Spotlight: 5 Key Questions about Policy Consulting

Spotlight: 5 Key Questions about Policy Consulting

Many organizations consider their employee relocation program to be an essential part of their overall talent management plan. Since having the right relocation policies in place can help attract and retain key employees, we talked with Laura Heinlein, Senior Director of Client Relations at NuCompass, to get her views on policy consulting.

Heinlein has been in the mobility industry for more than 30 years and has held management roles in client relations, business development, and operations. She has also led fully outsourced tri-regional account teams and global implementations in Panama, Australia, and the UK. Her broad expertise encompasses complex global compensation programs and expertise in policy design and best practices.

As a core service at NuCompass, policy consulting is a significant part of Heinlein’s overall account management responsibilities. She states, “As job markets change, relocation policies have to change as well. Some industries are simply more competitive than others, which is often reflected in their policies.” We asked her five key questions about policy consulting:

1. What are the first steps you take when reviewing a client’s policy?

LH: The first step is to gain an understanding of the company’s primary objectives and whether the current policy meets the needs of the company. What are they trying to accomplish? I typically ask clients, “Are you looking to identify cost savings, add services, or modify processes?” Each of these areas can have an impact on the employee experience and may drive different types of policies to support the efforts of Talent Acquisition.

Sometimes policies need to change due to specific situations. Last year, a client had a very urgent situation related to the evacuation of employees working in Russia. The company did not want to lose the expertise of its 40-50 key employees, so we collaborated to quickly design a policy to accommodate the local challenges. For example, the policy authorized an experienced expat car service to ensure safe airport transfers, as many employees carried their valuables with them. Since there were complex banking requirements and language barriers, additional destination services were provided.

In other organizations that are experiencing growth, a more robust package of benefits may be required in a competitive job market. Enhancing a new hire package to include support for home sale or purchase could be what’s needed for candidates to agree to onboard. We use these situations to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the current policy components and provide guidance on best practices, industry trends, and benchmarks.

2. How does a company’s culture affect their relocation policies?

LH: It’s critical that the policy aligns with the company's overall culture and values. For example, if the company values work-life balance, the policy should include provisions that support employees' work-life balance during the relocation process. Some companies may not tier their domestic policy offerings as part of their company culture, since they are of the mindset that all employees are valued equally. This means new hires and executives are provided the same level of support when selling and buying homes.

That outlook varies from the norm since most companies offer tiered options, commonly separating executives, management, and staff with various packages. Other companies reflect their corporate culture through policies that provide minimal assistance, such as a lump sum, with the expectation that employees will self-manage their relocation.

3. How does a policy address the needs and preferences of the employees?

LH: A successful relocation policy should consider the unique needs and preferences of each employee being relocated. This could include considerations such as family size, cultural differences, and personal interests. Many companies consider additional services for the employees’ families, as the family is often a key reason that candidates turn down positions requiring relocation. Internationally, these services may include Destination and Settling-in Services as well as Cross-Cultural and Language Training.

Domestically, the preferences of employees are being addressed through new programs that provide specific area acclimation for single employees, while for employees with families, some companies allow a trip home to escort the family to the new location for the final move.

A new policy trend that has also begun to develop surrounds LGBTQIA+ employees as they may have different needs and cultural considerations for different locations, especially for international moves, and companies want to incorporate these policies in the spirit of inclusion.

4. How can you control costs through the policy design?

LH: The policy should be designed to optimize costs for the company while still providing appropriate support for employees and their families. This is typically accomplished by offering a range of relocation packages with varying levels of support based on homeowners or renters, job levels, or other considerations.

Unfortunately, many companies have domestic programs that do not match today’s market, especially related to home sale assistance. Often, simply offering bonuses may not be enough encouragement for employees to sell their homes and relocate. A better option may be to reallocate those funds to offset interest rate differentials or offer a home sale program that could help employees find a new home faster, minimizing the time and costs spent on temporary living.

Another new trend is employee-initiated moves, where the employee requests to work from a different location, such as an employee requesting to work in Italy. This situation took hold after COVID when the “work from anywhere” concept arose. Rather than losing a key employee, some companies will sponsor the employee’s visa and assist with immigration for an international move or often offer a one-time lump sum payment to assist the employee with the move. This low-cost policy improves employee retention, which saves the company the cost of recruiting and training new employees.

5. Is it important to have flexibility within a relocation policy?

LH: Yes, we typically recommend that the policy be flexible and adaptable to accommodate different types of relocations and changing business needs. This could include offering core-flex components within the policy or providing additional resources for difficult relocations through exemptions and requests. The key focus is to make sure that the employee feels heard and valued throughout the process.

In the end, the goal of policy consulting is to help companies develop a relocation policy that supports their business objectives while also meeting the needs and expectations of their relocating employees and their families.

Heinlein emphasized that a policy review includes guidance on compliance with local laws and regulations, cost-saving strategies, and communication strategies to ensure a smooth transition to a new policy. Most importantly, she states, “Ongoing support and guidance is critical to ensure that mobility policies remain effective and relevant over time.”