Employers Report Rise in Relocating Employees in 2013

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There was an uptick among U.S. companies relocating employees in 2013, and a majority expects the volume to remain steady in 2014, according to the 47th Annual Atlas Corporate Relocation Surveyreleased April 28, 2014.

Forty-one percent of 353 corporate relocation professionals surveyed said their organization increased relocation of domestic employees, and 37 percent increased international relocations. Mid-size and large organizations—500-4,999 salaried employees and 5,000 or more salaried employees, respectively, had the greatest gains overall.

The findings “indicate continued recovery in economic and relocation trends,” said Jack Griffin, president and chief operating officer of Atlas World Group, in a news release.

Atlas Van Lines conducted the online survey between Jan. 22 and March 8, 2014. Ninety percent of respondents were HR professionals or relocation/mobility services personnel who are responsible for relocating employees and who work for a company that did so within the last two years or plan to do so in 2014.

Overall, 38 percent of companies relocated one to nine employees in 2013; more than half of all relocations were new hires. Salaried employees ages 36-40 were most frequently relocated.

Among other findings:

*77 percent of all respondents have a relocation policy.

*62 percent said their relocation budget for 2013 was about the same as for 2012; a little more than one-fourth (29 percent) said it increased.

*48 percent said they relocated about the same number of workers in 2013 as in 2012; 41 percent said that number increased.

*59 percent said they expect the number of workers they will relocate in 2014 will be the same as in 2013; 25 percent think the number will increase.

*45 percent of all respondents relocate employees between countries; that number jumped to 74 percent for large organizations.


Respondents most often said the lack of qualified local candidates was the external factor with the most significant impact on the number of employees a company relocated in 2013. A company’s growth was the internal factor that had the most significant impact on the number of employees a company relocated.

“Only small firms weigh local talent shortfalls more than company growth” when deciding whether to relocate employees, the report noted.

Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of all employers surveyed offered relocation incentives—although the use of incentives in 2013 dropped from 2011 (73 percent) and 2012 (76 percente), especially among large firms.

Among those who did offer incentives, the number was higher (74 percent) among employers with 500-4,999 salaried employees. The top incentive organizations of any size offered was extended temporary housing benefits, followed by relocation bonuses, cost-of-living salary adjustments in salary at the relocation destination, extended duplicate housing benefits and loss-on-sale protection. Only 5 percent overall offered mortgage payoffs as a relocation incentive.

Slightly more than half (52 percent) of employers surveyed had workers who declined to relocate, and three-fourths said the decline level in 2013 was about the same as in 2012. Only 20 percent said declining to relocate usually hindered an employee’s career.

Employee reluctance to accept relocation was 13 percent overall and “remains far below the peaks of 2008 (25 percent) and 2009 (29 percent) and slightly above pre-recession levels” of 7 percent to 9 percent for 2002 to 2006, the report noted.

Housing/mortgage concerns were no longer the primary reason employees gave for declining relocation; that concern dropped dramatically for the first time in five years. Family ties/issues was the most common reason given for declining a job relocation, followed by a spouse or partner’s employment, the survey found.

However, 42 percent of all firms offer employment assistance to a spouse or partner, similar to levels over the past decade. Of that number, 47 percent overall provide networking assistance, 41 percent pay for outplacement services and 31 percent offer resume preparation assistance. Around one-fifth of small and mid-size employers offer employment within the company, and about one-fifth of small and large firms offer interviewing skill training.

Change of Address

Within the U.S., the Midwest was the most frequent relocation destination overall (35 percent), especially among large and mid-size companies. The South (30 percent) and Northeast (28 percent) were the second and third most popular domestic relocations overall.

Between the U.S. and another country or region, Asia was the most common relocation destination for workers from the U.S., cited by 32 percent of respondents. Western Europe and the U.K. were second and third, respectively. Between two foreign countries or regions, Asia remained the top relocation destination, followed by the U.S. and Western Europe.

Kathy Gurchiek is the associate editor at HR News.


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