human resources

What Global Mobility Specialists Need to Learn From Independent HR

The banner headline on the website of Caged Bird HR reads, “Can’t trust your HR department? Let’s talk.” The full-service HR consulting firm offers independent HR support to employees, with many of their clients being employees from Google, Netflix, Amazon, and Meta. The keyword here is independent. Caged Bird HR primarily serves individual employees.

This isn’t a surprise to many. Human resources departments often struggle to meet employee needs effectively. A Harvard Business Review study in 2022 involving 993 employees indicates that when facing issues like unfair treatment from managers or rudeness from peers, employees usually seek advice from anyone but HR. 

International employees also fear for their job security, so it’s more than likely that they may clam up against HR if it serves the company, compared to global mobility professionals who do things differently, more logistically:

  • They identify and assess the needs of employees being relocated internationally, such as housing, schooling, visa/immigration assistance, partner support, etc.
  • They coordinate all aspects of the international move, including travel arrangements for the employee and their family, booking flights, transportation, etc.
  • Selecting and managing third-party vendors/suppliers to provide various relocation services like house hunting, moving services, settling-in support, etc.
  • Ensuring compliance with local and international regulations, as well as the company’s internal policies and processes related to global mobility.
  • They act as the main point of contact and provide constant communication, support, advice and solutions to the relocating employee and their company throughout the entire relocation process.
  • For in-house global mobility specialists within a company’s HR department, they may also be involved in the selection process of candidates for international assignments.

Still, both local and foreign hires may realize that Caged Bird HR is one they can turn to now, as an alternative to corporate HR for handling workplace issues such as discrimination, harassment, pay negotiation, and leave policy navigation.  

Employees are increasingly relying on independent HR services to ensure they are making informed decisions. These services typically work outside the company’s HR structure, providing documentation and advice directly to the employee.

Trusted ally 

Employees are hiring their own HR because of their lack of trust in corporate HR, which arises from the perception that the latter prioritizes the company’s interests over them. This leads to:

  • Employees seeking independent representation for workplace conflicts or negotiations.
  • A perceived adversarial relationship between workers and HR, with the latter viewed as primarily serving corporate interests.

Employees feel they need an independent representative looking out solely for their interests when dealing with workplace conflicts or negotiating better conditions.

Obvious violations

One clear reason to hire an independent HR company is to ensure that a job is removed from listings with other firms. If an employer discovers that a position is still being advertised elsewhere, it can lead to severe repercussions for the employee.

A further reason to engage an independent HR firm is when a company, amid extensive layoffs, pressures employees to resign to sidestep severance payouts.

Caged Bird HR’s clientele initially consisted of 99% Black women, a figure that has since diversified, including Latino, white, and LGBTQ+ clients. The name “Caged Bird HR” is a nod to Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” reflecting the company’s commitment to addressing workplace discrimination and harassment.

In fairness, HR departments have been evolving for years, shifting from a reactive, compliance-focused approach to one where HR leaders act as trusted partners to executives and advocates for employees. This model allows HR a seat at the leadership table to advise executives on culture and represent employee interests.

Despite this evolution, HBR’s study shows that many HR functions fall short of their advocacy role. While HR departments have made efforts to move from compliance officers to employee advocates, employees still lack trust in HR. Does this matter? What should be done?

One thing that’s clear, though. The HBR study indicates that more employees, those who can afford it and those with so much at stake (those coming with families from abroad), are not taking chances. They are willing to hire their own “HR” person to deal with big companies that may not be on their side once the next round of layoffs happen.

After all, there’s just too much at stake for an expat or even local hire to leave everything to a hiring or HR company, not in the era of artificial intelligence.