Relocations can be challenging. This is particularly true for difficult destinations, where the unknowns outweigh the possibilities.
A difficult destination isn’t necessarily a hardship location, but rather one where acclimation is particularly difficult. For example:
Lifestyle Challenges – Relocating to a rural town from the liveliness of a large city or metropolitan area with vast choices.
Financial Challenges – Moving to a much more expensive city, no matter how exciting or attractive. The financial incentive of compensation and benefits may not offset and still leave gaps.
Cultural Challenges – Relocating to a new country and all that entails. Changes include everything from climate to language to food to schools to finding work, plus all the other myriad nuances of making a home in a vastly unfamiliar place.
Here are four tips for minimizing relocation declines and helping employees succeed in difficult destinations.
1. Leverage Pre-Decision Assistance
When families are considering a move to a challenging destination, it is helpful to set expectations early. Many perceived challenges might be overblown in the mind of the transferee and their family. Helping them early in the process removes anxiety around the unknowns.
A holistic pre-decision process can help with this. This includes community tours, spouse/family needs assessment, neighborhood and school info, cost of living analysis, and home sales and purchase. A successful move means setting expectations for the entire family, not just the employee. The pre-decision process allows them to discover the challenges and benefits of the new community.
Did you know acceptance rates rise from 50% to 85% when the family receives coaching support as part of the pre-decision process1?
2. Create an Internal Mentor Program
Employees experience a lot of changes all at once during a move. They take on a new job, new office, new boss, and new area. Developing a partnership with a colleague who is familiar with the area and the relocation experience encourages a quicker uptake in the difficult destination.
Offering a mentor for the employee in the host location, especially when it was a challenge to get the employee to move, is a low-cost way to ease the transition. Mentoring relationships provide a great way for transferees to gain knowledge about the office culture and how the office works, as well as encourages local knowledge sharing.
RES Forum notes that effective mentoring has a positive impact on the success of international assignments. It also improves the commitment and satisfaction of the employees as well as their relationship with their company.
3. Develop Ways to Build Community
In our People Perspective on Relocation survey, we discovered that feelings of loneliness double after the relocation for both employees and spouse/partners. Furthermore, the study revealed the top concerns for single employees include making friends and fitting in at the office. Think about some difficult destinations… They may be remote areas or even large cities that are financially expensive. Locating hobbies, clubs, and social activities is not always easy.
Employees and families alike desire community in the new area. When this isn’t found, employees are much more likely to return early. Take one of our clients in Switzerland as an example. They were losing 11% of their transferees (who were on permanent assignments) within 2-3 years. As a result, the company had a talent retention crisis.
In analyzing their situation, they realized families were leaving because they were not adapting to their host country and building relationships. Some solutions the company put in place include creating community for spouse/partners through workshops, as well as developing activities for employees’ children. Just by acknowledging what was difficult about the destination empowered the employee and family to think long term and change their mindset.
4. Ensure Families & Spouses Thrive
Ongoing coaching support keeps employees and families moving forward, discouraging isolation from their new community and helping manage the change.
Only 32% of employees relocate alone.2 The remainder are moving with spouse/partners, kids, elders, and pets. Finding adequate resources and networks in their new communities can be daunting and intimidating, especially if moving to a difficult destination. Coaching analyzes the needs of the entire family and provides an action plan for addressing each stage of the relocation. In the long run, integration and spouse/partner job search coaching saves the family valuable time, enables the transferee to be more productive, increases their happiness during the relocation, and reduces the family’s financial loss by enabling spouses/partners to find employment quickly.
Relocations to difficult destinations can be smooth and successful with extra planning and additional resources. As you look at your acceptance rate and early return rates, consider implementing these best practices to achieve the results you need in difficult destinations.
Interested in learning more about relocation coaching programs?
Discover how spouse/partner job search and family integration programs make a positive impact on the relocation experience.
1 IMPACT Group Internal Data
2 People Perspective on Relocation Report, IMPACT Group