8 tips for Getting Started with Relocating Employees

Posted by By Kirsty Parsons - November 18, 2014


Global mobility can be a minefield, and if you or your company is new to the requirements of relocating employees overseas then there could be a lot to learn. We’ve asked the Bournes Relocation Solutions team of Consultants for their top advice to help you in Getting Started with Relocating Employees and their tips highlight some of the things you can do to help ensure a successful programme.

Our relocation consultants would be happy to meet with you to provide further guidance specifically related to your business.

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Common Causes of Failed Assignments

Assignments can fail for a number of reasons but setting up a good relocation programme can help avoid expensive and painful failures. Some of the most common reasons for assignment failure include:

  • Assignee expectations are not managed and the assignment fails to live up to their expectations. The assignee is dissatisfied and returns early or resigns.
  • The assignee is not suitable for an overseas posting and has cultural and work issues which mean he/she will be requested to return home by senior management.
  • Insufficient support for the assignee leaving them to fend for themselves, often making mistakes and becoming unhappy, with natural feelings of insecurity, levels of unease, discomfort, stress and areas of vulnerability which often arise as a consequence of being away from the home country and being able to get by on instinct, gut reaction and local know how which comes easily to us all when in our own local environment but may prove to be more of a challenge in a host location leaving them wishing to return home.
  • Insufficient support for the family – as above, with additional concerns and dis-satisfaction from a spouse and/or children. The assignee and family are unhappy, maybe even scared, the family return home, the assignee may follow or relationship issues could occur equally affecting an employee’s performance. It is reported that 75% of assignments fail as a result of spousal issues it is of vital importance to consider everyone involved in the relocation and as early as possible.
  • Legal issues occur, for example the assignee is deported because he/she does not hold the correct visa and/or has not followed entry/exit/residence requirements.
  • The assignee resigns because they are offered a better package by a competitor.

Today’s busy mobility specialists often concentrate a huge amount of their time toward ensuring compliance and audit and this has in recent years become such a hot topic of conversation. This often means that the more caring and “human” side of the relocation process can sadly become secondary to good governance and a dedicated element of time is vital toward developing and preparing the assignee prior to their assignment rather than toward making the employee feel valued and supported throughout their pre-assignment posting.

How to Avoid the Common Causes of Failed Assignments

1) Choose the Right Person

The best way to start any assignment is to ensure that a professional assessment of the employee for suitability for the host location is made prior to the person being recommended to the position.

It is important to ensure as far as is reasonably possible that the person you are planning to send on an international assignment is not only the best person to undertake the required role and responsibilities, but is also a suitable candidate for an international assignment. Not everyone is equally able to adapt to new situations, cope with working in a foreign country and deal with culture shock. It is therefore important during the selection process to ask questions about their previous experiences of travelling and/or working overseas, willingness to adapt and their tolerance of differing viewpoints, attitudes and cultures.

2) Prepare your Assignees

There are a number of benefits you can offer to help your assignees prepare for the adaptions they may have to make in moving overseas, including:

  • Cultural Training - In terms of supporting new or nervous assignees and their families there is help available. Country specific cross cultural training programmes are available from a range of providers – your relocation company should be able to assist you in selecting a suitable cultural trainer. Whilst face to face training is the best option, online options are available. Programmes should be tailored to the individual and family needs – the assignee may need a course on business culture, but family members can join in for more general culture and the practicalities of living in the host country. Training can be delivered in the home country, the host country or both. Often support is most beneficial shortly after the assignee and family have arrived in the new country. We would always recommend that partners are included in the training, as well as older children.
  • Language training - For host countries where English is not commonly spoken a programme of language training for both the assignee and partner should be considered. Your relocation company will assist you in finding a teacher and deciding what standard should be aimed at – basic, conversational, fluent, business language etc. Typically language training commences in the home country and continues after arrival in the host country. It is also important to consider children –language tuition should be offered at their school, but additional tuition may be beneficial to help them settle quickly and make new friends.
Providing cultural and language support can be very effective in the prevention of having an assignment fail for cultural reasons or due to lack of support.

3) Create a great mobility Policy

A Global Mobility policy covering all the business needs is essential prior to sending any employees overseas as this will limit risk, exposure, unforeseen circumstances, limit cost expenditure and provide a reasonable framework for all compliance related issues. There is sadly a no “one size fits all” global mobility policy because so many variables have to be considered when considering moving families and individuals anywhere in the world.

Engage (where applicable) with other stakeholders in a relocation including reward team, tax, immigration, cost of living and cost projection experts and policy specialists as soon as possible, even before anything else happens. Provide for the softer issues that are often the cheapest parts of the relocation process and that make a significant contribution toward the success of an employee engagement in a host country.

Where different types of assignments are envisaged it is advisable to write a policy which will define the benefits and allowances of each category. For example:

  • Commuter assignments
  • Short term assignments- e.g. less than one year
  • Long term assignments
  • Local plus
  • Permanent transfers

A good relocation company will be able to assist you in writing or reviewing a relocation policy that helps avoid assignment failure due to insufficient support being provided or expectations being poorly managed.

4) Determine your Allowances and Benefits

A relocation policy should specify allowances and benefits offered. These could be:

Allowances should aim to provide a high level of support without being overly generous. They should also be practical. As an example it would be reasonable to base shipping allowances on shipping container sizes, but it would be wise to clearly specify items the company will not pay for, which could include motor vehicles and trailers, pets, items prohibited by local customs authorities, grand pianos etc. The employer should also pay for transit insurance cover, but may wish to cap the level to which it is provided to avoid very high premiums. A good relocation or moving company will be able to advise you on setting allowances.

