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Why relocating employees requires delicate negotiation

Empathy and sensitivity are key when handling the discussions around relocating employees overseas.

Convincing employees to relocate article image

The promise of career progression, a coveted role or a dream destination will often not be enough to entice a staff member to relocate. That so much upheaval and expense is involved in any relocation, the prospect of the personal and financial costs involved may be too much to overcome.

4 features of a relocation decision

When considering relocating, employees will weigh up a range of factors pertaining to their personal circumstances.

1. Family and friends

Parents, other family, close friendships and FOMO can play a huge part in deciding if relocation is conceivable. The prospect of change and upsetting social dynamics can be too considerable a challenge to overcome.

2. Spouse and/or children

Dual-career couples are increasingly common, and the possibility that a partner may disrupt their career path for the benefit of the move may be too large an obstacle to overcome. With children—the upset of schooling and social disruption comes with guilt. Combined with the prospect of handling a new system and associated uncertainties may make the question unthinkable.

3. Financial

Maintaining financial security will be a major factor that underpins a relocation decision. Costs incurred as a result of the move is inevitable, but can often be of an unknown quantity—which may hinder progress of a negotiation.

4. Lifestyle

Are they attracted to a change in lifestyle prospects and environment? Is their quality of life going to be enhanced, can they visualise a life and social circle in the new location?

5 ways to motivate relocating employees

Successfully convincing an employee to relocate can involve some or all of the following elements.

1. The right package

Ensure that the salary is benchmarked for the local market, comparable to their current package and commensurate with their new role.

Remuneration benchmarking by Mercer is one way of achieving a fair outcome. Consider inserting clauses outlining what is agreed when the assignment ends. Include a repatriation allowance, or make clear that the relocation to the new location is indefinite.

Offer assistance to cover costs of the move. These should cover temporary accommodation while seeking a permanent home, flights for the family, shipping of personal effects and other reasonable expenses. Depending on the employee level and/or tenure, reimbursement may cover purely out-of-pocket expenses, or may include other benefits like school fees, a rental allowance and costs associated with breaking rental leases or property ownership in their home country.

2. Relocation assistance

The prospect of navigating a new system, country and culture can be daunting Knowledge that they will receive support settling in and minimising the upheaval can offer great peace of mind. This also helps to limit distractions and maintain focus when onboarding into their new role.

3. Spousal support

The number one concern of relocating employees with a spouse is that they are as comfortable as possible with the move. Career support, establishing a new network and a routine will all be front of mind for the spouse. Loneliness and isolation can be dangerous, so it is crucial that all family members settle at the same rate.

4. Career planning

A clear career path can be a great way to persuade an unconvinced staff member to relocate. Communicating a succession plan, and having transparency around repatriation, if applicable, can all help towards a sense of security.

5. Communication and involvement

Finally, and crucially, providing your employee with useful information around what will be involved with the move, what they can expect from their career and life in the proposed location can really help secure a positive outcome. Clarity around working culture and environment, what the lifestyle is like, where they research and find reliable information to make an informed decision, and finally, involving the entire family unit that will be moving, will all provide a sense of empowerment that they are entering into the decision with eyes wide open.

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