Reskilling vs. Relocating Employees: Pros, Cons & Costs

As an employer, you seek opportunities to optimize your inhouse talent—and sometimes, that means moving employees into different roles. Occasionally, you may face a choice: do you reskill an employee performing well at a given worksite, or relocate one who already has the needed skills?

It’s a great question. Unfortunately, there isn’t a single, one-size-fits-all answer. Let’s look at the pros, cons and costs of reskilling versus relocating employees—and how they contribute to the decision-making process.


Pros and Cons of Reskilling Employees  

“Reskilling” is the process of training/developing existing employees to take on entirely new tasks. It’s more intensive than upskilling, which is building on skills an employee already has.

According to the World Economic Forum, more than one billion workers will undergo reskilling by 2030 due to evolving technology and work models. So, even if you’re not doing much of it now, chances are, you soon will be.

Benefits of Reskilling      

There are significant benefits to reskilling employees. Providing workers with advancement opportunities increases job satisfaction, engagement and loyalty. It often leads to improved retention rates, which reduces turnover-related costs and productivity losses.

In one study, more than three quarters of employees said they’re eager to learn new skills. Most employees welcome reskilling opportunities.

And while each case varies, reskilling is likely more cost-effective than hiring new employees, given total recruitment, onboarding and training expenses.

Potential Drawbacks to Reskilling

On the flip side, reskilling is an investment that requires time and resources. During the transition period, employees may be less productive, impacting overall output.

And there’s always a possibility that the employee may not succeed in their new role, resulting in reduced efficiency, the need for more training—or a failed attempt.


Pros and Cons of Employee Relocation

Now, how does reskilling stack up to relocating existing employees from one worksite to another?

Benefits of Relocation

Relocating an employee with specialized experience and knowledge can help an employer quickly establish a presence, expand operations, or fill a skills gap at a second location. Plus, relocating a seasoned employee may well be more cost-effective than hiring and training a new employee at that location.

In addition, relocated employees will likely get up to speed faster than new hires, since they already know their companies’ processes, culture, and expectations. The quicker the transition, the less disruption to productivity.


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Potential Drawbacks to Relocation

On the other hand, when employers transfer workers, they incur relocation costs: moving expenses, short-term housing, travel, etc.  That said, relocation costs vary widely, depending on the employer’s relocation benefits, plan and provider. 

In addition, relocation is disruptive to employees and their families. Moving is stressful. There is no guarantee that an employee will acclimate well to their new setting. As with reskilling, there is some risk. 


Reskill or Relocate: How Do You Choose? 

Obviously, no two deployment scenarios are the same, and each should be judged on its own merits. When weighing two candidates—one to reskill, one to relocate—answering these questions may bring some clarity:

  1. What are the chances that the onsite employee would succeed in their new role, based on their experience and temperament—not to mention the quality of your reskilling program?
  2. What would the long-distance transferee bring to the new location in terms of experience, collaborative skills, industry contacts, etc.?
  3. How easily could you fill the slot each employee would leave behind?
  4. Which employee is more excited about the potential opportunity? Is it something they actively seek? Are there other personnel factors at play?
  5. What are your estimated reskilling costs versus your relocation costs?

Now, you as an employer, you don’t have much control over most of these variables; it’s on the employees. But you do have control over your reskilling and relocation costs, as well as the quality of both programs. And while we can’t speak to reskilling, we can offer some fact-based insights on relocation.

For starters, employers that use modern tech-based relocation providers like UrbanBound can cut their program costs by up to 66%, versus what old-school providers charge—while improving employee experience. The vendors you use, the policy you choose…these impact costs and employee satisfaction.

So, if you’re facing the reskilling-versus-relocation dilemma, optimizing your relocation benefits will simplify the equation right off the bat.

For more relocation cost-cutting strategies, read our ebook. Or if you’d like insights regarding your particular situation, shoot us an email. We’d love to chat.  

Human Resources Today