As FIDI launches its second State of the Industry report, Dominic Weaver gives a preview of its main findings
IDI has launched its second State of the Industry report, which examines the key occurrences in the international moving industry during the last year, looking at the important trends and analysing how they will shape future business, and proposing how Affiliates – and FIDI – might effectively respond.
Once again, the report covers one of the most extraordinary 12 months on record. The unprecedented challenges presented to movers by COVID in the previous year have now been added to – and in many ways eclipsed – by complex and pervasive difficulties in their supply chain, which are restricting availability of vital services and staff, increasing uncertainty and pushing prices up. Businesses are coping with these pressures in real time as they develop.
Meanwhile, tipping points appear to have been reached in the fields of sustainability, diversity and digitisation, with companies compelled to upgrade their operations to meet the requirements of new legislation and demands of their clients and staff. This comes alongside the pressures of other ongoing transformation in the industry, including consolidation and the impact of large industry deals, not least the yet-to-be-awarded USTRANSCOM military HHG contract.
The report describes the result as ‘the most difficult and uncertain trading environment in living memory’, a ‘new landscape’ that movers are only just beginning to understand but will change their businesses for good.
This is an overview of the key findings of the FIDI Focus State of the Industry report 2021/22:
The report says that, while the direct impacts of COVID are still not straightforward for movers to manage (or pay for), they have learnt a lot during the previous year.
They became accustomed to rapid change, able to adjust more quickly to sudden changes in operational conditions, including new restrictions or staff shortages.
There is a general sense of optimism that international relocation will continue to recover; however, there is still uncertainty about how quickly the market will recover, for corporate moves in particular.
The global supply chain crises that came in the wake of COVID perhaps defined the past year in business more than the pandemic itself. Intense availability and cost tension in shipping, air and road freight, severe staff shortages and steep price hikes in key raw materials are among the factors causing difficulties for movers by pressurising the tools they use to do the job.
Plan and communicate
With services impacted by volatility and rising costs passing down the supply chain, communication and transparency with customers is becoming more important than ever. A collaborative and open approach will help everyone plan better and helps maintain goodwill at this challenging time.
With the ‘climate emergency’ generally accepted as the main challenge facing the world, business must respond to new legislation and stricter demands from customers and staff – who increasingly want to work with and for ethical organisations.
We have reached the point where sustainability is not an option, it has become essential – companies must take permanent, authentic action or risk losing staff or customers. Authenticity, transparency and communication are key to this process.
As a heavy user of international transport by truck, ship and plane, and packaging materials, the moving industry is focusing on mitigating the impact of these – and its many office and warehouse buildings – first. But there are efficiencies to be gained in other areas, too, with the most progressive companies and their staff looking at further ways to improve the environment locally, regionally and globally.
‘Sustainability’ in moving should now be about more than the environment, examining companies’ impact on their staff and local communities, too.
Underlying this is a greater focus on the financial sustainability of moving businesses. COVID has propelled many companies to take action and engage with the supply chain to reduce stretched payment terms and make cash flow better for the benefit of everyone.
This has seen leadership from some businesses prepared to commit to better financial practice and
the report suggests this may require delicate conversations about transparency with RMCs and other business partners.
New sustainable strategies aim to create businesses that are no longer about profit ‘no matter what’, and replace them with a broader and longer-term view of companies impact.
The report says that the definition of truly sustainable movers is ‘those who will be able to demonstrate stewardship for environmental, social, staff and financial aspects of their businesses’ operations, looking further than immediate gains for shareholders towards providing benefits for everyone’.
As the result of international diversity movements, businesses of all kinds are looking at recruiting in a more equitable way and are becoming more aware of the benefits of doing so – including opening themselves out to a wider customer base and developing new, bespoke services. Hand in hand with this has come transparent approaches such as publishing company salaries.
FIDI is aiming to address the current lack of globally accepted sustainability standards – including with the release of the next FAIM certification, in January 2023 – while developing ‘common goals and a cohesive sustainability roadmap for the relocation industry’.
The growth in remote working and other digital solutions during the pandemic has allowed movers to reduce face-to-face contact between staff and customers. They are now looking to hold on to the efficiencies and cost savings that these new methods bring. In many businesses, digital surveys are here to stay, while customers are more likely now to search online for their move provider.
FIDI also benefited from digital solutions, holding many online meetings with Affiliates so it could maintain – and often enhance – contact with its membership, and running FIDI Academy courses online, too.
Remote and now hybrid working could be a threat to movers’ customer base, but most appear optimistic that moving demand is rebounding. While some jobs suit remote working, others clearly don’t, while relocation and travel remains a key employee perk for many jobs at international corporations.
The report notes that governments still need to catch up with the fast-paced developments in hybrid working, with legislation to protect staff rights – and their employers’, too.
The issue of protecting data has come to the fore in tandem with the rise in digitisation of more relocation processes. Movers must understand their key responsibilities to keep ‘Personally Identifiable Information’ (PII) safe and the consequences of non-compliance.
FIDI recently launched a report on the status of data privacy legislation around the world.
In better shape
The report concludes that the moving business is in much better shape than first predicted at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. While the challenges presented are huge, there have also been opportunities, with movers designated an essential service in some regions and many businesses able to deliver other services during times of lower demand. Some movers have now had direct access to large corporate accounts, who wanted jobs done fast by businesses that knew how to navigate rapidly changing local conditions.
The result is what some industry leaders have called a ‘hole-shot situation’, where there is a shift away from price-driven strategies and movers can take a leading role.
Changes to FIDI
With FIDI in its eighth decade, the organisation is looking at its role and structure in the light of COVID and what has followed. It is looking at adapting its services and decision-making process, building on its well-established, trusted reputation for quality, authority and excellence.
Developments include diversifying its remit to new services and strengthening external links to DSPs, RMCs and other stakeholders, including corporate customers. The aim is to create a broader, more collaborative approach to tackling challenge and progressing mutual projects such as standardisation and sustainability.
The report details how FIDI is looking at updating its governance structure so it can react faster and stay at the forefront of developments in areas including sustainability, diversity and digitisation, and ensure its services reflect these into the future. It adds that Affiliates have a ‘key role to play in shaping this future’.
FIDI’s State of the Industry report 2021/22 can be downloaded from: www.fidi.org/fidi-publications/2021-Industry-report