Harnessing the power of data is leading to better decision-making and improved employee satisfaction to boot.
By Debbie Bolla
Global mobility has traditionally been a costly investment for organizations. In fact, according to Urban Bound, it costs more than $97,100 to relocate current employees who are homeowners and nearly $73,000 to relocate new hires who own homes. But in a tight labor market where talent is often a key differentiator, can organizations put a price on having the right person in the right role at the right time? That’s a tough question to answer, but luckily data is easing the cost implications of relocation while delivering additional insight into employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention.
“Relocation is a complex service,” says Bill Mulholland, director of American Relocation Connections LLC (ARC). “As such, costs require both analysis and insight to provide a true understanding. Achieving program visibility is essential. Visibility and transparency can only be achieved by tracking data and the associated metrics, which ultimately translate into accurate reporting.”
Data often holds the key to tracking patterns and trends within a relocation program that can drive measurable outcomes. Today’s technology systems play an important role in housing this data and producing reports. Roxanne Korostowski, vice president of operations for XONEX Relocation, says that relocation dashboards paint a picture of what’s working within a program and where improvements can be made.
“Having access to real-time expense tracking and spend information should enable global mobility managers to plan budgets and manage expectations—or alter policies altogether,” she explains. “It’s easy to determine which benefits are driving cost, which policies have the most exceptions, which regions are more expensive, and so on.”
In addition to having access to benchmarking studies, John Fernandez, executive vice president of Global Mobility Solutions, recommends several points of data that organizations have at the ready, including:
- cycle times for services dates and how they correlate;
- the number of properties viewed;
- claims; and
- retention after relocation.
“These are just a few examples of analytical data points that provide insight on the effects of attrition and retention for relocating employees and drive program improvement,” he says.
Mark Woelfel, vice president of global client services for CapRelo, recommends that global mobility managers partner with other departments to gain insights that they may not otherwise discover.
“One client of ours has found that by sharing their analytics with talent acquisition teams, they are able to reduce relocation costs,” he says. “For instance, ‘near hires’ (under 500 miles) cost significantly less than ‘far hires’ (over 500 miles) due to transportation costs. Another lens is internal versus external hires, as most companies find internal placements inevitably have fewer costs than new hires. These approaches are significant because savings are driven not from reducing benefits, but from who the benefits are being offered to.”
Data also holds the opportunity to report and understand levels of employee satisfaction with assignments and benefits. Korostowski says traditional surveys still have merit when gathering transferee feedback, but she notes it is critical to customize the questions to the experience.
“If you are looking at satisfaction in regards to specific benefits and service delivery, you should have questions specific to these areas,” she says. “For this type of survey, it’s important to check in with transferees and assignees on a regular basis and it’s important that questions are consistent across all moves to maintain integrity of the data. These questions should also be distributed in accordance with the policy being offered. We won’t, for example, ask a transferee who hasn’t received temporary living about their temporary living experience.”
Frequency is an important factor that is often overlooked. “A focus on ‘experience metrics’ is becoming commonplace in our daily lives, and this extends to a relocating employee’s experience,” says Woelfel. “Pulse checks at key milestones of a relocation allow not only for service course corrections, but also an opportunity for real-time process improvements.”
Woelfel says this feedback can be collected in a variety of ways depending on preference: texts, on-demand feedback tools, and even simple happy/neutral/sad graphics. And harnessing data over multiple pulse checks can show whether ratings are increasing, which aligns to overall employee satisfaction.
Mulholland says not to count out standard performance metrics that measure the more tactical aspects of relocation.
“Our performance metrics related to the shipment of household goods (timely delivery, estimated cost to actual costs, and the rate of claims for damage) directly correlate to our employee satisfaction survey. Similarly, real estate metrics, such as sale-to-list ratio and days on market, correlate to employee satisfaction,” he says.
And some of the best information can come from relocated employees who do not stay at the organization. “We also strongly encourage exit interviews,” explains Korostowski. “Any interview should include a series of questions that remain the same from person to person. This will enable HR to compile data points that track the reasons why people leave in order to mine for real trends that the company can control.”
Exit interviews can help mobility managers overcome one of the biggest hurdles of relocation: integration with the overall HR process. “Failed assignments, while not common, are rarely tracked back to the mobility program itself or used to better candidate selection, policy right sizing, or impacts to succession planning,” says Woelfel. “More significantly, employee retention beyond an assignment (internationally or domestically) is rarely measured, as the employee is often no longer ‘tracked’ by mobility upon their return. Fortunately, integrations into HRIS systems such as Workday is increasingly connecting mobility to wider HR, providing for better reporting into subsequent years.”