The relocation industry is getting back to business and new research shares what the new normal looks like.
By Zee Johnson
On the heels of what may be the tail end of the pandemic, the relocation industry is slowly but surely reenergizing. Atlas’s recently released 55th Annual Corporate Relocation Survey reveals the factors that challenged organizations at the height of uncertainty and the elements that mobility leaders are now considering as they strategize continued recovery. The survey lists the most notable themes to keep in mind before making company-wide decisions that could influence the entire relocation process.
The Pandemic is Over—Or Is It?
Upward trends stemming from 2021 and into 2022 have painted a bright picture for mobility. While global adversity has significantly affected operations for the past several years, affecting the volume of relocations companies have been able to perform, restoration appears to be on the horizon.
The report found that COVID-19’s impact has lessened, thanks to vaccines and tight global safety protocols, which have instilled a sense of security in both employers and employees. And from this, companies are witnessing great growth, as 60% of respondents report an increase in domestically relocated employees and 48% report an increase in international relocations. These increases have played primary roles in 52% saying their overall financial performance increased last year, too.
With the report confirming that business is heading in a positive direction, some leaders are still leery about COVID-19 and are keeping it on their immediate radar. In fact, 56% of all companies said that COVID-19 remained the most significant external factor impacting their employee relocation program in 2021. Likewise, in 2020, COVID-19 was the main reason for employees declining relocation. And though that number decreased in 2021 to 29%, it remains a factor in why employees are presently dismissing offers.
In addition to COVID-19, the report found that other impediments have rose to the forefront. Employees cited family responsibilities (21%), spouse/partner employment (26%), health/safety (32%), and the rising cost of living (27%) as reasons to decline relocation opportunities. This confirms that while the landscape has recovered a great deal, there’s more work to be done.
Relocation volume and company budgets are moving in an upward direction, but so are cost complexities and logistics stemming from COVID-19. With 59% of respondents anticipating cost increases due to COVID this year, is the pandemic really over?
A Tough Economy
From inflation to the conflict in Ukraine, 41% of companies cited economic conditions as their most impactful external factor on relocation. According to the report, the Russian and Ukranian war has generated vast sanctions, spurring economic global consequences that have had a significant influence on the cost of living. In the United States, at the time of the survey’s release, inflation had reached a historic 12-month increase, tying directly into food costs and most notably, the extremely competitive housing market.
Twenty-eight percent of large companies stated that the current housing crisis has had the most significant impact on their number of employee relocations in 2021, with 31% of mid-size companies saying the same.
And as prices rise and employees are expected to foot part or all of the bill, the report finds that economic well-being will drive employee decision-making. Now is the time for employers to consider how the high cost of living will affect their programs and what they can do to alleviate some of that strain.
The Great Resignation Isn’t So Great
Another fragment of the pandemic, The Great Resignation remains present as workers aren’t ready to let up on their employer requirements just yet. About one in three companies said that The Great Resignation or the lack of qualified local talent had the biggest impact on their relocation program in 2021 and another 29% said that it has decelerated the job market and company growth. To combat this and retain talent, organizations will need to forge a plan that addresses shifts in employee attitudes as it pertains to culture and workplace management.
What Can Companies Do?
To evolve, leaders shouldn’t sit back and let market circumstances dictate how well their company will fare in today’s climate—they’ll have to work diligently and insightfully to rectify the issues that pose a threat to their program’s expansion. The most successful companies will be those that continue meeting employees where they are, and the report lists some ways to foster connection.
- Provide more assistance. More than 65% of employees say that spousal concerns frequently or almost always influence relocation assignments, according to the report. So, updating existing policies that hinder employee participation could increase volume. Currently, 40% of large companies offer no spousal assistance, while 45% offer no childcare assistance. Further, 35% of small companies also don’t offer spousal assistance, with 23% offering no childcare assistance either. Services like networking assistance, covering work visa expenses, and interviewing skills training for spouses can help. Also, allowing flexible work schedules/models and issuing reimbursement of childcare/eldercare costs could help mitigate duties.
- Revisit existing policies. Many companies have turned to policy tiering to bolster employee support and flexibility. Policy tiering, typically based on factors like employment status, job title, and tenure, can facilitate eligibility criteria and assist employees at all levels.
- Focus on the individual. Examining the particular needs of an individual, personal or professional, greatly encourages engagement, company loyalty, and trust, and strengthens the employee experience. Closely monitoring the needs of relocating employees can also help address policy gaps on a rolling basis.
- Improve communication. Companies should provide employees with quick, useful, and clear correspondence. Developing apps and tools that house information and resources in one place supports the overall experience and removes ambiguity from the equation. Answering questions about travel restrictions, quarantine periods, international/domestic guidelines, and relocation counseling before they’re asked can reinforce trust.
Having a relocation program that’s influenced by key industry insights and that’s agile enough to withstand abrupt market movement is essential. During turbulent times, employees want to ensure they are supported and employed where their experience is paramount. Effectively advising employees who are relocating domestically or internationally and providing services that add ease to the process is a sure way to successfully expand operations and establish a strong global footprint.