Implications of “Work-From-Anywhere” on Relocation Benefits

With the COVID-19 pandemic still dictating the terms of where and how we work, employees are settling into work from home—just not their current home. According to TechRepublic, 75% of employees would consider relocating if work from home arrangements become permanent. 

That means employers are now faced with yet another challenge: tailoring relocation benefits to support hybrid “work-from-anywhere.” Companies must remain agile in navigating the legal and logistical implications of this uptrend in employee relocation, all while driving performance, recruiting and retaining talent, and keeping their employees–both near and far–safe.

Our Guest: Gary Conerly, HomeServices Relocation

On our latest WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Gary Conerly, Director of Client Advisement for HomeServices Relocation. He’s a trusted human resources professional who has spent the last 20 years developing cost-effective relocation services for employers in a variety of industries.

When it comes to employee requests for relocation, Gary says the pandemic has changed things in a major way:

“Employees are saying…if I can work from home, why can’t I work from anywhere? The employee thinks that’s no big deal. I hope every listener out there is rolling their eyes right now. Because we all know just how big a deal that would be.”

Recruitment, Retention, and Relocation Benefits

In this new hybrid “work-from-anywhere” culture, how a company administers relocation benefits makes all the difference between retaining talent or sending them looking for more flexibility elsewhere. Gary explains:

“When a valued employee comes to you and makes a request to move to another state…most companies are approving that request. Losing an employee who has been upskilled…can have a significant impact on the business’ goals.”

Competitive relocation benefits have often been a critical part of onboarding. Now, Gary says that successfully recruiting top talent may depend on them:  

“One of the reasons an employee says ‘I’m not going to take this job’ is a lack of support when it comes to relocation. So, HR, at a minimum, needs to provide guidance, education, and resources for any and all relocating employees.”

When asked where companies should start, Gary had this to say:

“HR professionals can reach out to a relocation firm asking about the possibility of benefits that are provided free of charge and for guidance on reputable, professional moving companies, or (various) discounts for their employees.”

The Legal Implications of Hybrid “Work-From-Anywhere”

 While employees may not see the issue with relocating, for employers, it’s a different story.

“What if they’re moving to a state that has significantly more stringent labor regulations versus their current state? HR leaders…business leaders would have to look into (this) before they approve such a request,” Gary says.

Relocation and COVID-19 

Relocation has always been a complex process and the pandemic has only made it harder. Employers must now determine what their duty of care and responsibility is to best support an employee looking to relocate. 

“COVID-19 has had a serious impact on…moving services and other services related to relocation. Companies should educate employees about the risks that they face and set realistic expectations about the time involved,” Gary says.  

Gary warns that if a company fails to provide this guidance, it can lead to stress on the employee and hamper their productivity, which affects a business’ bottom line.

Hybrid “Work-From-Anywhere” and the Future of Work

As for what the future looks like in the “work-from-anywhere” culture, Gary explains that employees aren’t the only ones heading for different horizons:

“Here in the past 12 months, we’ve helped over 10 companies move their entire headquarters either a few states away or in some cases across the country…for real financial and quality of life reasons. I don’t see that going away.”

I hope you enjoyed this episode of #WorkTrends, sponsored by Homeservices Relocation. To learn more about facilitating employee relocation in the hybrid work world, contact Gary Conerly on LinkedIn.

#WorkTrends: The Global Workforce

People around the world are more connected than ever before, and workers are jumping at the chance to relocate. This week on #WorkTrends we’re joined by Steve Black, co-founder of the HR tech company Topia. He shares new research about the state of the global workforce and employees’ perspective on relocating. This episode is sponsored by Topia.

Black explains how he founded the company seven years ago with CEO Brynne Kennedy, and how the business was driven by their personal frustrations as expats as well as the challenges their employers at the time faced moving people around the world.

“Thinking about mobility from a corporate perspective is really about getting the best talent in the best seat regardless of where that is in the world,” Black says.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

Generational Split

Black dives into a recent survey the company commissioned on mobility, exploring the differences in opinions and perceptions between individuals within large organizations and leadership teams.

Among the findings was an interesting generational split when it comes to expectations and desires regarding mobility. Specifically, millennials and subsequent generations are much more likely to seek out global experience quickly compared with previous generations.

“They’re looking at it as a career development opportunity rather than an income-generating opportunity,” he says. “They’re willing to move to a new location without a promotion or without a pay raise because they see the opportunity for career progression and growth.”

Gender Divide

Black says the survey data helped put hard numbers around workforce dynamics that had been generally recognized in the business world but not detailed. For example, the survey found that 57 percent of men over the course of their careers had an experience of mobility as part of their career, compared with 40 percent of women.

He says this divide is an important metric to explore as business moves toward more gender equity because a key criteria for representation in the C-suite and on boards of directors is often global experience.

