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Global Employee Relocation: Optimizing Productivity and Well-Being

In today’s increasingly globalized world, many companies resort to international employee relocation for various reasons. Some choose to move their staff for management concerns, as the employee’s talent might be in demand on a new site. Others transfer their staff internationally for better retention: according to Crown World Mobility’s survey of 250 HR decision-makers, based in the US, Singapore, the UK, Ireland, France, and Germany, 82% of businesses claimed they had offered relocation programs to employees in a bid to retain them, with more than half (53%) agreeing that relocation. Moreover, the same survey demonstrated that companies promote relocation opportunities to both prospective (54%) and current (51%) employees. 90% of these businesses incorporate international experience as a key component of their career development plans.

Regardless of the reasons behind a relocation, it often brings challenges. If employees do not receive proper support during this time, it can lead to high turnover, costing employers valuable time and resources in retraining and moving new workers.

This article outlines strategies for effective short and long-term employee relocation. It also covers best practices for maintaining long-term employee engagement after they have relocated.

Types of Employee Relocation: Temporary and Permanent

Temporary Employee Relocation

Temporary employee relocations, ranging from a few weeks to several years, may serve various purposes. The reasons to send your staff to another location for some time may include their specialized expertise provision, project management, knowledge transfer, or cultural exchange skills. Furthermore, familiar employees in a new location save time and money as they already understand the work, reducing the need for extensive training and allowing HR to focus on travel and accommodation logistics. While hiring local agents might meet immediate needs, they lack company-specific knowledge, which can delay establishing effective working practices. Temporary relocation assignments have distinct start and end dates, and employees often maintain connections to their home country, including employment contracts and benefits.

Temporary Relocations: Challenges and Considerations

However, relocating staff involves challenges, such as tax obligations in the home country and finding accommodation in the new location. Luckily, the rise of short-term rental platforms has made temporary accommodation more affordable and varied, easing the burden of relocation. Additionally, for successful temporary staff relocation, you must consider the following aspects:

  1. Temporary Accommodation: Utilize cost-effective options like short-term rental platforms.
  2. Letter of Assignment: Issue formal letters for tax purposes, confirming the temporary nature of the relocation.
  3. Local Documentation and Visas: Be aware of different visa processes and local council requirements in Europe.
  4. Communication: Maintain efficient and motivated communication across territories.
  5. Choosing the Right Staff: Identify employees who are willing and contractually able to relocate.
  6. Financial Considerations: Consider local living costs and potential salary adjustments.
  7. Legal and Administrative Preparations: Engage local legal advisors and conduct necessary background checks.
  8. Information and Consultation: Manage national and transnational obligations related to relocation and redundancies.
  9. Retention Strategies: Prepare for possible resignations and longer-term stays, and consider “come-home” clauses.
  10. Resource Allocation: Assess the potential costs and resource requirements for the relocation project.

Permanent Employee Relocation

Permanent employee relocation refers to a longer-term or potentially permanent move of a staff member from their home nation to another country. This type of relocation refers to individuals who reside and work abroad for a considerable duration, usually several years, with opportunities to extend their stay or even consider permanent residency or citizenship. In contrast to short-term relocation, permanent transfer often requires more profound assimilation into the culture and society of the host country.

Principal Features of Permanent Employee Relocation:

  1. Extended Duration: Expatriation typically involves a prolonged period of living in a foreign country, typically lasting at least a year or longer.
  2. Objective: The deployment of staff members is generally for critical roles like managing or establishing overseas branches, nurturing international collaborations, transferring expertise and technology, or advancing global leadership skills.
  3. Cultural Integration: There’s an expectation for relocants to fully engage with the host country’s culture, language, and traditions, building local connections and establishing a more long-term presence.
  4. Comprehensive Support: Permanent relocants often receive extensive relocation support, encompassing housing, educational aid for dependents, tax guidance, and healthcare provisions, all aimed at facilitating a comfortable and efficient transition to life abroad.

Challenges in Permanent Employee Relocation

Long-term relocation can bring up issues like costs associated with immigration, cultural adaptation, managing expectations, and maintaining retention.

The first challenge is the period of the relocation process itself which may last from 1 month or 6 months, depending on the selected country. This timeframe assumes the employee can expediently sell their existing home in the local real estate market or receive a prompt cash offer. There is no uniform timeline for job-related relocations, as each situation is uniquely influenced by the individual’s circumstances.

The next considerable hardship is the possible high cost associated with such relocations. Companies must account for expenses like relocation packages, housing, transportation, visa or work permit fees, and potential tax implications. These additional costs can significantly strain the company’s budget and affect its financial health.

Another challenge is the cultural adaptation for employees moving to a new region. Adjusting to different cultures and languages can be difficult, potentially impacting employee productivity and satisfaction. This adjustment period requires support and understanding from the employer to ensure a smooth transition.

Additionally, managing the varied expectations and needs of relocating employees is crucial. Different benefit packages and work arrangements need to be clearly communicated and implemented, ensuring fairness and consistency across the workforce.

Lastly, employee retention can be a concern, as relocation can be a disruptive and challenging experience for employees and their families. Difficulty in adjusting to the new environment may lead to decreased job satisfaction and increased turnover.

