The Cornerstones of Program Design
A well-designed mobility program recognizes that need for balance and seeks to ensure that all the forms of relocation assistance are implemented effectively and economically while helping relocated employees maintain their job productivity during the transition period. As employee mobility continues to play a critical role in organizations’ talent acquisition and management processes, effective relocation and assignment benefits are paramount to reaching corporate goals. Program Design is more than just establishing policy provisions and the final document. Consideration should be paid to underlying drivers of mobility.
Cornerstone 1: Philosophy, “The Why”
A question every organisation needs to ask itself is “What drives mobility?” Often times, other Corporate benefits programs may hold the answer. Most Companies are either employee-centric, cost-driven, or in most cases somewhere in between. Employee-centric companies are driven by employee satisfaction. Benefits are commonly more robust, and can have more focus on meeting the individual’s needs. Alternatively, cost-driven organisations take a “lean” approach to offerings; providing enough to meet the business need, with more focus on the “bottom-line” versus the individual.
The War for Talent also plays a role in mobility structure. Recruiting initiatives tie directly to relocation and international assignments as multi-national organisations may be forced to seek out talent in the global marketplace. Relocation can present challenges to the employee, not only emotionally, but financially. For example, establishing a new residence is costly and relocation benefits can be considered taxable income to the transferee. Does the company want to share in the additional tax burden as the cost of doing business? Or is the employee to take on some of the risk? In addition to compensation, relocation assistance can be a crucial element in a job seeker’s decision to select one company over another. Does the organisation want to be consistent with other organisations tapping the same pool of candidates; do they want a competitive edge?
Benchmarking can be an effective tool in measuring competitiveness. Conducted on an annual basis, a benchmarking study and analysis reviews the existing relocation policy and procedures against industry best practices, market data information about key relocation benefits and offerings within the respective industry to ensure that the Company is competitive in their marketplace.
As with all facets of any business, relocation trends change and evolve. In addition to benchmarking, periodic program assessment surveys may also reveal valuable information.
Surveying the transferring employees / assignees, as well as the internal business owners / users may identify what is working and what is not working. Utilizing a third-party service provider to conduct the review may solicit more candid feedback.
Cornerstone 2: Population, “The Who and Where”
Move population demographics play a crucial role in establishing relocation benefit levels. Often, the best relocation programs reflect the Company’s culture and specific needs of its employees. Each employment level presents its own challenges that can be addressed specifically with multi-tiered program. By obtaining a clear picture of who is relocated, the positions and frequency with which they move, and what location-specific challenges may exist, the program can be designed appropriately.
Mobility may also be a companion to an employee’s development through an organisation. Beyond the traditional within borders relocation program; summer intern programs, recruitment support services, short-term assignments, domestic plans in foreign locations (other than headquarters), international assignments, and one-way transfers to cross-border locations may be a good adjunct to career pathing. Through the use of the global relocation program continuum, understanding move demographics and adding a formal structure to the process will help the organisation stay agile.
Cornerstone 3: Administration, “The How”
Administration of the relocation program, whether centralized or decentralized may drive the complexity of benefits. In developing relocation programs of scale, the proper people and processes must be in place. Outsourcing to a third-party service provider may be an effective means. Often times, relocation program administration and vendor management is just one aspect of a much larger core set of responsibilities. The third-party service provider is strictly focused on the mobility aspects of human resources, freeing up valuable company resources. In addition, third-party service providers can manage vendors directly and offer group purchasing discounts on services the company would not otherwise be able to obtain on its own.
Cornerstone 4: Compliance, “The Why”
The Company should assess its risk threshold and ensure all measures in place are compliant with local / government regulations. Not only should benefits be within regulations, but processes need to be well-defined and communicated to protect the Company in the event of an audit.
Cornerstone 5: Communications, “The What”
As with other corporate benefits, creating defined guidelines of assistance is necessary to ensure equitable and consistent administration, while allowing the organisation’s business units to create realistic budgets. Administrative features of the relocation program should also be clearly outlined and articulated. Specific definition as to the who, what, where and when of the program is necessary to provide the employee with a more efficient means of understanding the relocation program, process and resources that have been made available in order to ease the transition to the new location. Clearly stating these elements will increase employee satisfaction, and reduce internal workload. Program collateral should include comprehensive policy documents, high-level program matrices detailing the main provisions of each plan (for internal use only), as well as a cost estimator tool to properly estimate a budget for each move.
In addition to having the communication materials in place, a formal roll-out should be conducted. Consistent messaging of the program to end-users, from those authorizing relocation benefits to those receiving assistance will further set realistic expectations.
Putting it All Together
Regardless of what relocation benefits are chosen to implement, incorporating the cornerstones of good program design will help set the stage for a strong mobility foundation.