“We’re in an interesting chicken-and-egg situation of until we solve the multi-gender splits within mobility, it’s going to continue to be a blocker and challenge down the road in terms of career progression,” he says.

Tech Solutions

Black says he’s seen organizations and their mobility teams struggle over the past decade-plus with carving out enough time to do the hands-on support, counseling and strategic planning elements of HR. The causes, he says, are often resource-intensive compliance tasks that are a part of mobility, such as manually creating documents and interacting with vendors.

“That balance has ended up with much of mobility being more of an operational function than many of the folks in it would like to be,” he says. “That’s where we’re really starting to see technology come into play and chip away at.”

Black says emerging technologies are automating mobility tasks, from assignment letters and repayments to complex cost forecasts for multi-year assignments around the globe. “You’ve eliminated hours of manual time spent gathering information and doing somewhat menial tasks,” he says. “And you’ve freed up time to counsel, support and talk to the rest of the business around outcome ability — and drive talent strategy rather than reacting to it in an operational way.”

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Thank you to Topia for sponsoring this episode of #WorkTrends.

Let’s continue the conversation. Join us on Twitter (#WorkTrends) for our weekly chat on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific, or anywhere in the world you are joining from to discuss this topic and more.

Is Mobility a Key to Retain Your Talent?

The phrase “world of work” really means the world now. So many businesses are expanding geographically to grow. And that means relocation opportunities for the workforce — as well as a whole range of logistical challenges for HR. But it also means conveying these opportunities to employees. Surprisingly, there’s a disconnect, as Wakefield Research found out in a soon-to-be published study for Topia. The results, shared with me as a preview of the study, reveal that while HR is tackling how to track and facilitate reassignments and relocations, the workforce doesn’t always know these opportunities exist.

Given that we’re in a talent crunch with unemployment still around 4 percent, companies need to strategize effective ways to retain their own talent. What Topia’s study found is that offering employees relocation opportunities may be even more of a win than previously understood. And, actually, not offering relocation opportunities may be even more of a direct loss. Twenty-two percent of U.S. and 33 percent of U.K. professionals have left a job because they weren’t allowed to transfer to another branch or location.

Move to Grow

There are countless reasons one may want to relocate. But most professionals — 70 percent in the U.S. and 75 percent in the U.K. — said they see relocating to another branch in the same company as a career-advancement opportunity, even if there’s no raise or promotion involved.

Mobility is seen by this workforce as an opportunity to grow a whole range of critical career skills, such as cultural competency, flexibility, learning to work with various people and tactical problem-solving. And movement as well as change are growth in themselves — particularly in millennials and younger employees hungry to climb the ladder.

When asked what factor would make an employee hesitate to accept relocating to another branch or location within the company, 37 percent in the U.S. and 30 percent in the U.K. cited capped career growth potential or career progression. If there’s no growth potential, the effort involved in relocating may not be worth it. So companies that need or want to encourage employees to take a relocation assignment may want to make sure they emphasize the career growth opportunities in doing so — and then, of course, make sure that growth can happen.

Help Navigate the Change

While relocation — particularly global mobility — is an enormous undertaking for both employer and employee, companies need to position it as a clear opportunity for their workforce — who likely will be willing to deal with the complexity of relocating if there’s a support system in place.

Indeed, one of the most revealing findings in Topia’s study is the gap between knowledge and execution — which shows that a tremendous resource in terms of engagement and retention is being undermined. For instance the survey found that nearly all hiring executives polled — 96 percent in the U.S. and 97 percent in the U.K. — are well aware that relocation programs have enormous value. But they lack the ways and means to both convey and communicate these opportunities to the workforce, and then to manage mobility successfully.

It’s clear that employees want relocation opportunities — and that’s across the generations. Boomers want them as a way to broaden their horizons and have another experience or two before they retire. Millennials and Generation Z envision success as having a certain kind of forward and outward momentum. For people of color and women, mobility assignments can provide a definitive boost to their career trajectory — it’s been called a great way to “differentiate themselves.”

So why don’t employees know about opportunities? It’s not a question of not having the skills. A core insight of Topia’s research is that the message just isn’t being transmitted. A total of 41 percent of professionals in the U.S. and 40 percent in the U.K. said they either don’t have relocation opportunities or don’t know if such opportunities exist within their company. That’s not stopping them from looking for the chance to expand their horizons; it’s just stopping them from looking within their company. That adds up to a whole lot of missed opportunities, on both sides of the employer-employee equation.

What would close the gap? Far better internal communications, a way for employees to convey their interest in relocation opportunities and a culture that embraces the growth opportunities of relocating as something everyone should be able to experience. But another key factor here is a smart, powerful mobility management program. Companies need better relocation tools — and a holistic way to manage the complexities of relocation, which frees up HR to spend more time communicating and less time knee-deep in administrative tasks. And that can happen. The solution is to partner with an expert — one who combines up-to-date technology with deep knowledge, and who can empower your company to leverage mobility to engage and retain your workforce.

