September 13th, 2018

Mobility Toolkit - You Know You're Right but how do you Tell The Expat?



How to Nudge Assignees to their Best Decisions

Dom Tidey, EuRA C.O.O.


One of the biggest challenges facing relocation professionals out on the road with the assignee or family, is balancing choice, with knowledge.

One of the primary reasons that companies use relocation providers is to access their specific local knowledge.  Even with the seemingly endless information we all have access to online, there are factors which cannot be judged without help and advice on the ground.  In most cities and towns globally there will be tempting online listings that promise luxury and striking affordability.  Cross reference with Google Maps and Streetview and it looks like that fab 2 bed walk up within 10 minutes of transport links is the ideal apartment to start your assignment.  But when what is listed as an “up and coming” in reality turns out to mean not very safe, not paying for on the ground expertise becomes a massive false economy.

But what happens when the professionals have been engaged and still, the assignee wants to tread a path that seems unwise?  As I mentioned in a previous blog post about Power Distance and Transactional Analysis, there can often be a hierarchy issue that can prevent an equal and successful relationship developing between the relocation professional and the C-Suite exec.  How do relo experts work with the assignee to guide them into what they know will be the right set of decisions for their stay in their city?

A common set of conflicting requirements for the assignee can look like this:

  • City centre location the home
  • Easy access to the chosen school
  • Close to transport links
  • Close to the denominational place of worship
  • Within budget

This is often a set of unattainable goals and no one wants to be the person to say, “that’s not going to happen”.  Communication skills here are key and I want to look at that in a future blog post, but coaching skills can prove enormously useful.

When we designed the EuRA Relocation Coaching Programme with Oxford Brookes University, the very first module looked at how coaching tools can help to nudge people into making good choices.  The notion of Nudge is fascinating in itself, based around the globally successful book by Richard Thaler and Cass Sustein.  Basically, a nudge prompts us into making rational decisions instead of irrational ones, but the tools to succeed in this come largely from the coaching world.


Above is the Coaching Continuum.  This represents coaching and counselling styles defined by the amount of direction from the coach.  The ideal spot for a relocation professional is somewhere between 3 and 5, but using a model an be a big benefit.

We used GROW as our primary model but there are many others.

GROW is based on two foundation principles.  Firstly that we need awareness of an issue before we can change it.  We can only control that of which we are aware.  Most of the time, raising awareness is about getting the subject to focus on a specific matter and then discuss it.  This prompts us into self discovery, which creates a responsibility in us for this information.  Telling someone to accept responsibility rarely works, getting them to choose to accept responsibility can only be achieved when we have a choice and the best way to give choice is through questioning, the second principle.

G - Goals

What are the desired outcomes for this interaction?  Establishing clear goals helps to keep things on the right track.  Say the goal is to find a house with 4 beds on budget within a 15 minute walk of the children school.  This creates a set of parameters within which the next part of the model can be looked at.

R - Reality

What is the current reality of the goal?  If we know that the goal of a 4 bed house within 15 minutes of school is unachievable without a significant budget increase or living in an area we would not recommend, it is important to lead the assignee into this realisation for themselves.  Outline the options available, highlight the strengths and pitfalls of the reality of the goal.

O - Options

Once the client has come to an understating of the reality of the situation, then you move them into looking at their options.  Ask them to outline the full range of options that could exist within the reality.  This self realisation will likely include:

Can we up the budget? 

Can I contribute to the housing allowance?

Are there better areas a little farther away from school?

If we settled for a smaller property would we get it on budget in a better area but just as close?

W - Wrap up

Identify the next steps; “What’s your first choice about what we see next?”

There are so many skills involved in coaching and attracting the people with those skills into the relocation company is a key management priority.  In the EuRA Relocation Coaching Programme we look at the skills and how they can be applied to the mobility process, from listening and questions, via conflict resolution to action planning.  The entire 12 module programme will be back online via our own learning platform and available for free to EuRA members during 2019.

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Dominic Tidey is the C.O.O. of EuRA, the European Relocation Association.  EuRA is the professional industry body for relocation providers and affiliated services. As a non-profit organisation EuRA aims to promote the benefits of a professionally managed relocation to companies with globally mobile employees.

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