Younger workers seek out mobility assignments for professional growth. Organizations achieve better retention rates. Advice on how to do it right.
By Audrey Roth
Stereotypes of Millennials are in no shortage, ranging from their brief attention spans to a need for incessant affirmation—but they aren’t all bad. Millennials are also assumed to be tech-savvy, interested in work that has value, and curious about the world around them. This curiosity may be driving an increased interest in corporate relocation.
According PricewaterhouseCoopers’ report Millennials at Work: Reshaping the Workplace, 70 percent of Millennials want or expect an overseas assignment at some point in their careers. And with 1.8 billion Millennials globally predicted to make up 50 percent of the workforce by 2020, employers need to ensure their relocation programs are attractive to this generation.
Generational interest in corporate relocation isn’t a new thing, shares Brian Potts of Altair Global. “As the mobility industry has grown, it has attracted baby boomers, Gen Xers, and now Millennials at a consistent rate, on par with the labor demands of the industry,” says the senior vice president of the Pacific Region for the relocation company.
But this generation brings a new perspective. “Millennials have a more global mindset. They grew up alongside the rise of the Internet, intense global branding, and mobile and other technologies that contributed to major globalization in the economy, business, and communication,” says Robert Brizuela, CRP, GMS, client services manager at Xerox Relocation
and Assignment Services. And it’s a good thing that Millennials are open to different work options since organizations are reconsidering the types of employees to place on relocation assignments, driven by a variety of benefits, including reduced costs. “There was a certain demographic of people that would most consistently make up the relocating employee population,” says Potts. “In the past, relocation was most typically only offered to middle management or high-level executives. However, as times have changed, so has the face of the workforce. Instead of middle-aged men with a trailing spouse and children, relocating employees are increasingly young, single, childless, and ready to see the world.”
Why are Millennials Ideal Candidates for Corporate Relocation?
Less binding responsibilities. Millennials are in a near perfect stage of life to pick up and move. They are renters not homeowners, they are having fewer children, and they are getting married later in life. This means this group has fewer variables tying them down to one place, allowing them to be in a position to move easily. “Millennials’ average salary is in the $60,000 range, and their average tenure at a company is from two to four years,” says Brizuela. “They’re more willing to move and want to travel, plus they know they have less experience than their older coworkers. They want and expect to go on assignments, regardless of whether it’s short- or long-term, rotational, domestic or international.”
Looking for skills development. A global assignment is a career move that Millennials don’t want to pass by. Nowadays, there is a stronger tie between talent management and relocation, says Potts. “The idea of global assignments or relocation for promotion or advancement is not a new concept for this generation,” he explains. “Millennials are known as a generation that wants success early on, and to them, relocation is simply a means to an end.”
The skills they accrue from a global assignment can help build their personal toolkit while adding value to the organization. “Having a program that allows these opportunities not only adds to the development of the Millennial working abroad, but also helps to create a
cadre of future leaders with a global mindset for the company,” explains Ceci Franchi, director, consulting services for MSI Global Talent Solutions.
Viewed as a perk. The enthusiasm for working abroad can often circumvent the need for monetary incentives, which are common with older workers. “No longer are relocation incentives needed to increase the likelihood of assignment acceptance. Now companies and employees view global mobility as a perk of the job and are more likely to volunteer or ask to be
relocated,” says Potts of Altair Global. The high interest in relocation assignments does not necessarily mean companies need to invest more, but just need to have smarter spend.
One cost-conscious approach is to offer short-term relocations to more employees. “Rotations can last from six months to two years and are ideal for domestic and global assignments,” says Brizuela. “These programs are highly effective in enhancing the careers of Millennials or recent college hires and those identified as high potential employees.”
The Groundwork for Success
Although Millennials have a strong willingness to take on an assignment, designing relocation so it’s attractive and beneficial still needs to be addressed. “Millennials require a sense of purpose and are eager to grow professionally and personally,” says Franchi. “Businesses need to understand this and adapt to the goals of Millennials.”
1. Demonstrate work-life balance. Younger workers have a need for both this balance and social interaction, explains Potts. A social workplace culture in a new environment can add to the relocation’s appeal. “Millennials want the opportunity to engage with others, so companies that offer a strong, social culture are pulling away from stodgy, corporate America in attracting and retaining this generation,” he says.
