A professional edge for talent mobility

3-level CERP designation valuable for managing ‘fastest-growing area in HR’
By Stephen Cryne
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/26/2011

Talent shortages, globalization of trade, dual-income families, rising housing markets and changing demographics over the past decade have made employee relocation much more challenging and strategically important to overall talent management.

Globalization of trade is opening up many new opportunities for Canadian employers to expand outside of domestic and North American markets, giving rise to a greater demand for skilled professionals to take on international assignments.

Talent shortages in specific industries and skilled trades also mean companies are competing for the best and brightest. And younger people entering the workforce are looking to mobility as a way to gain greater skills and experience.

International assignments will grow by more than 50 per cent in the next decade, according to the Talent Mobility 2020 report, published by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2010. That same report also notes younger people see opportunities for global experience as “a rite of passage.”

Corporations of the future will seek leaders who have well-rounded global experience, are interculturally savvy and can lead disparate work teams from around the globe. How well these future leaders are supported in gaining that experience will weigh heavily on the retention of top talent in a tightening market.

For these reasons, employee relocation policies must be well-designed and well-managed. Eighty-eight per cent of organizations reported having a formal relocation policy, according to a recent survey by the Canadian Employee Relocation Council (CERC), and the policy is managed through the human resources portfolio at more than 75 per cent of those companies.

There is a growing need for skilled professionals to manage talent mobility programs, which combine relocation, a growing trend towards assignments and increased business travel.

“Global mobility is one of the fastest-growing areas in HR,” says Charlene Kiszczak, an analyst in global services and relocations at Calgary-based Nexen.

CERC foresaw this trend when it developed the Canadian Employee Relocation Professional (CERP) designation program. The program is designed to provide the skills and knowledge needed to design and manage talent mobility programs.

“The level of detail and technical knowledge gained in the program will give any HR professional a solid foundation for making decisions and for creating their own relocation and assignment policies, procedures and best practices,” says Michelle Lee, a CERP graduate and manager of national talent acquisition and organizational development at BDO Canada in Toronto.

The CERP designation has three levels: Level I, Introduction to Relocation; Level II, Essentials of Domestic Relocation; and Level III, Essentials of International Relocation.

Successful completion of Level I earns a person the Canadian Employee Relocation Specialist certificate and successful completion of all three levels grants the full CERP designation.

The program provides the framework and technical knowledge required to understand all aspects involved in managing talent mobility.

This includes:

• methodology to help HR managers research and develop effective policies

• an inside look at relocation policies to help better manage relocation programs

• a framework for creating cost/benefit reports to create policy business cases

• a thorough understanding of how benefits are treated for tax purposes

• tax, immigration compliance

• more insight into the human dynamics of the employees being transferred.

The program supports the HR function in the areas of recruitment, benefits and payroll, says Kiszczak, also a CERP graduate.

“The more insight HR professionals have into the building blocks of relocation, the more knowledgeable and effective they can be in their own position and have a greater overall understanding of the big picture,” she says.

“Alternatively, global mobility professionals are more effective when they understand all the pieces that go into relocation, such as the impact to payroll, benefits plans, compensation, etcetera. The CERP program touches all areas of HR and provides value for all HR professionals.”

The program is offered in partnership with Centennial College in Toronto through its distance learning program. Each level is offered over a 14-week semester program with access to online instructors, course materials and resources.

There are weekly exercises and final exams that must be successfully completed and each participant receives a certificate from Centennial College.

Responding to a growing demand for international expertise, CERC will be unveiling a revised Level III program in 2012 that will include more content on international tax and immigration compliance and business travel guidelines.

Along with that revision will be the launch of the Canadian Global Mobility Professional (CGMP) certificate.

Employee mobility is no longer a tactical function in the HR portfolio. Mobility professionals are being called upon to offer more strategic advice and input on strategic recruitment, succession planning and talent deployment.

And it’s not just about the employee, according to Atlas World Group’s 2011 Measuring a Moving World Survey. When deciding about a relocation, 46 per cent of employees cite concerns over the trailing spouse’s career. Empirical evidence confirms assignment failure is most often attributable to family and not employment issues.

Equally important is repatriation of the employee. This is one area where many companies fail to plan effectively, only to see well-trained, experienced and expensive talent lost to the completion. The CERP program provides the tools to tackle these issues.

“When managing talent, there is a high probability that individuals will ask, or be asked, to relocate for career development opportunities or strategic business reasons. Having that technical knowledge to draw from is a huge advantage when preparing cost proposals and even succession plans,” says Lee.

Given the looming talent crunch and the ever-increasing costs of relocations, the need to get it right is that much more important.

Stephen Cryne is president and CEO of the Canadian Employee Relocation Council (CERC), an organization dedicated to improving talent mobility for its member organizations. He can be reached at scryne@cerc.ca or visit www.cerc.ca to learn more about the CERP program.

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