Weichert Survey Shows Rise of Agile Mobile Workforces, Flexible Programs 07.11.2014 | Jennifer Connell

Companies intent on post-recession growth need a mobile workforce agile enough to respond quickly to new opportunities and fill talent gaps across their organizations, according to the results of our latest survey.

Now in its eighth year, the Workforce Mobility Survey has become the definitive guide to emerging relocation trends and best practices. This year’s results reflect the input of approximately 220 corporate relocation managers and HR professionals at North American companies across all major industries.

The majority of survey participants acknowledge that workforce mobility remains critical to achieving business and talent development goals, with one-third expecting their mobility volume to increase over the next twelve months. Mobility is even more important among high growth companies, which, the study showed, not only relocate more employees (an average of 432 annual moves versus 280 for other companies) but are also more effective at leveraging mobility as a strategic tool to recruit, develop and retain key talent.

But as volumes rise, the methods employers use to deploy talent are changing in response to a more volatile business environment and the added challenge of managing four distinct generations in the mobile workforce. Half of the companies participating in our survey have embraced such flexible measures as partial lump sums (71 percent), multiple tiered policies (44 percent), granting more exceptions (22 percent) and core/flex programs (21 percent).

Results also showed companies adopting programs to facilitate nimbler workforce deployment, essential for meeting the quickening pace of business and filling skills gaps. The most commonly used programs include long- and short-term domestic assignments, rotational assignments, extended business travel and commuter assignments.

Looking at our results, it’s good to see that employers are no longer viewing workforce mobility as solely a benefit but as a critical component of a successful talent management strategy, and that they’re recognizing the need to embrace flexibility to keep talent mobile.
Jennifer Connell the Director of our Americas Consulting Practice

“But the move to flexibility is bringing a host of other challenges. For example, we see organizations struggle to balance flexibility and cost control, which has led to increased interest in capped programs. Also, an alarmingly high number of companies address flexible moves on a case-by-case basis. As our survey revealed, while ninety-six percent of respondents expect their temporary assignment volumes to increase or hold steady over the next year, only thirty-seven percent claim to have formal policies in place for these moves—something that could increase their risk of tax compliance issues.”

Among other key findings of our Survey:

  • “Talent shortage” was ranked among the highest factors driving the need for a more agile workforce
  • Home sale benefits remain a critical component of any workforce mobility program
  • Renters are eclipsing home owners in some markets, although companies are leveraging innovative services and paid rental assistance to help employees find and overcome tight competition for suitable properties
  • Extended relocation time frames continue to prove challenging for companies

“Overall, our results show workforce mobility professionals attempting to develop a broader matrix of solutions to accommodate a more chaotic business environment,” said Connell. “This is echoed in the uptick of requests my team is fielding for our Optimization Lab, a unique combination of consulting and advisory services designed to help companies define their vision of effective workforce mobility, avoid risks and align mobility with talent management goals.

“With tighter deployment timeframes, fast-evolving business goals and broader employee demographics becoming formidable relocation challenges, HR managers are realizing that the workforce mobility models they relied on in more predictable times won’t serve them well today.”

You can request a copy of the survey here.

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Written by Jennifer Connell


Jennifer Connell, SCRP, SGMS-T, is Vice President of Weichert’s Advisory Services group. She has over 25 years of experience in the workforce mobility and employee benefits industries and is a recipient of Worldwide ERC’s Distinguished Service Award. She has spoken on workforce mobility topics at industry conferences throughout North America and written for mobility- and HR-themed blogs and magazines worldwide.

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