New research reveals five ways to improve relocation programs for employers and organizations alike.
By Liz Simmons
In the past two years, the business world has been thrown continual curve balls. A global pandemic. Travel restrictions. Vaccine policies. Remote work. Staffing shortages. Supply chain interruptions. War.
But rather than throw down gloves and hide in the locker room, mobility leaders are looking for ways to adapt their relocation game plan. The fact is a growing, vibrant business must be nimble and able to respond to changes in the marketplace just as an outfield has to adjust to different batters.
A new CapRelo research report, Creating Flexibility in Talent Mobility Programs and Policies, assesses the state of global mobility today, and how HR professionals are adjusting their relocation policies and processes for the future. Here are five key takeaways HR and mobility leaders should keep in mind.
1. It’s time to amp up policies. Mobility encompasses a wide variety of situations, from international and domestic policies, to long-term and short-term assignments, to virtual assignments and hybrid working arrangements. Having a structured program and strong policies in place can ensure that relocation happens smoothly and stress free for everyone involved.
The research found that many organizations are struggling with aspects of relocation processes and policies. Only about half give their organizations high marks for overall employee satisfaction (52%) or level of support (54%). And even fewer say they are doing a good job when it comes to flexibility (46%) or equity (48%).
That said, whether driven by the changes brought on by the pandemic or simply their own foresight, the majority of organizations have taken steps to redesign their relocation policies with more benefits. Two-thirds (62%) have implemented a comprehensive talent mobility/relocation policy. And leading mobility organizations are nearly twice as likely as others to have updated policies to accommodate employee well-being and mental health.
2. Remote work is here to stay. The past two years are proof that remote working arrangements can be successful for many organizations. One of the results of this is that employees who previously had to be close to a physical office are now relocating to other locations for reasons such as lower cost of living or to be closer to family.
Like it or not—and many organizations don’t—survey respondents report that remote work isn’t a temporary blip. Nearly half (48%) expect virtual assignments to increase in coming years. Employees are asking to work remotely, and companies are recognizing that a flexible remote work policy will be fundamental to retaining and attracting talent. In fact, only about one-fifth (17%) of respondents anticipate a full return to on-location staffing now that the pandemic is subsiding.
Remote work is also opening new opportunities for both workers and employers. Positions that were strictly in-person before may now seek remote-only candidates, allowing for greater DEI&B in the candidate pool and giving employers access to talent beyond their geographical location.
3. Flexibility is the new norm. The research report uncovered encouraging trends when it comes to global mobility’s approach to flexibility. Organizations are keeping flexibility in mind when making updates to their relocation policies. Most respondents (63%) say improvements have been made to their relocation initiatives in regards to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEI&B). Leading mobility organizations have accomplished this through greater flexibility (42%) and structuring policies to support DEI&B (25%). More than a quarter have also created more DEI&B-friendly benefits to support assignees (28%) and more equitable compensation policies (28%).
The highest performing mobility organizations also offer broad flexibility in the types of mobility paths available to employees. Through the pandemic, companies have realized the value of going the extra mile to provide a menu of options to support employees’ needs, from business travelers and commuters to short- and long-term assignees. Further, more than a third (35%) say their organizations are offering employees more personalized and tailored relocation benefits, and 33% say their relocation policies have been updated to accommodate employee well-being/mental health.
4. Specialized skills are in demand. The global race for top talent is well documented in the business press. The good news for HR leaders is that relocation can play a critical role in winning that race. The research revealed the number one driver of relocation as the need for specialized skills. Most organizations use long-term relocations to fill specialized skills (61%) and leadership positions (54%). They are also leveraged to source specialized talent when local candidates aren’t available.
Increasingly, employees themselves are seeking out relocation opportunities. For those employees, organizations may need to increase their flexibility surrounding relocation and work arrangements if they wish to attract and keep the best talent.
5. Success is (somewhat) being measured. Measuring the success of talent mobility continues to be far down the list of priorities for many organizations. Some in the survey pointed to the use of face-to-face interviews (in-person or video) or a survey soon after the relocation to determine how smoothly the process went for the transferee. A third also report that they review retention and turnover numbers, and a quarter examine the return on investment.
But worryingly, 25% of the organizations said they don’t measure the success of relocations at all. Considering the cost and importance of mobility in today’s global economy, this is a troubling number.
Organizations that don’t track or measure the success of global mobility may have a difficult time improving their processes if they aren’t aware of where they fall short.
Liz Simmons is vice president of global operations and international HR compliance for CapRelo.