Any way you look at it, employee relocation is an essential component of modern business. Companies large and small, in the U.S. and on a global basis, use employee relocation as a tool to deploy their human assets strategically. The practice is so popular, it’s given rise to a $25 billion industry—the relocation management industry!
In recent years, technological advances have added a whole new dimension to the relocation management industry. In fact, there are as many ways to approach employee relocation as there are employers.
There are nearly as many questions, too. As the first tech-driven relocation management company, UrbanBound has pretty much heard them all. For your reading pleasure, we’ve rounded up the top 20 questions we get most frequently from employers, along with our best, in-a-nutshell answers. If you have questions about employee relocation, this is a great place to start.
Employee relocation is when an employer moves a worker, new hire or even an intern to a new location for business purposes. Many companies pay part or all of the employee’s relocation expenses and also help with the moving arrangements.
Companies do this via an internal mobility team or by outsourcing the work to a relocation management company, or RMC. Many companies consider their employee relocation program essential to meeting their recruiting goals. In fact, the top reasons employers utilize employee relocation are:
So, the first thing you should know about relocation statistics is that they’re always changing. What was true just a few years ago is no longer the case today, and what we write here today may no longer be the case tomorrow. That being said, here are a few basic relocation statistics you probably should know:
Yes, it really does! Industries differ in terms of their recruiting goals, challenges and practices, and this is reflected in their approach to employee relocation.
For example, the healthcare industry—which has traditionally offered fairly modest relocation benefits—is facing an urgent physician shortage. As a result, some forward-thinking healthcare organizations are ramping up their employee relocation programs.
Another example is the technology industry, where recruiting is also fiercely competitive. While studies indicate that three-quarters of the tech workforce is willing to relocate for work, the high cost of living in established tech hubs like Silicon Valley create a hiring challenge. Furthermore, adopting cutting-edge relocation software has become an industry trend for tech employers, since they’re appealing to people who know and love technology.
While there are many ways to slice employee relocation, it basically boils down to four key activities:
Of course, within these four areas there are infinite subsets, such as moving spouses and families, transporting pets, and storing belongings until permanent housing is found. And at the end of the day, the acclimation process can be most challenging of all.
In short, because every relocation is unique in some respect, one hallmark of a well-designed employee relocation program is that it’s flexible enough to address all such variables.
Suggested reading: Employee Relocation Packages: 6 Factors to Consider.
While employee relocation benefits vary, often they are organized around helping employees accomplish the activities outlined in Question #4. As a result, typical employer relocation benefits include assistance with:
Although employer relocation benefits consist of similar components, employee benefit packages can be structured a number of different ways—i.e., lump sum benefits, managed budget plans, full reimbursement, etc. See Question #16 for more specifics on these.
Suggested Reading: A Typical Executive Relocation Package.
Typical relocation expenses include coverage for all the services and benefits mentioned above, plus applicable taxes. Depending on an employer’s relocation program, these may be paid for by the employer or employee—or, through some form of cost sharing.
In addition, employers must pay for the expense of administering their employee relocation program, whether covering the salaries of an in-house mobility team or paying fees to a third-party relocation management partner.
Unfortunately, yes: relocation benefits are now taxable to employees. Furthermore, relocation programs no longer offer employers the tax advantages they did prior to tax reform.
Before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, relocation benefits were not considered taxable income to employees, and employers could deduct many relocation expenses incurred on behalf of employees.
Now, however, the opposite is true. Not only have employers lost a valuable business deduction, but employees must pay taxes on relocation benefits they receive. To keep their relocation programs competitive, many employers elect to gross up their relocation benefits to cover the additional taxes their employees incur.
If you’re involved in employee relocation, it’s essential to have a good understanding of how relocation taxes and gross ups work—and we can help.
Suggested Reading: Relocation Tax Gross ups 101: A Beginner’s Guide.
Generally speaking, employee relocations are expensive, although it really depends on each employer’s relocation benefit package. As a rule of thumb, it costs more to relocate a current employee than a new hire and it costs more to relocate a homeowner than someone who rents—as borne out by these relocation statistics:
Type of Employee Average Cost
Current employee – homeowner $97,166
New hire – homeowner $72,627
Current employee – renter $24,216
New hire – renter $19,309
Suggested Reading: Employee Relocation Costs: What to Consider.
Global relocation is inherently more expensive and complicated than domestic relocations within the U.S. Beyond the greater distances involved and the potential of language barriers, there are other unique issues, including:
For more on this exact topic, read Domestic Relocation vs. International: What You Need to Know.
***Relocation Trivia: what’s one of the toughest countries for Americans to acclimate to—despite the absence of a language barrier? The answer will surprise you!
Once again, this varies by employer (and employee). But generally speaking, a good relocation policy is flexible enough to meet each employee’s unique needs, yet is also cost-effective for the employer—not to mention relatively easy to manage.
