RFP Administration for Relocation Management Companies: 5 Critical Steps to Take Conor Schoemer, Mercer If you’re involved with global workforce management, then you’re well aware that employee relocation is necessary as you expand into new markets and extend your international reach. Yet, for even the biggest, most efficient global mobility departments, it’s important to complete these processes as quickly and efficiently as possible so your employees can get settled in and continue with their work. To help achieve the expedition of these processes, many organizations outsource these tasks to relocation management companies (RMC), taking advantage of their expertise and experience to minimize downtime and cut down on costs. Those familiar with RMCs understand that these organizations can come in all shapes and sizes, each with their own strengths, niche focus, and/or limitations. With global mobility HR professionals’ intimate knowledge of their company’s global mobility programs, policies, and needs, these same individuals are also commonly involved in the RFP process for selecting an RMC, sometimes working closely alongside procurement or purchasing professionals within their organization. Still, finding and selecting the right RMC vendor is not always a clear-cut process, so your RFPs must be carefully created to ensure you’ll get the best match for your organization. To help you with this critical aspect of employee relocation, take the time consider the following five steps, each designed to help you better optimize the RFPs you send to relocation management companies. Step 1: Ask questions to make sure your company is really prepared To start, make sure that everything within your company is in order before beginning the RFP creation process. You need to first ensure that your company is truly prepared to not only manage your future RMC, but also prepared to manage the often lengthy RFP process that goes along with selecting such a crucial global mobility partner. If this is your first go at selecting an RMC, you have to first ask yourself this simple-yet-essential question: “Are we really ready to manage this provider?” If you feel comfortable with your response to that question, good! That means you can now start digging a bit deeper and asking more granular questions to get ready for the intensive selection process, such as: Who are the other critical decision makers besides me? Know who will need to be included in the RFP and decision-making process, as well as who will be involved in the management of the RMC. They are usually one in the same, but there will inevitably be some outliers. One should be ready for both solicited and unsolicited input from internal teams. Do I have an experienced procurement team that will help me throughout this process? Sure, your procurement team is going to be heavily involved in the vendor selection, but how much do they truly know about evaluating RMCs? How much do they need to rely on the keen insights and RMC expertise from HR/global mobility professionals? They are a key (maybe the biggest) part of the decision and you should be prepared to provide them access to those that will help them decide. Sometimes, guiding your procurement team through the selection process might be essential to landing an ideal vendor. Does my organization appeal to relocation management companies? Like your business, RMCs are only going to take on the clients that are beneficial to them. Unrealistic expectations can turn away the more established RMC and could even attract a more desperate type of provider (obviously, not an ideal situation). You should ensure that the RFP issued is going to be appealing for the type of quality partner you hope to land. Do I know my organization’s annual volume of moves, as well as the mix of international versus domestic moves? All RMCs will absolutely need this data to properly respond. Including this information upfront should help you not only weed out the companies that are not suited to meet your needs, but also help with getting closer-to-accurate fee assumptions in the responses received. Are my organization’s global workforce policies up to date and competitive within our specific market or industry? Once you get into the RFP, it will expose ALL the things that you don’t have together since they’ll require extremely detailed specifics to give you an accurate RFP response. This is an especially important preparation step if international assignments are relatively new to your company. If you are able to confidently answer all of these questions, then you have a reliable understanding of how detailed your organizational processes really are; as a result, you’ll know whether or not it will be worth your time (and money) investing in full-level international relocation services. Also keep in mind that, as a global workforce professional, you should always feel free to take the lead on educating and training your department on what your needs are, as well as assisting procurement with evaluating specific criteria and the potential implications on your workforce. Step 2: Ask the right questions in your RFP Once you have your house in order, you must then establish viable criteria for evaluating RMC vendors. It comes down to knowing your company’s specific needs and wants, as well as understanding what things you value the most. What is most important? Identify the most important things you want to get from your RMC, and then make sure you ask specific and detailed questions in these areas. The following questions are some of the more common ways to begin evaluating RMCs across multiple criteria: What is the RMC’s unique service model? Evaluating from a service model perspective is one of the more common ways that companies compare RMCs. Some of the more examined elements can include: Account staff – Who are the RMC’s points of contact? Will there be an account staff available to work directly with my team? If so, find out how experienced they are, and also keep in mind that most RMCs will be equally interested in how experienced your staff is, as well. Technology – What sort of technology does the RMC use? There