2. Offer flexibility. Allowing flexible working conditions such as working from home or during non-core hours adds to the attractiveness of a role. Flexible relocation packages also add to a position’s allure. Brizuela explains core-flex programs are increasingly popular and can be used domestically or internationally. “They tend to meet the greatest core needs of the employee while not appearing to be as costly as full-blown, traditional benefit programs,” he explains. “Often, employees will receive a miscellaneous allowance, along with core items such as household goods shipment, travel, temporary housing, home-finding trips, and
return home visits. This program also provides flexibility around home sale or property management.”
Gail Reinhart, vice president of global relocation outsource company TheMIGroup, says that their clients are positioning relocation differently for all employees, not only Millennials. “While Millennials appear to not necessarily want the white picket fence approach to life and may not need as much structure in the relocation program, it appears that all employees, no matter what their age, have jumped on the Millennial bandwagon. Our clients are moving toward more flexibility within their relocation policies.”
3. Convey career advantages. Demonstrating the professional benefits of a prospective relocation assignment can piqué interest in mobility as a method of career advancement. According to PwC’s Millenial’s Survey: Millennials at Work: Reshaping the Workplace, 66 percent of those surveyed feel they need to gain international experience to further their careers.
“Using relocation to illuminate a career path with milestones and achievements along the way is something we are emphasizing more than in the past,” says Potts of Altair Global. “This generation of employees is not one to want to pay their dues, so to speak, without checkpoints along the way that provide growth, opportunity, and feedback.”
4. Use up-to-date technology. Younger workers are much more connected to technology than previous generations and are impressed with employers that are on par. Fifty-nine percent of respondents to PwC’s survey say that an employer providing state-of-the-art technology is important to them when considering a job, while 78 percent said that access to the technology they like to use makes them more effective at work.
Xerox’s Brizuela says that mobile technology is not only important for a better experience, but also makes it easier to measure performance and productivity. “Technology can also help business leaders manage costs and build cost models for subsequent relocation,” he says. “For example, portals that can serve as a central tracker and enabler of relocation activities, such as booking travel, expenses, and web chats with consultants, ease mobility as well as provide access to culturally relative data and information.”
“The more information that can be provided 24/7, online and through an app, the better,” says TheMIGroup’s Reinhart. “Millennials are really not interested in pouring through policy documents… they’d rather go directly to what they need to know at any given point during a relocation. Smart technology is the best way to service this population.”
5. Provide guidance. Younger workers tend to seek feedback more than previous generations and, although they are eager to be relocated, they also want some guidance along the way. “Millennials are more willing to move for their professional and personal advancement due to their more global mindset, but offering personalized consulting services to identify their needs and give them the information and resources they need to succeed in their new location is key,” says Brizuela.
In the constant war for talent, retaining this growing generation of the workforce is a healthy practice. Relocation is a strategic means to meet this goal, especially in this day and age where Millennials are moving from job to job at a quicker rate than in the past. “Attracting and keeping Millennial workers is currently one of the biggest talent challenges. Global mobility will play a key role in attracting and retaining Millennials,” says Franchi.
According to a recent Georgetown University report Failure to Launch: Structural Shift and the New Lost Generation, only one out of every 10 18-24 year olds considers their current job a career, and Millennials on average switch jobs 6.3 times between the ages of 18 and 25. Relocation is becoming a proven approach to keeping Millennials with the same organization for longer.
There are a few strategies employers can employ for retention. Potts explains that organizations utilize different programs to achieve different goals:
• Internships to introduce the company culture and benefits to potential employees;
• Rotational programs for current employees to enjoy a diverse experience; and
• Short-term international assignments for the employees looking to gain global experience.
“All of these types of programs can be used to create highly desired career paths for Millennials employees,” he says. “Overall, most companies are more aware of how talent management and relocation go hand-in hand and are utilizing mobility as a way to build loyalty within a generation that is often viewed as becoming bored easily.”
With these strategies in mind, organizations can put their best foot forward to create a successful relocation program adapting to targeted employees. “Relocation is never a one-size fits-all package,” says Brizuela. “It’s really about creating a personalized experience to help mobility work better for Millennials and all other generational groups.”