Global mobility and relocation are game-changers for modern teams. Moving from one job to another — perhaps thousands of miles away— entails personal and professional upheavals with the hope for greater opportunity.
Steve Black anticipated long-distance movements when he co-founded Topia. The human resources technology company “provides global mobility management solutions to move and manage talent, enabling them to work everywhere.”
He talked with Forbes analyst, brand strategist and TalentCulture chief executive officer Meghan M. Biro about new research into the state of the global workforce and employees’ perspective on relocating.
Great geographical moves are increasingly common, to which Biro attests.
“I moved to Boston from Seattle to get into tech recruiting,” she said. “It was such a big ‘culture’ shift. I needed a few months to adjust to the realities.
“Moving on any permanent basis would be a challenge,” Biro said. “It would have to be the right fit.”
Short-term shifts can unexpectedly become permanent.
“I moved once, to London ‘temporarily,’” Black said. “It was the best decision ever — both personally and professionally. That ‘temporary’ extended — and again — and still hasn’t ended, still going strong 10 years on.
“The support of your company can make all the difference along the way,” he said. “It will be really interesting to see how augmented and virtual reality start to break down barriers even further.”
Moving involves personal and corporate costs. How much will the company contribute to ease the burden from the worker?
“There are so many challenges,” Biro said. “As work and life become more integrated, we need to think more closely about how moving affects every part of an employee’s life.
“If we want to relocate and retain employees, we have to think about the whole person, not just personnel numbers on a spreadsheet,” she said.
Keeping that personal touch is essential for retention.
“The whole reason we relocate employees is ultimately for business results,” Black said. “Companies can’t afford to lose their best folks.”
He noted two big considerations:
- Setting realistic expectations. For example, London is way more expensive than Chicago, but the winters are better.
- Getting the family on board with the adventure.
The local manager also needs support.
“Often times, the person may be the company’s first inbound person,” Black said. “The manager may not be prepared for the barrage of ‘obvious’ questions that their local employees don’t ask.”
Relocation opportunities give employers a competitive edge if they back up the company’s offers with enticements — as in money — for the move. For younger workers, just the thought of moving is attractive.
“We’re seeing that millennials and Gen Z want opportunities to move around the world, even if it’s not tied to a promotion,” Biro said. “More and more, employees are going to ask for opportunities to do their work and share their talents in different geographic locations.
“Smart employers and leaders are prepping for the global, mobile workforce now,” she said. “They’re laying the groundwork for an employee base that isn’t geographically static.”
Black has seen advantages for companies taking on a global workforce both in regard to new talent – relocation equals a bigger talent pool — as well as developing and retaining their current employees.
“Seventy percent of workers see mobility as a benefit to their careers, even without a raise or promotion,” he said.
“I’m interested to see how that mindset evolves as those generations start to have families,” Black said. “That has always been a blocker to mobility later in careers. That applies to women more so than men, but both are impacted. Will that will change at all in the next 20 years?”
There are still people who don’t want to uproot and move.
“Many don’t want to,” Black said. “On the flip side, many aren’t even aware of opportunities. A survey has shown that 40 percent of people were unaware of mobility opportunities within their own company.”