The changing shape of relocation trends

The US workforce is changing and, with it, so are the ways in which employees are being relocated for companies across the United States, according to a recent survey by Cartus: Relocation Policy and Practices Survey.  The report examines the responses of 141 mobility managers representing more than 10 million employees. While the overall survey explores trends in how companies are supporting home sale for transferring employees, responding to a growing rental population, and developing intern programmes, the primary finding is the identification of a changing pattern in employee relocation, in which an increasing demand for flexibility is translating into different types of work transfers.

What’s Driving US Relocation Programmes?
US relocation programmes have always been a reflection of the larger business and economic picture. As companies seek to make sure they have the right people in the right places to meet organisational goals, they have traditionally been balancing demands for cost effectiveness with the need to recruit, retain, and develop their talent. Today, companies are adding a third element to the juggling act: employees’ growing expectations for a positive experience that translates into greater engagement and productivity. That combination of demands is leading to a new catalyst trend: the push for more flexibility in how employees move for work, and the kinds of support with which they are provided.

Juggling act: balancing the challenges driving US relocation

  1. Cost: 65% of survey respondents cited cost as a significant challenge facing their companies’ relocation programmes today – up 13 percentage points in the last eight years.
  2. Talent management: 52% of respondents said that talent shortages had increased somewhat, or significantly; this leads to ‘talent pressure’ and a need to overcome those shortages.
  3. Employee engagement: With the stagnation of salaries in US corporations, there is a need to ensure that all aspects of the workplace provide a positive experience for employees. This has been cited consistently among Cartus clients of all sizes as a rising issue. 

These pressures are leading to a need for more flexibility, as evidenced by the 78% of survey respondents who said that changing employee needs or expectations were driving the need for flexibility. In the domestic US relocation arena, this has resulted in offering more flexibility in policies, as well as a growth in short-term assignments and other temporary transfer forms for ongoing business needs. In fact, 75% of responding companies said they used these short-term assignments to provide knowledge or skills transfer or training, while 72% use them to address specific project work.

As managers of US relocation programmes continue to explore ways to meet their companies’ changing needs, it is likely that the need to balance a superior employee experience, cost control, and talent development will drive a continued focus on flexible approaches. How companies choose to meet this pressure will always depend on their organisation’s move patterns, culture, and demographics.
“The traditional pattern used to be that companies would move employees on sequential, multi-year moves from one place to another, with everyone expecting basically the same sort of support,” said Mark Sonders, Cartus Senior Vice President.  “While those permanent moves are still prominent in companies’ approaches to relocation, an increasingly complex set of demands is driving companies to come up with more flexible approaches. Short-term and temporary assignments have always been a part of the US relocation experience. Their use now is a reflection of companies’ needs to build more flexibility into how they handle employee relocation, while balancing demands for cost control, talent development, and the employee experience. Changing demographics – including the advent of millennials and employees who are working well into their later years – and continuing cost control pressures, means companies need new approaches and new technologies to deliver customized support for employees moving for their jobs.”

The complete report can be downloaded from