Taking Employee Experience into Consideration

New research uncovers four trends that elevate talent mobility programs.

By Mary Stoik Dymond

The profound impact of COVID-19 on the workforce is the latest reminder that talent mobility is always evolving. With advances in technology, changing employee expectations, and shifts in country-by-country regulations, what worked for HR leaders and mobility professionals one year may not produce exceptional relocation experiences or support company business goals the next. Today, the industry is preparing to adjust and reinvent itself when the post-coronavirus new normal arrives.

With the long-term view in mind, how can mobility leaders stay on top of industry trends and best practices to both meet assignees’ needs and remain a strategic business partner? Answers to these pressing questions is what Graebel Companies Inc.’s 2020 Annual State of Mobility Report aims to provide.

It’s all about finding ways to elevate the employee experience, particularly post-COVID-19 when the mobility industry reopens on a market-by-market basis. The State of Mobility Report shows four trends that HR leaders can consider to improve their mobility programs and assignee relocation experiences.

1. Today’s talent seeks program transparency and flexibility. The new generations and types of workers dominating the workforce, including millennials, Generation Z workers, and gig workers, have different expectations when it comes to mobility programs and support. Namely, they’re looking for more flexibility and control over their relocation program. This is supported by survey results that show 41 percent of mobility professionals feel that transparency and flexibility are the features that enhance their employees’ relocation experiences the most. This means that companies need to review all elements of their global mobility program through their employees’ eyes to effectively compete for talent. For example, many companies are offering core flex programs or lump sum arrangements to provide the flexibility of self-managed moves for assignees.

2. Technology should match assignee needs. Seven out of 10 mobility professionals surveyed in the report say the technology used by their assignees will be the biggest change to their program over the next five years. This indicates that assignees’ engagement with technology—and the amount of control they’re given—can help shape employee experience and level of satisfaction. For the assignees managing their own moves, an organization’s tech platform is an essential part of the relocation process and needs to be a resource that assignees can turn to in order to make the transition smoother. However, more hands-off assignees with managed moves likely won’t rely on technology. HR leaders need to look at each assignee’s situation and individual needs to find the right integrated technology that fits those unique needs and enables an exceptional experience.

3. HR can build strategic value with company leaders. Over half of mobility professionals (58 percent) plan to offer their perspective to support broader talent management matters over the next five years. This includes sharing strategic insights within their companies about HR and talent management integration, real-time business intelligence, analytics, and dashboards. Providing this thought leadership will prove the strategic value of mobility to company management.

4. Communication is key among all parts of the mobility program. If using a relocation management company, HR leaders need to manage the communication between the supplier partners and employees. Whether assignees manage their moves through lump sum arrangements or have a managed move, they need to work with relocation service partners. From last-minute household goods shipping to housing coordinators to partner employment counselors, assignees rely on service partners’ expertise to execute their move. Communication can make or break that partnership, as evidenced by the 46 percent of surveyed organizations that reported communication was the most common challenge they faced.

From these trends, it’s clear that HR and mobility teams are both doing and seeking to do more within their organizations: more volume, more customized service, and more strategic support. The good news is that mobility programs and HR professionals seem to have more financial resources at their fingertips than in the past. The report findings show that global mobility budgets have increased an average 47 percent in the past three years.

Regional Mobility Trends

In addition to the global priorities, HR leaders need to pay attention to regional mobility trends that could impact the company’s mobility program, or unforeseen events that can alter a region’s priorities. The State of Mobility Report shows key regional insights.

  • Asia Pacific (APAC): Mobility is an emerging corporate function in this diverse region, and leaders are focused on developing relocation programs that address cultural differences, needs, and preferences. China and India are good examples. 

As China’s tier-two cities become more favorable location destinations, HR leaders need to adapt mobility strategies that reflect the many differences across these cities. However, it’s also important to keep in mind that Chinese employees don’t view relocation opportunities favorably. HR leaders need to take that into account when developing regional and culturally appropriate relocation programs.

In India, mobility is largely seen as a tactical cost of doing business rather than a strategic business function. However, mobility programs will grow in value and importance as global companies continue to enter and expand in markets, and tap into the young, educated workforce as India continues to develop its infrastructure.

  • Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA): Brexit uncertainties continue to dominate the European political and economic scene. As a result, workforce issues like social security, taxation, and immigration are transforming and driving mobility program change initiatives within EMEA-based companies. HR leaders should closely follow as Brexit unfolds in the coming months and the world learns more about the UK’s new regulations that will most certainly impact mobility programs.
  • Americas: With a tight housing market in North America and taking into account millennials’ housing preferences, mobility teams in the U.S. are reviewing home sale benefits provisions. In Latin America’s 33 nations, companies are navigating other housing and rental challenges as they move or expand into new markets. HR leaders need to be prepared to navigate the diverse industries, economies, politics, and practices of each country.

When executed properly, a company’s mobility program can be a differentiator in recruiting and retaining top talent. HR leaders and mobility professionals should keep a pulse on mobility trends—such as evolving employee relocation expectations and advances in technology—especially right now as COVID-19 continues to change the mobility industry on a daily basis. This will help HR leaders build effective mobility programs and a strong workforce that can rebound as markets reopen, drive company-wide success, and nimbly address global market challenges and events.


Mary Stoik Dymond is chief talent officer for Graebel Companies Inc.

Posted May 5, 2020 in Engaged Workforcein Relocation

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