The top three strategies for relocating—and retaining—younger workers.
By Marta Chmielowicz
As the labor pool becomes younger, more savvy, and more demanding of their employers, forward-thinking organizations are enlisting new mobility solutions that are more attractive to Millennials whose age and life circumstances make them ideal candidates for relocation. These changes are no surprise as younger workers have different priorities and expectations for job fulfillment.
“Millennials tend to be good candidates for relocation because they have a different outlook on life and different expectations regarding their careers than prior generations have had,” says Paul Sorrentino, vice president of corporate partnerships for NuCompass Mobility Services. “They are willing to trade old-fashioned job security for new experiences and learning, and are more flexible about where they work and what they do, as long as they are having interesting experiences along the way. This makes relocation less daunting and more of an adventure to them.”
Workers of this generation also often don’t have a long list of obligations to hold them back from relocating. “Younger Millennials tend to come with fewer commitments,” says Patrick Kenning, global account executive at Crown World Mobility. “They most often don’t have a spouse or dependents, and therefore they’re more flexible in their host location and come with less complexity than some of their other generational siblings.”
With little holding them back from exploring new geographies and work experiences, Millennials are being offered relocation programs that are best suited to their needs: internships, college recruiting, and short-term or rotational assignments designed for career development. Organizations are finding that customized programs designed around the specific needs and expectations of the relocating employee are often necessary in these circumstance.
Relocation opportunities for interns are becoming increasingly popular as businesses aim to recruit employees early through the promise of growth opportunities. “The companies that recognize the importance in treating Millennials differently [from other generations] have already made the strategic decision to give Millennials the opportunity to be more flexible and go on international assignments early on in their careers,” says Ivana Gibson, vice president of client management at Mobility Services International (MSI).
According to Weichert Workforce Mobility’s ninth annual survey, nearly 97 percent of survey participants who leveraged internships found mobility as an important factor to support those internships. In fact, 41 percent of companies indicated that internships frequently turned into permanent placement. By making relocation accessible as early as internships, younger employees are given the opportunity to experience the company’s culture and employers can develop skills while advancing the company’s reputation. These perks come at relatively low cost since only minimal relocation benefits are necessary.
Another assignment requiring fewer costs and benefits is post-graduate programs. Millennials are recruited from college and placed in a new location. Millennials lack many of the family and household obligations that other more tenured employees may require. Services—like lease termination assistance and shipment of household goods—can be eliminated to reduce costs without compromising on the quality of the program.
United Airlines has experienced several benefits by leveraging these types of programs. The airline has built a policy for this type of relocation with a set of core services specifically designed for college graduates, says Gordon Paisley, senior program manager for the organization.
“A few years ago, we actually reduced the scope and size of services we provide to relocating recent college grads because we realized that our experienced management policies were simply too much for hires that are often moving out of a dorm or campus apartment,” he explains. “We saw that we were providing services that cost us more, but which did not really affect our ability to get the talent we wanted.”
What these programs do require are a relocation consultant and online resources to coach Millennials who have often not experienced a prior relocation.
Rotational and Short- Term Assignments
With career development a top priority for Millennials, rotational or short-term assignments—lasting one to two years—are growing in popularity. They provide opportunities for employees to develop valuable leadership skills while exploring various areas of the organization.
“A growing number of our clients are implementing short-term assignments or rotational assignments where employees spend time in a particular area of the company to gain further skills and insights,” says Sorrentino of NuCompass “These assignments can range between 3 and 6 months, and can be followed by a series of other assignments. Once that string of assignments is complete, the employee is then assigned a more permanent work location.”
Pharmaceutical company McKesson Corporation has adopted this type of program to much success. “The original investment to give international exposure, learning, and everything they need for future leadership roles is a much cheaper investment for Millennials than for other groups, with a caveat that in the end we are able to retain them,” finds Andreas Strohschein, global mobility and immigration manager for the organization.
What does McKesson offer relocating employees? Lump sums, which allow employees to self-manage and deploy their funds as they see fit. “Lump sum benefits provide the flexibility for the employee to pick and choose what experience they want their relocation to be,” says Strohschein. “I think providing this flexibility definitely aligns very well with what our Millennials express they want.”
