The Talk at WERC: Supply Chain, BTO & Talent

At the WERC Global Workforce Symposium in Chicago last month, it seemed like every conversation began with how great it was to meet in person again! (And it was!) From there, the discussion quickly moved to one of three topics: relocation challenges caused by supply chain issues; when (or will?) back to the office happen; and how to attract and retain talent in the age of the Great Resignation.

Supply chain issues are real and they are everywhere. Moving companies can’t get drivers. Furniture vendors can’t get couches. Apartment managers have only minimal staff to sign up leases. There’s a ripple effect across the board.

So, costs are going up and service levels are, in some instances, very much in doubt. And this is at a time when corporate relocations, many of which had been on hold for more than a year, are re-starting. Take something as basic as a container coming from the UK to the US. A year ago, it was probably $5,000 to $7,000 (not including moving company costs). Now it’s $25,000.

How are corporations and their partners meeting these challenges? Time and time again I heard how vendors are doing things differently to try to adapt and evolve, and still service the end-user with as little disruption as possible.

At our company, to ensure our clients aren’t affected by the supply chain issues, we are employing the following tactics:
• Taking property leases earlier
• Making earlier cable appointments
• Working with furniture vendors to shorten delivery windows and offer alternatives
• Anticipating longer lead times

We’re also over-communicating with our guests and their companies to reduce surprises. Say we have a corporate client flying in from overseas and something isn’t ready. We don’t just text or email them and say, “Sorry the apartment’s not ready, because there’s been a delay with furniture, cable, or fill-in-the-blank.” Instead, we go the extra mile and call that client with a solution. For example: “Hey, Mr. Smith, I know you really want to come in on Sunday. But there’s a slight delay with the furniture. Can we book you into a nice hotel for three nights and then have your things moved to the apartment on Wednesday, so you don’t have to hassle with it?”

That kind of proactive, white-glove approach is what’s going on at Primestone and lots of other companies. We’re working around supply chain issues to solve problems so that our end-user guests aren’t dislocated by them. From my conversations with clients at WERC, they know what’s happening and appreciate the effort.

Back to the office vs. work from home was another hot topic in Chicago, as it is across America at the moment. Some companies are saying that unless another COVID variant scenario crops up, they’re looking at people coming back to the office by January at the latest. Many of them are going to the hybrid two-to-three day a week scenario rather than the full time. They are also saying business travel will be picking up towards the end of the year and in January.

One of the reasons that they’re keeping their options open is talent: they don’t want to lose good people.

In Chicago, clients were talking about offering relo packages to entice key employees, who may have moved to lower-cost areas during COVID, back closer to headquarters. These packages are also part of the recruiting efforts that are ramping up.

All of which suggests that relocation is on the rise again, which is good news for our industry.

By Ken Flornes, Chief Development Officer, Primestone Housing Solutions