Employee relocation: Beware the one-size-fits-all package

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Yesterday it was all about sending a big boss to run the overseas branch office; today, relocation is also about employees further down the hierarchy, multiple destinations and hugely varying budgets.

All of which means that flexibility and a tailored approach are the order of the day, and that the one-size-fits-all relocation package provided by a third party is on the way out.

A recent report from Brookfield Global Relocation Services suggested that a more diverse international assignee population, a growing number of home or host countries for assignments and escalating pressure on mobility program cost containment mean companies are having to become more flexible. “In the past, a single assignment policy was all a company often needed to fulfil long-term assignments that were typically offered to one type of assignee – a senior executive from company headquarters,” said Brookfield’s Scott Sullivan. “Today, the topic among mobility managers has shifted to 'show me a flexible international assignment policy that works’.”

Linda Pendlebury, director of Life Relocation, said companies need to recognise relocations as a highly emotive subject for staff and incorporate proper management of this into their relocation strategy. “A truly effective relocation strategy incorporates a mix of strategies for the identification of the right candidate for the relocation through effective processes, suitable property availability in the host location, strategies for effective human resource management and of course the business aspect of the relocation,” she said. “Companies need to plan their strategies very carefully, using 'on the ground' specialists when they possibly can to avoid many pitfalls that occur in a relocation, whether it is domestic or international. A key element is constantly reviewing the host location's ‘cost of living’ as this can have a major effect on any relocation."

Pendlebury added that, if not managed properly, the costs of a failed relocation can run into hundreds of thousands, between the initial cost of hire, relocation expenses and downtime in between a new hire. “The key is to have a very effective recruitment process in place and where possible, use any tools such as psychometric testing for the individual and family. Willingness to relocate is one thing; adaptability is another thing and is the key for any successful relocation,” she said.

Kate Weaver, HR director of international law firm DLA Piper Australia, said flexibility is the key when it comes to mobility policies and programs.   “My best advice would be to set up a framework that allows for different jurisdictions, backgrounds, circumstances and career goals,” she said. “It must be designed to meet the needs of the business, but flexible enough to apply to the unique needs of individual employees.”

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