Strategies for Effective Employee Relocation

Comprehensive Relocation Support

Employee relocation packages are a vital perk offered by many employers to facilitate the moving process for work purposes. These packages are often provided when an employee has to relocate for business needs, wishes to transfer to a different company location, or is a new hire moving for the job. Essentially, a relocation package encompasses various forms of support to ensure a smooth transition for the employee to their new work location. The forms of support may include:

Transportation to the destination point, covering the costs of moving the employee and their family to the new area. When the employee can drive to the destination, it’s usual for companies to compensate for the mileage incurred. In cases where the relocation necessitates air or rail travel, it’s standard practice for these packages to also cover the expenses related to transporting the employee’s vehicle(s).

Professional moving and packing services are commonly covered to alleviate the logistical challenges of the move.

Health insurance plans should be provided to you, encompassing coverage for both you and your family.

Insurance for items during transit.

Temporary accommodation to provide employees with initial lodging upon their relocation, affording them the necessary time to seek out and secure long-term housing.

Permanent accommodation assistance, offering substantial aid with long-term rental agreements or assistance in purchasing a residence in the new country, facilitating a smoother and more sustainable transition for their living arrangements.

Family support in the form of assistance in finding schools and nurseries for children or elderly family members.

Flexible starting dates are often offered to accommodate the time needed for relocation, allowing employees to settle in without undue pressure.

These varied forms of support collectively contribute to a comprehensive relocation strategy, aimed at minimizing disruption and stress for employees undertaking a significant life change.

Integration Initiatives

Ensuring successful relocation significantly depends on the social and professional integration of employees. This involves aiding them in establishing impactful connections with their new coworkers, clients, and the local community. Facilitating this integration can be achieved through organizing social gatherings, team-building exercises, networking events, or community service activities. Additionally, cultivating an environment that values inclusion, diversity, and respect within your organization is crucial. Such efforts contribute to nurturing a feeling of connectedness and loyalty among your workforce.

Moreover, help in integration is not limited to the employee; spouses or partners may need assistance in job hunting, and children might struggle with the transition to new schools and the loss of friendships. Furthermore, if the employee is responsible for elder care, this adds another layer of complexity. A well-rounded relocation program might offer integration services such as spousal job assistance, time for scouting schools and other facilities, or help in finding elder care. It’s crucial for human resources to engage both the employee and their spouse in the relocation support process.

Employee Involvement

Involving employees in relocation decisions is key to boosting their engagement and job satisfaction. This involvement connects deeply with an individual’s sense of identity and satisfaction with their work. According to a professor of psychology Yang Li, there are three psychological conditions that define job involvement: meaningfulness, safety, and availability.

Meaningfulness arises when employees feel rewarded and receive feedback for their work. It’s about feeling valued and seeing the impact of their contributions.

Safety concerns the working conditions that ensure employees’ well-being, reflecting the idea that comfortable employees are more engaged.

Availability refers to the perception of support at work, be it emotional, psychological, or practical. When employees feel supported, they are more likely to be actively involved and committed to their roles.

By incorporating these aspects into the relocation process, organizations can create a more positive experience for their employees.

Communication and Transparency

Effective employee relocation depends on clear, continuous communication. Establishing a relocation policy and package is essential, but effectively communicating it to employees matters as much. The communication approach must balance two core aspects: demonstrating to employees that they are valued and providing clear information about their relocation benefits.

Lack of effective communication can lead to increased stress, reduced performance, and higher turnover rates among relocated employees. As Lee Koehler, a global relocation manager for EMC Corp., an international computer storage corporation, says, “Relocating is a very high-stress proposition.” This is because many relocations have an additional stressor: a life change that prompts the employee to take the out-of-town job or accept the transfer. “This is why communicating during a relocation is so critical,” Koehler says. Therefore, it is vital for employers to explicitly convey the entitlements and support services available to employees undergoing relocation.

Best Practices for Permanent Employee Engagement Post-Relocation

Customized Integration Programs:  Effective onboarding for relocated employees involves providing early access to materials, and housing assistance, considering family needs, and organizing a pre-start date visit to facilitate a smooth transition. Studies, including a 2018 report by UrbanBound, reveal that a tailored onboarding experience can notably decrease turnover and boost employee productivity. Companies with structured onboarding processes have seen 54% higher productivity in new hires and a 50% increase in retention.

Ongoing Support and Regular Feedback: Consistent interactions between supervisors and their teams are critical for enhancing engagement and productivity while reducing turnover after relocation. For example, Adobe observed a 30% drop in voluntary turnover following the implementation of frequent check-ins. Additionally, a significant 70% of the variation in employee engagement is influenced by managerial support, emphasizing the crucial role of managers in providing ongoing feedback and support.

Recognition and Rewards: Recognizing and rewarding employees for their achievements significantly boosts morale, performance, and the likelihood of retention. Employee recognition is a powerful tool for engagement and motivation, and as the research by Deloitte shows, organizations with formal recognition programs have 31% less voluntary turnover. Moreover, employees who feel appreciated and recognized are more connected to their work, team, and organization, which increases productivity, satisfaction, and customer loyalty.


Employee relocation, whether for short-term assignments or long-term commitments, presents unique challenges and opportunities for both the organization and the employees. It’s crucial for companies to adopt comprehensive strategies encompassing relocation support, integration initiatives, employee involvement, and transparent communication. These strategies, ranging from covering logistical aspects like housing and transportation to addressing psychological needs through meaningfulness, safety, and availability, play a pivotal role in ensuring a successful transition. Additionally, post-relocation strategies such as tailored onboarding programs, ongoing support, and recognition are essential in maintaining employee engagement and satisfaction. Ultimately, a well-planned and executed relocation process not only facilitates the smooth transition of employees but also reinforces their commitment and loyalty to the organization.

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