are many possibilities these days, and they can range from traditional reports to dynamic mobile apps. Take the time to ensure that an RMC’s technologies will be compatible with your company’s, and that they provide the tracking and reporting capabilities you desire. Vendor management How reliable are the RMC’s vendor-management processes? Who is a part of their supply chain? Since these third party vendors will be the ones actually coming into contact with your relocated employees, it’s critical to make sure that they’ll be held accountable. If you find that these vendors aren’t performing well, the RMC should be willing to do something about it. Most RMCs will provide your employees the ability to give feedback relative to their experience, but if they don’t, this could be one of many potential red flags that the RMC’s supply chain management is not ideal. What is the RMC’s cost and fees? Though this may seem like an obvious question to ask, its importance cannot be understated. Too often, global mobility companies have their judgment clouded as they opt for less expensive choices, but when it comes to RMCs, you truly do get what you pay for. Overall, one should ensure that the costs are clear and predictable, which will make budgeting easier in the long term. Step 3: Identify who the key stakeholders within your company will be This step involves identifying which people from which departments will help you make your ultimate RMC decision, as well as who will be involved with your international relocation program throughout its many stages. Whether they’re from the HR, payroll management, IT, or any other departments, take the time to put together a list of stakeholders who will constitute your proposal-decision committee. This team of people is typically comprised of anyone who has a hand in your company’s international assignment program. For example, if the RMC has its own unique online tech tool, you might be able to initiate an employee’s international relocation with it. However, the tool will still need to be evaluated by those that will use it, and in some cases, by your own internal technical team. As you can see, even in organizations with large, multi-functional global mobility departments, their stakeholders will have to come from a multitude of other departments, meaning interdepartmental communication will be key. The identification and management of these stakeholders’ input is likely to fall on the shoulders of the HR or global mobility team, as they are the ones with the most RMC management experience. That experience can be key to delegating evaluation of criteria of specific aspects in both the RFP itself and the individual RMC responses received. There is a critical flow of communication that must be maintained between multiple departments during the employee relocation process and the RFP process, making this an issue that involves much more than one single group of global workforce experts. Step 4: Understand the serious time investment involved with RFPs After making sure your company is internally prepared, evaluating which RMCs would be a good fit for your unique goals, and identifying which organizational stakeholders will partake in the process, you must then establish a clear timeline of RFP dates and deadlines. To do this, you must determine: When the RFP will be released. The due date for any clarifying questions related to the RFP. The deadline for when RMC candidates can expect responses to their questions. The due date for the actual proposal submission. The anticipated date for presentations. The final decision date. Also, remember to build in enough time to carefully compare, contrast, and score your suppliers’ responses after they’ve been gathered. This is a time-consuming and meticulous process, yet some global mobility companies still attempt to rush through it, even after understanding that report responses can often exceed 100 pages in length. Naturally, this can take quite some time to sort through, but having a well-defined methodology for reviewing and scoring responses will accelerate the process. Setting parameters on the format, sequence of information, and specific sections of your RFP responses will also greatly aid your team during this lengthy evaluation phase. Also, don’t forget to check references. This will allow for even greater insight into the working relationships with the RMC. Once you’ve narrowed down your top potential selections, consider scheduling their presentations within the same week, or even within the same few days. This will allow you to better compare companies against each other if the presentations are fresh in your teams’ mind, and it can also expedite the timeline if presentation dates are set well in advance and included in your RFP. Finally, keep in mind that even after you’ve selected an RMC, you’ll still need to build in time for the inevitable back-and-forth with various legal teams concerning contracts, negotiations, and other delicate materials. After that, a vendor can finally be considered a partner and you begin the journey towards implementation. Simply put, you must appreciate how long it will take for you to realistically accomplish these tasks – otherwise, you simply won’t be getting the most you possibly can out of your months of hard work and planning. Step 5: Work to ensure a lasting relationship One could easily compare the relationship with an RMC to a marriage – if it’s going to work, you must be ready to work through the good times and the bad times together. In order to achieve a successful long-term partnership, both sides must be willing to invest their time and effort, all while remaining as transparent as possible. Continuing with the analogy, you simply can’t treat your RMC unfairly one week and then expect a favor from them the next. To get the most out of the partnership, you must prove that you’re as valuable to them as they are to you, which all ties back into steps 1-4. With the right RMC, your global mobility program can achieve great success. Be prepared to put in the time to choose the right one for your organization. Contact the author, Conor Schoemer, on LinkedIn .