For any company or HR pro facing the prospect of managing mobility in the workforce, the Topia survey is going to be a welcome resource. The preview already paints a compelling picture of the gap between opportunities and awareness for too many employees, and of the need to mitigate the administrative pressure on HR with a more holistic and technologically advanced approach. Stay tuned for the full survey results, to be published by the Topia team in early September.

What You Need to Know About Global Mobility

When an employee at your organization moves to a new location, what has to happen behind the scenes? What paperwork has to be approved before they move? How does your organization help the employee find the right place to live? How do they book a moving truck? And what happens when you have hundreds or thousands of employees making those moves?

These are all questions that Brynne Kennedy is interested in. She’s the CEO and Founder of Topia, a company that helps employers make relocations smoother. I asked Brynne how she got interested in global mobility and how her company is changing the game.

Why is global mobility such a pain point for companies? And why is it important to get it right?

Global mobility is a key element in a company’s talent strategy — attracting candidates, retaining staff and developing diverse leaders.

But companies make global mobility hard. They have operational inefficiencies to getting an employee’s mobility approved — for example, not having software to easily project the costs and impact of a move. Then they make it hard to physically move a human to a new location — by setting up a situation where an employee has to call many different people to get the information they need for their personal move.

Companies can make global mobility much easier for everyone — HR teams, finance teams, payroll teams, tax teams, business unit leaders and mobile employees — by connecting their global mobility ecosystem and processes in intuitive software with strong employee support.

How did you get interested in mobility?

Prior to founding Topia, I was an investment banker and worked throughout the world on a series of international assignments. I saw that companies were moving greater numbers of staff for many different reasons and durations. I also saw that the nature of work was changing with the rise of AI and automation, and that large numbers of staff might need opportunities to move into new roles and locations in the future. In researching the HR tech and global mobility markets in business school, I saw that there was an opportunity to build a true talent mobility suite for the future.

How are you changing the way companies think about global mobility?

We think about global mobility as the great enabler of an agile organization. Our software suite makes this a reality by unleashing global workforce and cost planning, engaging employees during moves, and managing ongoing mobility infrastructure and processes. We are changing the game with this software and allowing companies to make agility a reality for the first time.

What steps go into an employee move?

The first step in moving an employee is for a company to run scenarios about the move — how much will it cost, what policy should be used and in some cases, which location should that employee move to. Then, everything has to be approved by the relevant budget holders.

Once approved, the second step is to support the employee with their personal needs for their move.
Then, after an employee moves, the company manages a series of processes, including storing documents, generating payroll instructions, tracking immigration statuses and analyzing data on location and success rates.

You talk about technology as the great differentiator as far as global mobility. Can you elaborate on that?

At many companies, global mobility has historically been a transactional and logistical function. As such, the industry has been dominated by logistics companies — generally former shipping or real estate companies — that managed the transactional aspects of relocations.

Today the workforce is rapidly changing due to new demographics of employees, increasingly interdependent global business and technology advances that are redefining the jobs and locations in companies. Companies are now using global mobility to create business agility, employee attraction and retention, and build adaptable and diverse workforces in the face of constant change. A comprehensive mobility software suite is critical to unifying the data, processes and partners to make agility a reality. And that’s what Topia does — enable work everywhere — through our software.

Can you talk about how we can leverage data to improve the global mobility experience for employees?

Global mobility teams have historically had very limited access to data about mobile employees. It has been difficult to understand how much is being spent, where employees are at given points in time and the compliance risks that may occur through tax or immigration regulations. No one has leveraged data to forecast the impact of a mobility experience on, for example, leadership potential or diversity, or to calculate the ROI of a mobility experience, or to suggest a neighborhood in line with employee preferences and office proximity. At Topia, we leverage data to make personalized recommendations to employees and to ensure organizations are set up to provide the best possible experience.

Do you see a connection between global mobility and improving diversity?

Absolutely! There is a close correlation between the experiences that an employee has in other offices and their leadership potential. Just 20% of mobility assignments are filled by women — suggesting that there is unconscious bias in selection — which means that companies are not building a diverse leadership pipeline through mobility. If companies want more diverse leadership, they must consider how to get mobility opportunities to more women.

Are there any demographics that absolutely tend to not thrive on expatriate assignments? How can we reduce the risk of losing talent by moving them?

I think the question is not who doesn’t thrive, but how do different employees best thrive. Success in mobility is about matching employees with the right roles, personal lifestyle locations and mobility durations. We are seeing a significant increase in “non-traditional” mobility now — short-term assignments, long-distance commuting and frequent business travel. Often these policies can enable career growth and retention, but also balance family needs. Another way to reduce the risk of losing talent is to ensure that employees can find the right place to live and work, and the data sets and recommendation engine in Topia Go do exactly this.

This post is sponsored by Topia.