Getting the Most From Mobility

Graebel Relocation

New research reveals four trends driving successful programs.

By Mary Stoik Dymond

The mobility industry is constantly evolving to meet company goals and employee needs, especially in the midst of globalization, tight labor markets, technology innovations, and multiple generations in the workforce.

How are HR and mobility professionals prioritizing and preparing? It appears 2019 is centered around improving or enhancing mobility program strategies, policies, and employee engagement, while also calculating the return on investment (ROI). That’s according to the Annual State of Mobility Report from Graebel Companies Inc. This year’s study compiles global and regional insights, best practices, and trends from 242 mobility professionals in 18 countries.

A clear takeaway from the report for HR leaders: Workplace and workforce changes are only going to increase, and a strong mobility program that’s responsive to these shifts is one of the most effective ways for global companies to continue to recruit, retain, and grow the best talent.

The report finds four main global trends that HR leaders can consider for their own teams and mobility programs:

Relocation Trends

Mobility Professionals

1. International assignments are top priority. Mobility professionals surveyed for the report rated international assignments as the number one area of focus for their mobility programs in the next two years. Plus, 53 percent of respondents said the most popular form of international relocation is long-term assignments. That said, international assignments bring greater complexity, challenges, and costs, and they usually involve the highest-potential employees. For a successful international assignment, equal attention should be given to the transferee and to their family. For example, if the spouse and children of a transferee are unhappy with the destination location, housing, or school/work environments, they may elect to move back home. The transferee might then decide to leave the company, resulting in a loss of both top talent and the investment made in the international relocation.

2. Extended business travel is a key mobility option and requires policy reviews. Extended business travel ranked as the second focus area for surveyed mobility professionals, perhaps due to the different level of commitment and cost as compared to longer-term assignments. For extended business travel (and other shorter-term international assignments), HR mobility teams need to remain up-to-date on each country’s changing political, compliance, and economic landscape, along with any related risks and possible actions to ensure the employee’s safety, well-being, and adherence with local laws. For example, companies should be prepared to extract an employee if any situation becomes too unstable. Employees need to know their companies are monitoring and handling these potentially critical risks so they feel supported in the destination country and can focus on their jobs.

3. Repatriation plays an important role in employee retention. How effectively a company brings back a transferee and helps them readjust to life in their home country can impact how long that employee will stay with the company. Demonstrating to these high-potential employees they are a priority and supported, even after they’ve completed their assignment, fosters a positive relationship and goodwill. In addition, communicating the length of assignment and position responsibilities before the relocation can provide clear expectations to both the transferee and their family—avoiding any misunderstandings that could tarnish a company-employee relationship.

4. Global policies should be harmonized. Many companies are expanding their global footprints. HR leaders should review all of their global mobility policies and ensure they are as consistent as possible from country to country. That’s because employees want to know the company is an equitable place to work and provides fair treatment no matter the location. To do this, HR teams need to understand the appropriate country-by-country policies (or tap outside experts to assist), and then determine what practices can be applied across their mobility program to support their business goals and culture. Global policy harmonization can foster employee retention.

Regional Mobility Trends

In addition to these global focus areas, HR leaders should review regional trends and ensure these are reflected in their mobility program. Based on the Annual State of Mobility Report, HR managers might consider these key regional insights and priorities:

  • Asia-Pacific (APAC). International assignments are the top priority for mobility managers in this region, as these markets are beginning to open up and become global players. However, cost and flexibility of benefits with international assignments are the top two concerns that APAC mobility managers say they plan to address.
  • Global Mobility

    Global Trends

    Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA). Mobility managers in this region are devising deployment strategies to recruit and retain the new generation of workers. To better address the needs of this young workforce, mobility professionals identified technology used by assignees, structure of policies, and types of assignments as the biggest changes for their mobility programs.

  • Americas. Home sales remain a major relocation benefit for U.S. companies, with buyer value option the preferred policy. Additionally, mobility managers will continue to manage the implications from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, although 56 percent don’t believe the adjustments regarding rates and moving expense deductibility will impact their mobility programs long-term.

Technology and Analytics

Mobility and the technology that supports it are predicted to evolve together in the coming years. In fact, 70 percent of EMEA respondents noted technology used by assignees as one of their focus areas for change. To showcase HR and mobility’s role in achieving company-wide goals, HR leaders should utilize technology and related analytics to:

  • Make smarter relocation decisions. Using predictive data and considering the human element to mobility, HR teams can uncover which high-potential employees may be a good fit for a particular relocation. This will increase the likelihood of a positive employee relocation experience, in turn creating a better bond between the employee and organization.
  • Consider continuous improvement. The collection and use of data was the fourth priority for mobility professionals. Combined with the projection that robotic and cognitive automation will be heavily utilized in operations in the coming years, HR managers can use data to spot areas of weakness in mobility programs and highlight courses of action for HR and mobility to improve, creating a stronger recruiting and retention tool.
  • Show ROI. Sixty-eight percent of respondents noted their companies expect measurable benefits from their mobility programs. Factors like retention of talent, professional success of transferee, and cost of relocation are things to consider when measuring ROI. A properly articulated ROI proves to organization leaders the value of mobility and validates HR’s efforts.

A strong mobility program that continually incorporates trends and company goals is key to affirming HR’s seat at the decision-making table and its role in recruiting and retaining top talent.


Mary Stoik Dymond is chief talent officer for Graebel Companies, Inc.

Posted March 25, 2019 in Relocation

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