But this doesn’t mean that McKesson doesn’t provide other support, which is necessary during the stressful process of moving. “We have the necessary support on the side to avoid the biggest pitfalls and to make sure that people, when they relocate, know where to go, have a place to live, and have their belongings where they need to be,” says Strohschein.
Although the flexibility of these programs caters to the independence of Millennials, technology is often used in conjunction with consulting to smooth the relocation process and ensure employee satisfaction.
“Companies continue to explore self-service technology options for Millennials,” finds Tim O’Shea, vice president of consulting services for Graebel Relocation.”Without question, this demographic has grown up with technology at their fingertips. They want immediate access.”
Younger employees expect a level of instantaneous communication and access to resources that can only be accomplished through the use of platforms and app-based technology. “Millennials have a strong proficiency with an integration of technologies,” says Rodrigo Ribeiro, client Services manager of MSI.
Kenning of Crown World Mobility agrees. “We see and deliver the trend of moving resources onto app-based technology, including links to information, checklists, and communication with service partners,” he says.
Apps also provide transparency and instant access to information. “Flexible relocation platforms allow the employee to make their own decisions about what they need and have more control over the move,” says Sorrentino.
Frequent and effective communication at all stages of relocation is key to success. Millennials are typically inexperienced when it comes to relocating, and need to be educated about the particulars of the program, steps they can take to facilitate their own move, and the services they will need when settling in to the new location. Strohschein of McKesson says relocation programs should offer coaching about the culture of the host location and provide a support system to ensure that employees experience a rich assignment. Through proactive communication, organizations can demonstrate their investment in the relocating employee, while increasing trust and engagement.
Millennial candidates tend to view the relocation process as a reflection of company culture. Programs need to be aligned with the overall philosophy of the organization. Gibson of MSI says that organizations are finding success in aligning global mobility, talent management, and global recruitment. The integration of relocation programs into a broader talent management strategy enables companies to develop richer relocation experiences that focus more on growth and development, while considering the future of the candidate in the organization. “This alignment allows for greater leverage and greater success,” she says.
As companies look to find the best talent to fill their current and future business needs, attracting and retaining Millennials will be key. The development of cost-effective and efficient relocation programs that are tailored specifically to Millennial needs is proving to be an effective strategy to meet those business and talent objectives.
Relocation and Talent Management
While well-developed relocation programs provide tangible benefits to relocating employees, they also support business growth through two main channels: recruitment and retention. Mobility policies and programs are often leveraged as a way for companies to differentiate themselves from the competition when looking to attract top talent. According to Weichert Workforce Mobility’s ninth annual survey, 60 percent of respondents report that relocation policy benefits are crucial to recruiting new talent, and 48 percent say relocation is critical to filling talent gaps and retaining talent.
Brookfield Global Relocation Services’ 2016 Global Mobility Trends Survey echoed these sentiments, citing 41 percent of respondents use their global mobility policies as a means to recruit desired talent externally. Jennifer Connell, North America practice leader for Weichert Workforce Mobility, says that relocation programs that fulfill the specific needs of young employees not only demonstrate the value of an employer, but also give organizations the opportunity to utilize satisfied Millennials’ networking and social media skills to spread the word and recruit like-minded individuals with similar skill-sets.
Effective mobility programs also demonstrate company investment in employees, which improves employee engagement and trust in leadership, which can lead to increased retention. Corporate relocation practices provide a first impression of a company’s organizational structure and reflect the value that a company places on its employees. This commitment to employees is valuable in the face of distrust in company leadership. According to HRO Today Magazine’s first quarter 2016 Employee Well Being Study, skepticism and distrust in company leadership is prevalent among employees, with only 40.9 percent of survey respondents indicating that they trust their leadership. By designing and communicating a comprehensive relocation plan, and investing resources to assure the smooth implementation of that plan, businesses can alleviate some of this distrust among relocating employees. This will allow employees to feel valued and taken care of, improving engagement, quality of work, and overall retention rates.