At the end of the day, the key question will be: did the employee have a positive relocation experience? Did he/she arrive on Day One, ready to get to work? And did they employer feel the relocation was worth the expense?
To learn how one technology company made a “good” relocation policy better—i.e., making employees happy while reducing program costs—read this case study.
Because employee relocation can get incredibly complex, and because misunderstandings can cost employers both money and goodwill, our essential best practices for employers include:
A good employee relocation program offers transferring employees a nice balance of choice and flexibility, while providing employers with excellent value for their investment. While most employers aren’t there yet, analytics are playing an increasingly larger role in helping employers gauge just how “good” their relocation program is. In this regard, four key KPIs to measure include:
For more about this important topic, read How to Measure Your Relocation Program’s Success.
There are a number of different ways to characterize the various “types” of employee relocations. For example, for many employers, relocating current employees vs. new hires are two different types of relocations. Similarly, relocating single employees vs. those with families are two different relocation arrangements—as is relocating homeowners vs. relocating renters.
And of course, moving an intern or entry-level employee is typically a very different type of relocation than that of mid-level and C-suite employees.
Often “types” of employee relocations comes down to different degrees of complexity and their corresponding costs. The good news is, employers can structure different relocation benefits to apply to different types of employee relocations however they see fit.
A relocation package is the total of all the financial benefits you provide to relocating employees—i.e., moving benefits, housing assistance, transportation costs, even the tax gross up sum, if you’re paying it. A relocation package also includes any personalized support you provide to employees during their move, whether via your in-house mobility team or through an outside RMC. (Often the difference between an “average” relocation package and a “good” relocation package comes down to the quality of support that’s provided.)
As to whether your company should offer a relocation package, that’s up to you. If your company is in a competitive industry, if your hiring efforts have been stymied by the current talent shortage or if you’re opening up in a new location, a relocation package can give you that competitive edge you seek. Many top employers depend on their relocation programs to help them maintain their leadership positions.
Suggested Reading: How to Build an Employee Relocation Package.
It’s entirely normal for new hires to want to negotiate their relocation package. The trick is to negotiate benefits will entice them to accept your offer, but doesn’t break the bank on your end. Good negotiating involves achieving the balance of these three factors:
Before you engage in negotiations, calculate what the actual cost will be for the employee. This can help you set your maximum and minimum offers. Be open to compromise, but try to avoid making program exceptions.
We’ve devoted an entire blog to this important topic—see How to Negotiate a Relocation Package with an Employee.
Like everything else, relocation packages keep evolving. Here are some popular types or models of relocation packages right now:
In addition to offering relocation benefits, many employers offer their employees an array of services designed to help them manage their move smoothly. These can be delivered by the company’s in-house mobility team or by a third-party RMC. These services may include:
Well, of course that is up to your company. The good news is, you have choices. If your company only manages a handful of relocations every year—say, under 10—and you have the bandwidth and expertise to handle them in-house, you may prefer to do it internally. On the other hand, you may find it preferable to outsource functions like relocation, so your staff can better focus on your core business concerns.
If you choose to work with a relocation management company, you can elect to go with a traditional RMC or a tech-based RMC. While traditional RMCs largely deliver their services through live specialists—just as they’ve done for decades—tech-based RMCs balance user-friendly software platforms with the support of live specialists.
Tech-based RMCs not only tend to be much more affordable than their traditional counterparts, they are obviously more contemporary in their approach. They also offer greater access to the analytical data we discussed in Question #12. As a result, they are becoming the RMC of choice with tech companies and progressive businesses and professionals.
Whatever method you choose to use, do some research first! For tips of evaluating RMCs, click here.
Suggested Reading: Why No Company is Too Small for a Relocation Program and What Happens When You Don’t Outsource Relocation.
If you’re interested in employee relocation tools, it’s in your interest to investigate tech-based relocation platforms, which are essentially one giant multi-tool for employers and employees.
Relocation technology gives employers easy access to data about their employee relocation program, including spend, savings, trends and the real-time status of ongoing relocations. This allows companies better control over their relocation budgets and more accurate forecasting abilities—allowing them to make informed decisions about their relocation program.
For more information about real-time reporting tools for relocating programs, click here.
Well, we are only qualified to tell you about one of them—ours. But as it happens, talking about UrbanBound is one of our favorite things.
As the first tech-driven relocation management company, we started revolutionizing the way companies relocate employees. Our first-of-its-kind software—combined with our exceptional customer support and knowledgeable policy guidance—is helping companies of all sizes and budgets offer highly-competitive relocation benefits.
Our software offers employers the opportunity to provide a personalized relocation experience to every employee, while optimizing every relocation dollar. Furthermore, we give our clients:
If you’d like to learn more about UrbanBound’s software solution, explore our website or request a demo below! We welcome the chance to tell you more!