of that, as what I would advise people coming in. And, either new into their career, new into their profession and I don't know that this is terribly different from people that are in it. So let me play that through a bit here. I believe in lifelong learning. I believe in putting yourself in an environment where you can learn. Now, in doing that, I think 1) you need to find your voice and you need to not be afraid to ask. And I don't think the people that come in, are inhibited by that. I also feel like you need to have a network of people. And what I created, is people that I never really named formal mentors. I'm somebody that doesn't, I don't have too much structure around that. But I have a tremendous amount of informal mentors who they may not know they are mentoring me, but they are. So what I looked for, and I would encourage people to look for this, is you have to find somebody, sometimes it's a celebrity, sometimes it's an individual, who speaks to you and your persona. So for example, it's somebody that you might admire because of how they deliver a presentation. You might admire because of how they think deliberately. You might admire for what they have accomplished. You might admire for whatever that is that speaks to you. So within that construct, Brian, I tried to create this virtual set of mentors. And so I'm like wow, you know what? I really like how that person stands up and delivers a speech. So I'm going to study everything I can about that person. I'm going to try to emulate them, I'm going to research them, 'cause that's what I want to be. That's my aspire to state and that environment. This person I really like for this reason, and this person I really like for that reason. So, to me it's that combination, and it's saying be a lifelong learner. Don't be afraid to ask the questions, and then create that network of mentors. That again, they don't have to all be named. And a lot of us, Brian, another pivot on this. A lot of us get called into meetings. I've been in meetings, even in my current role, and in my prior roles, where you're sitting around the table going oh my gosh, why do I need to be here? When we are talking about how paint dries, right. And when I got caught in those moments, what I tended to do was to say, what is one thing I can take out of this meeting? And it may not have anything to do with paint drying, but it might be watching somebody influence resources that they didn't control. Or it might be watching somebody craft an argument to win over a point, so to speak. And so it was always searching for what I could walk away with, and take back and improve upon myself about. So, lifelong learning, key. Building a network of trusted mentors is key. And I think that goes anywhere you go.

Brian Friedman: Okay, thank you very much Peggy. It's been absolutely fascinating and a delight to have you on the podcast. So I am sure I am speaking for all the listeners as well. Thank you very much for giving us your time and being on The View From The Top. Thank you Peggy.

Peggy Smith: Thank you Brian, I have appreciated the opportunity and I look forward to seeing you out in the field in the not too distant future.

Brian Friedman: Absolutely, I'll see you in Boston later on this year at your annual convention. And thank you to all our listeners for tuning into The View From The Top. A podcast brought to you by Benivo. We look forward to catching up again, with another guest, this time next week.

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