Providing a good level of support for your assignee and their family will help them settle into the new role and the new country. A relatively small investment in cultural training, language training, orientation programmes, school and home search support as well as support for the spouse can pay great dividends in easing the transition for the family.

Related: Spouse Issues with International Assignments (Case Study)

Think about providing Home Search

Often assignees think they can find a new home in the host country by searching the internet. And they often feel they will get a “better deal”. However, there are many benefits in using a relocation company to provide home search services and we strongly recommend you provide this support. Benefits include:

  • The assignee focuses on their new role, not on securing accommodation
  • A formal home search tour means the assignee takes 2 or 3 (sometimes even less) days out of the office looking at properties, rather than taking time off in an ad hoc fashion
  • Offers can be made promptly meaning the assignee is less likely to “lose” a property
  • Homes are found more quickly, minimizing time spent in hotels or serviced apartments, thus saving cost
  • The relocation company can secure temporary serviced accommodation on your behalf; they may have access to discounted rates and can advise if serviced accommodation will be more cost effective than hotel accommodation on arrival
  • The relocation company will negotiate the lease to best advantage both in terms of rental cost and remedial works required. They will also ensure that the lease and break clauses within it provide both flexibility and security for the assignee
  • The relocation company will work to your budget, ensuring the assignee is not viewing over budget accommodation and therefore asking for increases in rental allowance
  • The relocation company can assist HR in setting a fair and reasonable housing allowance in the host country

5) Do some Benchmarking

Many companies worry about offering competitive packages – a good relocation company can assist by providing benchmarking of compensation packages, for your industry together with back up evidence. If the package offered is not competitive, even if the assignee accepts, then he/she may be tempted away by an offer from your competitors.

6) Get Immigration right

Ensure that you consult with a qualified immigration specialist (your relocation company should be able to assist in identifying a specialist for the destination countries you are sending assignees to). There are many potential pitfalls and is extremely important to ensure that assignees and accompanying family members have the correct work visas and residence permits prior to travel. It is equally important to ensure that if the assignee makes business trips to his or her new destination prior to commencement of the assignment the he or she has an appropriate visa (if required). If an assignee travels to the destination country without the necessary visas he or she risks serious consequences such as deportation and/or refusal of future visa applications for both themselves and future applicants employed by the same company.

An assignment offer should be conditional on the applicant being granted the appropriate work permission. Complex personal or family circumstances may in some instances mean that visas will not be granted.

When writing a policy it should state that professional assistance will be provide to assist the assignee and family obtain the appropriate work and residence visas and all reasonable costs will be borne by the employer. It should also state that the offer of the assignment and the commencement date will be conditional on the granting of such visas.

Immigration support can prevent disaster!

7) Give your Assignees detailed Briefings

Once you’ve put together your policy and selected your candidate Assignees should be provided with as much information as possible to assist them in the transition. We would recommend that they are briefed in a number of areas, including:

  • HR briefing – we recommend that HR conduct a formal briefing with the assignee to advise them of the relocation support to be provided, introduce suppliers, describe the role HR will have in supporting them during the assignment and advise on applicable HR procedures such as payroll, performance reviews, salary reviews etc.
  • Tax briefing – your tax provider should brief the assignee on the tax implications applicable to both the home and host country, describe their role in ensuring compliance, assistance in procedures such as tax returns etc.
  • Immigration briefing – the immigration provider should brief the assignee on the process, documentation requirements, time line requirements, possible pitfalls etc.
  • Relocation briefing/needs analysis – the relocation company should brief your assignee on the services to be provided, ascertain the needs of the family and describe the processes which will be followed
  • Education briefing/needs analysis – the education consultant should brief your assignee their role in school search, ascertain the educational needs of the family and describe the school search support to be provided

Whenever practical we strongly recommend the spouse or partner is included in briefings.
Briefings can really help the assignee and family prepare for the assignment and give them confidence that they will be supported throughout.

8) Work with a great partners

For many mobility specialists the need to balance business needs with care, compassion and ever tightening budget constraints can prove to be quite a challenge.

Guide to Writing the Perfect Tender


Whether you are looking for a relocation partner to handle all your global mobility needs or just outsourcing certain elements such as Destination Services or International Removals and Shipping a good and experienced Relocation partner and dedicated account manager should be able to take some of the weight off your shoulders, to help you create and review a global mobility policy and to work closely in partnership with you to find ways to provide for better, quicker and cheaper results, but these can only happen when there is openness and trust in the respective business arrangement between the client relationship and their selected service provider.

There is a lot to be said for great communication particularly as we are all inter-dependent in our relationships and need everyone in the relocation chain to work harmoniously toward the common objective and that is getting the employee to their host location, quickly, smoothly, efficiently and professionally too. A good service provider should help the global mobility specialist to source best in class solutions worldwide and to demonstrate creative ways to help you save money.

Recently there has been in an increase in global tensions, weakening economies, increased unemployment, tighter customs and border controls that have made applying for work permits and visas more complicated and lead times have been stretched to allow for all eventualities, which means last minute moves have become more challenging than ever before for the Global Mobility team. A closer dialogue, information sharing and data sharing needs to be ensured alongside great systems of connectivity so that no one in the relocation process is left in any doubt as to where they are in their own relocation process. Coordination, single points of data input, eased and transparent communications make the entire move easier for everyone concerned.

Want to find out more about International Employee Relocation?

Talk to Bournes Relocation Solutions today, we have some real experts in our business helping your business to deliver your employees and their families quickly and safely wherever they need to be.

Book a Relocation Consultation

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