Companies Spend More on Relocation Counseling, Less on Relocation Perks According to Latest Atlas Van Lines Corporate Relocation Survey; Family Ties Still Number One Reason for Rejecting a Transfer

May 1, 1996

EVANSVILLE, (Ind.) -- Corporate America is tightening its relocation belt, putting the squeeze on certain employee relocation benefits -- mainly real estate services. According to results from Atlas Van Lines' 29th annual survey of corporate relocation policies, companies are investing more time counseling employees on relocation policies and procedures while cutting back on high-ticket items like employee-home buyout programs.

Only 37.9 percent of companies surveyed bought a relocating employee's former residence during 1995, down from 42.2 percent who did so in 1994 and 50.2 percent who offered buyout programs in 1993. The average per-company expenditure for real estate services such as home marketing and home search dropped from $19,145 in 1994 to $11,138 last year. In addition, Survey results show that fewer companies are: guaranteeing a sale price for an employee's former residence, paying fees connected with the purchase or sale of an employee's home, and helping with the arrangement of a mortgage or swing loan. Of the 196 U.S. and Canadian companies surveyed, 40.7 percent say they are now offering employees a lump sum for temporary living and house-hunting expenses rather than footing the bill; up from 31.8 percent in 1994.

Meanwhile, in keeping with results from last year's Survey, companies are continuing to place emphasis on relocation programs that ensure employees' well-being. In-house, pre-move counseling has nearly tripled in three years' time, signaling an increased desire to work more closely with relocating employees. Helping a trailing spouse find a job is also becoming increasingly important. While the number of companies offering employment assistance has not grown much over last year, the investment in these programs has. The 28 percent of respondents providing spousal employment assistance programs have gone from average yearly expenditures of $29,847 in 1994 to $52,166 in 1995. In 1993, the average expenditure was just $12,682. Companies offering spousal employment assistance are most likely either to find employment for the spouse outside the company, or pay a job finder's fee to do so.

Fewer employees are refusing to relocate, but those that do most often cite family ties as their reason for declining a move. Just over 54 percent of respondents indicated that family ties was -- for the third year in a row -- the number one reason employee's gave for rejecting a transfer. Before 1993, spousal employment and cost of living concerns were the number one and two objections to relocation.

"Survey results mirror what is happening throughout corporate America today," says J. Stephen Mumma, Atlas' senior vice president of marketing, household goods division. "Doing more for less is the theme being echoed throughout relocation corridors nationwide. Companies are being challenged to keep relocation costs at a reasonable level while designing policies that address employee needs. More and more, those needs are focusing on the human aspects of relocation."

Corporate America seems more willing to adapt to today's diverse workforce. More than 15 percent of companies surveyed said that their relocation policy was more liberal than in years past. That's up from 11.3 percent who answered similarly in 1994.

Technology may be helping relocation professionals ease the gap between cutting costs and meeting employee needs. Survey results reveal that online services are being accessed more often. Of the survey respondents, 4.1 percent provide relocation policy information via e-mail, 8.2 percent are using the internet to research relocation matters or for other information, and 54 percent use electronic funds transfer (EDI) to pay various relocation costs.

Nearly half (45.4 percent) of respondents expect international relocations to increase as the world moves toward a more global economy. While Europe remains the most popular foreign destination, the largest percentage increase in international relocations originated in Asia, where the number of employees being relocated more than doubled from 6.2 percent in 1994 to 16.9 percent in 1995.

Domestically, the North East Central region (Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin) was the number one destination, followed by the South East Central region (Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky). Areas experiencing a decline in relocations included the South Pacific (California, Nevada) and the Mid-Atlantic region (New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island).

Highlights from the Survey will be posted on the Atlas' Web site: Hard copies of the Survey are available through Atlas Corporate Communications at (812) 421-7183. With its world headquarters in Evansville, Ind., Atlas Van Lines is a major transporter of household goods and special products through over 800 agents worldwide.