Relocation stats show need to face family issues

The data shows HR professionals should put family issues at the top of relocation planning.

In a survey of 52 North American relocation administrators for the newsletter Runzheimer Reports on Relocation, 56 per cent of respondents named family ties as the chief reason relocations fail or are turned down, followed by concerns about a spouse’s employment at 51 per cent.

Whether it’s the spouse, children or parents, the family has a profound impact on an employee’s decision to relocate, said newsletter senior editor Phyllis Schumann.

“Three important words emerge from this survey,” she said. “Family comes first.”

While there is a growth in the number of organizations offering family-related assistance, there is still a long way to go, another Runzheimer survey released this year shows.

Less than half (44 per cent) of North American companies offer re-employment assistance to the spouse of a transferring employee, according to the 109 relocation professionals who responded to Runzheimer’s eighth Survey and Analysis of Employee Relocation Policies and Costs.

One-quarter offer this assistance on a formal basis and another 19 per cent on a case-by-case basis. This represents a small improvement from 42 per cent that offered spousal re-employment in ’99, and 41 per cent in ’97.

Of the organizations offering spousal assistance, 51 per cent make services available through a third-party relocation firm, 31 per cent reimburse employees for using an outside service to assist spouses with preparing resumes and career counselling and 29 per cent found employment for the spouse within the company.

The average cost per employee for spousal re-employment assistance increased to $1,500 from about $1,300 two years ago.

School search assistance programs were offered by 27 per cent of respondents, followed by child care (20 per cent) and elder care (11 per cent).

Locating schools is a primary concern for a relocating family, said Runzheimer consultant Katrina Jaehnert. Since families with school-age children tend to comprise a large percentage of transferees, it makes sense that school search assistance is slightly ahead of child care and elder care. But, with a growing population of baby boomers caring for elderly parents, elder-care programs may increase in popularity, she said.

Popular school-search assistance programs include offering the services of outside professionals who help evaluate area schools, corporate counselling for transferees regarding school selection and providing written information on area schools.

Organizations address child care concerns in a variety of ways. Some offer outside referral services, others counsel employees internally regarding child care in the new location, some include financial assistance for child care, and a few provide an on-site child care centre in the new location.

Elder care is handled in a similar fashion — a combination of outside resources, company financial assistance, written information and counselling.

Surprisingly, 80 per cent of organizations not currently offering school, child-care and elder-care relocation services stated they have no plans to add these benefits.

“That philosophy may come back to haunt them as the growing population of baby boomers become caregivers and younger employees with a greater value on personal time and freedom come into the workforce,” said Jaehnert.

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