September 20, 2022

Support for Employees Engaging in Self-Initiated Moves

With the rise in remote work, many companies view assistance for employees opting to move on their own as a strategic talent advantage

If planning and budgeting for your future workforce needs suddenly feels a LOT more challenging, you are not alone. There are plenty of conflicting and confusing signals that make it hard to say whether we are still deeply entrenched in the labor and skill shortages that have long defined the war for talent or facing more waves of hiring freezes and layoffs. Is the hybrid model really here to stay, or will we eventually see a significant return to offices? Will the rates of remote and gig workers grow, particularly across the talent pool of those who were either part of the “Great Resignation,” or are unwilling to give up their work-from-anywhere (WFA) or work-from-home (WFH) flexibility? Alternatively, will the risks of these location-agnostic approaches – regardless of employment status – prove too high for businesses and individuals alike?

That’s a long list of questions, and the reason the current environment feels so challenging is that the answer to all of them seems to be “yes” or at least “maybe” right about now. This “all of the above” conundrum means HR teams are likely planning through very different lenses, uniquely shaped by industry sectors, company cultures, strategic business and talent priorities, and geographic footprints.

There is, however, a point of clarity to focus on: Retaining and engaging the best talent is an important strategic priority for all organizations – whether making the most of the good times or positioning to weather the bad – and mobility remains a key ingredient in the recipe for success.

The Impact of Work Flexibility

The initial pandemic-driven wave of 100% remote work for certain types of jobs prompted many to move well beyond what would be considered a reasonable commuting distance, with some even crossing state or international borders. The impact on the global workforce was significant. Results in a study by the global work marketplace Upwork earlier this year indicated that in the U.S., an estimated 4.9 million people, or 2.4% of all Americans, packed up and changed address since 2020. The same research results predicted that that number could swell to nearly 19 million, as workers indicated they had plans to move due to greater flexibility around work locations.

Migration is happening in the form of job movement, too. A ‘State of Hybrid Work 2022’ study of 10,000 respondents across multiple European locations by Owl Labs indicated that one-third (31%) of employees have changed jobs in the past two years, and of those that did not, 21% are still actively seeking a new opportunity. As they explore greener pastures or different locations, the top policies that would most likely prompt employees to reject a job offer are:

    • Not allowing flexible hours (37%)
    • Not allowing flexible working location (28%)
    • Requiring employees to work in the office full-time (28%)

As the report notes, many employees “have discovered that with a laptop, internet, Slack and email, they can still be productive from just about anywhere. Others see the physical office as no longer the only location where they can be productive.”

Rising interest rates and a slowing economy may have forced some to put moving plans on hold for practical reasons, but McKinsey & Company’s American Opportunity Survey suggests that most workers still strongly favor flexible work. They found that “when people have the chance to work flexibly, 87 percent of them take it. This dynamic is widespread across demographics, occupations, and geographies.”

“The flexible working world was born of a frenzied reaction to a sudden crisis but has remained as a desirable job feature for millions.”
– McKinsey & Company’s American Opportunity Survey

What It Means for Talent Mobility

Companies have long seen the benefits of mobility as a talent strategy – whether to foster learning and development, expand locations or product lines, lead projects or teams or build future leaders, to name just a few of the key drivers. But what about those employees who simply wish to move on their own? Are companies seeing strategic value in providing them with any support?

To find out, we conducted a mid-year pulse survey of fifty-one global companies representing seventeen different industry sectors. We asked whether and to what extent companies were assisting employees opting to move on their own in the era of increased work location flexibility, as opposed to only those who were part of an employer-sponsored relocation package. What we found might surprise you.

First, we asked what type of work arrangements they currently have. In keeping with the wider trends noted above, a majority (70%) have maintained flexibility, either retaining remote work (30%) or adopting a hybrid model (40%), incorporating some blend of in-person and remote work. Twenty percent indicated that they have fully returned to the office, while a further 10% determine return to office or remote strategy based on individual job specifics.

Work Model

While most respondents (62%) indicated that they do not currently provide any type of company-financed assistance for those employees who initiate their own moves because of remote work flexibility, nearly 40% of respondents do provide some level support, either outright (14%) or on a case-by-case or exception basis (24%). Of those organizations that are providing support, 20% have a formal policy to dictate what benefits they offer in the U.S. and 24% use a formal policy to shape what support is provided to cross-border or in-country moves happening outside of the U.S.

Self Initatied Moves

Types of Assistance Provided for Self-Initiated Moves

The two most common benefits offered to employees moving within the U.S. were support for the movement of their household goods (67%), or a miscellaneous expense allowance (50%). For cross-border moves, the number-one benefit was to provide immigration support (64%), followed by such destination services as home finding or school search (35%) and tax briefings (35%) to ensure employees understand the full financial impact of their move.

We also asked whether organizations are placing any caps on the amount of assistance they will provide to offset the costs of a self-initiated move. For both U.S. domestic and cross-border moves, most (63%) do not cap the amounts, mostly likely the result of the exception-driven approach. Twenty percent do place caps on all moves, however, and 17% cap the level of assistance for U.S.-only moves.

US Benefits

International Benefits

Compensation Decisions

With the ties between office and home locations no longer relevant for many workers, the primary migration patterns have been out of expensive cities in favor of more cost-effective alternatives. With this in mind, we asked whether organizations are reviewing adjustments in salaries or other compensation for those individuals who initiate a move and experience a notable change in their cost of living. The approaches vary, with 48% indicating that they are not making any compensation-related adjustments, while 51% use either a local or global salary model to determine whether changes need to be made.

It's All About the Talent

There is no doubt that it is difficult to read the global labor market tea leaves in the current environment, but one thing is clear: supporting employee movement remains a key part of an organization’s competitive strategy to attract, develop or retain the best talent, whether as part of a formal relocation program or on an individual consideration level.

Are you exploring changes to your mobility policies or considering assisting self-initiated moves? It’s a tricky landscape, but you don’t have to navigate it alone. Contact us for information and resources – we can help.

 

 
 
Kristin White

Kristin White

Kristin is Director of Corporate Communications and PR for Sterling Lexicon's parent company, Suddath. She brings more than 25 years of experience in global workforce mobility, PR, marketing, editorial planning and communications to her role. Before joining Sterling Lexicon/Suddath, she worked for many years at Worldwide ERC® in collaboration with cross-departmental teams and industry stakeholders to develop in-person and virtual event program, digital and print content, including Mobility magazine articles. Contact Kristin at kristin.white@sterlinglexicon.com.

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