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Providing effective relocation support


In this feature article, Tricia Stewart, Project Manager, Global Mobility Services at Crown Relocations puts forward some best practice suggestions for moving employees.

Relocating employees is no easy task. While most companies move just 25 employees a year for expatriate assignments, the related responsibilities of the HR professional can be overwhelming. Often the HR professional is responsible for relocation in addition to several other key human resource management functions. To ensure that the relocation program is in alignment with the organisation’s business objectives, company culture and budget requirements, adherence to some basic principles can be helpful.

Career Development and Its Linkage to Mobility

First, a company needs to acknowledge their commitment to mobility and the importance it has on business development and career progression. All employees should be aware of the value the organisation places upon assignments. There should be a written relocation policy that addresses the transfer process and the related compensation and benefits programs that shall be made available to employees on assignment. Many companies post their relocation policies on the company intranet – often with a letter from the CEO expressing the Company’s appreciation for the employee’s commitment and acknowledging the growth opportunities that shall likely arise as a result of assignment success. This reinforces the link between mobility and career progression.

Choosing the Right Employee

In order to ensure that the appropriate employees are chosen for expatriate assignments, a company should have a formal candidate selection process in place. Service providers such as Crown Relocations offer Candidate Assessment Programs that help the employee and spouse to explore all aspects of life on assignment from daily living to career development to repatriation. Emphasis is placed on evaluating the employee’s adaptability to the new environment, introducing coping skills and change management techniques and providing an overview of behavioral, and social and cultural nuances resident in the destination location. And, given the significant investment an assignment represents, identifying potential employee opportunities that are expected to arise upon return is critical to retention and protection of the Company’s investment. A formal candidate selection process ensures the right employee is selected, for the right assignment, at the right time.

Overcoming Challenges

In addition to selecting the best candidate for the assignment, most HR professionals confront budget constraints and compressed turn around times in managing the relocation process. To help alleviate some of these challenges, the HR professional should play an integral part of any business expansion strategy and should have reliable, performance driven supplier relationships in place to ensure effective support as and when needed. HR professionals need to be able to actively participate in developing the people deployment strategies that they shall be expected to support. By sourcing performance-based partnerships, expatriate program support can be accomplished with consistency and quality at a quantitative cost. Pre-defining policy guidelines, negotiating applicable supplier fees and identifying account dedicated contacts enables cost effective and consistent relocation programme management.

Expecting the Unexpected

While some issues that arise during relocation are unavoidable, it is essential that the expatriate have a single point of contact or “go to” professional to interpret policy, coordinate services, and to provide guidance throughout the process. A clear explanation of roles and responsibilities should be discussed with the employee at the onset of the assignment. This concentrated accountability approach ensures streamlined communication, minimization of exceptions, and continuity of care through the designated single point of contact.

The HR professional needs however to be flexible. While there should be certain contingency plans in place for issues such as emergency evacuations or illnesses, some things can still occur that are beyond HR’s control. For instance, one Crown client recently delayed an expatriate’s arrival in Asia during the recent SARS crisis. The employee had already sold his home in preparation for the move. Crown was able to place the individual in a vacant home in its property management portfolio and the client company relied upon a series of video and online conferencing to allow the employee to start contributing to the project before the expatriate was able to physically be in the country.

Utilising Online Tools

Many employees are familiar with navigating self-serve sites to collect, research or retrieve information. Leveraging the global access and uniform message that a Company’s intranet offers, organisations are posting relocation policies, frequently asked questions, forms bins and contact links on their intranets to support the relocation process. Companies as well as relocation providers offer online tools such as destination guides, tips for relocating and information for the expatriate’s family. Crown Relocations provides clients and expatriates with an online mobility management system, available 24 hours a day, so that both HR individuals and transferees can check the status of all aspects of their move from expense payments in process to shipment tracking status. Technology tools are an essential element of supporting global mobility.

Measuring Success

Continuous improvement can only occur in an environment where results are measured. Employee surveys, service provider evaluations and internal feedback mechanisms should be established to assist HR in refining program design, delivery and process.

In the end, it is up to the HR professional to balance the employee and family’s requirements with the financial aspect of the relocation. By employing pre-established guidelines for selection, following specific policies for transfer support and engaging dedicated supplier resources and technology tools, the HR professional can provide effective relocation support.

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