Relocation: Taking charge

An efficient employee relocation process makes a world of difference, and it is crucial for HR managers to take charge of it. HRM looks at some factors to consider and tips to ensuring a smooth transition for employees

Ensuring that the employee relocation process goes smoothly is essential for any organisation and its employees. However, there are several challenges that can impede the transfer process, ranging from compliance issues in the destination country to an employee having difficulty settling down in a new cultural and language environment.

Experts say that though relocation companies do offer various services to help organisations settle their employees in a new destination, HR managers should also take the initiative to ensure the process takes place without a hitch.

Focus on employee relocation

HR has various duties on its plate. But while HR professionals can be “weighed down” by different tasks, experts highlight that ensuring a smooth relocation process should be a priority.

Wendy Chee, Director of Sales, Santa Fe Relocation Services, says the organisation commissioned its Global Mobility Survey last year. The research revealed HR professionals’ time is most often taken up by tasks relating to immigration compliance (49% of HR respondents cited this), tax compliance (45%) and conducting general administration (42%). “Despite the need to be more strategic, HR professionals appear to be held back by a sea of tactical tasks and administration, instead of focusing on employee relocation matters,” she explains.

Richard Tan, Vice President of Pan Pacific and PARKROYAL Serviced Suites, says it is important for the assignee and their family to be well-adapted into their new environment, in order to reduce stress and allow the worker to focus more on the job than on relocation matters.

“After the move is completed, each assignee is given a survey to ensure that optimal service is rendered and feedback on the vendors (such as the relocation agents, and serviced apartment provider) are all taken into consideration for future assignees,” he says.

Both Tan and Chee concur that HR managers should focus more on employee relocation matters. In particular, this is because of the growing rate in assignments taking place each year.

Chee, says: “Key industry experts are urging global mobility (departments) to take a more forward-looking role in their organisations. With businesses anticipating a higher rate of growth in assignment activity than ever before, the alternative is that we are seeing global mobility departments trailing the business.”

Tan notes that employees need to be well-assimilated into their new environments and cultures. “Relocation is a huge step and would require more focus from the HR managers themselves. These relocated assignees are important to the business and need special attention.”

Consider the factors

There are various layers to the employee relocation process, and HR will face several challenges in implementing each one. Industry leaders say HR needs to consider everything from legal factors to financial concerns in order for employees to settle into their new environment.

Chee, from Santa Fe, states: “Compliance is a critical part of corporate governance in today’s companies and HR professionals should consider aspects of managing compliance with all the legal, financial and tax-related issues of international and domestic assignments.”

It is also essential that HR takes costs into consideration. Chee adds that providing the right tools for cost projection and cost optimisation throughout the lifecycle of the assignments is important as the total costs related to employee relocation may well reach four to six times the basic gross salary.

Measuring Return on Investment (ROI) is an important part of managing a successful global mobility programme, explains Chee. “A key aspect to improving ROI is ensuring that the company continues to benefit from the investment going forward through talent retention,” she says. “In other words, HR professionals need to retain those employees in whom the company has so heavily invested.”

HR should also consider the personal costs to the workers that relocate. Offering them the right incentives can make it more worthwhile. Tan explains that HR should offer an attractive remuneration package that includes a comfortable living environment for employees and their families to ensure they are well taken care of in their
new country.

“HR managers need to look into many aspects of the employee’s relocation, including transport to and from the office, special needs of the employees, and settling down into their new home,” he adds.

The industry experts offer some tips for HR to consider when relocating their employees. “When looking for a good serviced apartment, it is important to get good referrals,” notes Tan. “Check out TripAdvisor for feedback, and also look at the proximity of the accommodation to the local office.”

Chee says that beyond merely plugging a gap, HR professionals should be looking to support the development of employees. “The best global mobility programmes will provide employees with the future skills and experience necessary to align with the changing business and socio-economic landscape of the global company,” she explains.

Arthur Kiong, CEO of Far East Hospitality, says employee relocation is now extremely common for many global employers and an attractive relocation package is important for companies to remain competitive and retain talent.

He adds that employee relocation matters should not be overlooked, as it would have direct impact on an employee’s performance at their new workplace. “To ensure a seamless transition into the new environment, the employee needs to know that their accommodation and lifestyle needs will be adequately met upon arrival.”

Working with HR to relocate

Relocation organisations say that they work closely with HR from the initial point of an offer letter to the time that employees have settled into their new homes. These companies provide myriad services such as orientation and even cultural and language training so that an employee can make the transition without a hitch.

“Santa Fe manages and administers every aspect of each assignment, for the duration of the relocating employees’ expatriate lifecycles,” explains Chee. “Santa Fe provides the relocating employees with a single point of coordination, managing all the aspects of the relocation into one seamless service.”

Chee says Santa Fe also provides value-add services that include area orientation, home and real estate searches, and cultural and language training. She explains the company’s global mobility consulting services team provides HR Managers with the support and expertise to help them to address the strategic side of the relocation, whilst also enabling them to maintain focus on the operational aspects of their role.

Tan says that Pan Pacific and Park Royal Serviced Suites works closely with HR managers and relocation companies to help employees integrate into Singapore easily. The company also provides many services for the assignees in its care, including a 24-hour service of personal assistants to help them assimilate into their new environment. The suites also provides tips, a shuttle bus service, and a community that looks out for the assignees. “These Personal Assistants are there to ensure that (the employees have) no culture shock, no home-sickness or loneliness, and are able to provide answers when necessary.”

Kiong of Far East Hospitality says that his company works very closely with HR managers to better understand their employees’ various needs on location, facilities and basic amenities. Far East Hospitality Serviced Residences is in eight locations in Singapore. “We propose our options accordingly to make sure those requirements are met. Accommodation-wise, accessibility, safety, and comfort are often the top consideration factors for the relocating employee and his/her family.”

Workers willing to relocate for dream job

A global poll released in January by international job board, Monster, has revealed that more than half of the world’s workers (55%) are willing to relocate to a new country to pursue their dream job. Monster asked visitors, “How far would you be willing to relocate for your dream job?” and received over 5,400 responses.

23%  answered “I wouldn’t be willing to relocate”

23%  answered “I would move to another city”

23%  answered “I would move to another country”

32%  answered “I would move to the other side of the world”

The French and Canadians were the most enthusiastic to relocate to pursue their dream job – 50% of French respondents said they would move to the other side of the world, and 23% would move to another country. Forty-five percent of Canadian respondents said they would move to the other side of the world.


Analysing the Workday advantage

Sandeep Aggarwal, Chief Financial Officer of Aon-Hewitt Asia-Pacific, shares his thoughts on the Workday finance and HR analytics platform. He says the cloud-based system is intuitive and easy-to-use, but still provides powerful insights across the functions.

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