The workload this past February at the U.S. Postal Service may have seemed a little lighter, in comparison to a year ago. For the first time in 33 years, the annual Atlas Corporate Relocation Survey was not administered by mail. Instead, the research was gathered by telephone, a significant departure from tradition.
"Our annual survey is an industry mainstay for reading the pulse of corporate America," says Steve Mumma, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Agency Services. "To make it an even better gauge, this year we redesigned the methodology so we can look at responses by company size."
The ability to sort by size adds a valuable dimension to the results. "For example," says Steve, "we have long suspected that larger companies are more apt to have a formal relocation policy than smaller companies; the numbers bear this out."
Although the new methodology makes it difficult to compare the findings with prior years, it provides an enhanced level of confidence in the sample as representing a broad spectrum of businesses.
An outside firm specializing in research conducted the survey for Atlas, gathering information during February and March in interviews with representatives from 300 U.S. companies.
Each interview comprised 54 questions designed to yield a highly detailed view of that company's relocation policies and practices. The identities of participants were kept confidential to encourage candor and strengthen confidence in the results.
Responses were sorted by size for small (less than 500 employees), medium (500 to 4999 employees) and large (5000 or more employees) companies. Some of the significant findings follow; a more complete analysis and summary of results are available at www.atlasvanlines.com.
Although the large majority of employees said 'yes' to relocation, for those who did not, family was most often the reason noted. Among the 39 percent of respondents who said that one or more employees declined relocation in 1999, the top three reasons cited were family ties (87 percent), personal (77 percent) and no desire to move (77 percent). The next most popular reason given was spouse's employment (65 percent).
|Question 37: Thirty-nine percent of survey respondents said they experienced relocation "declines." The most cited reasons are shown here.|
"It's interesting, but not surprising," says Mumma. "For some people, in some situations, the positive aspects of relocating are never as strong as the bonds to family. And in dual-income households, a spouse's employment can be a significant consideration in the decision to accept a transfer."
In total, most relocations were not affected by a spouse's employment. For one thing, 40 percent of relocations did not involve a trailing spouse. In situations that did, seven in ten respondents said that an employee's decision about accepting a transfer was seldom (50 percent) or never (22 percent) affected by a spouse's employment.
|Question 32: Thirty-eight percent of survey respondents said their companies assisted the trailing spouse. The most popular methods are noted above.|
While the majority of last year's relocations (60 percent) involved a trailing spouse, only 38 percent of respondents said their company helps trailing spouses find employment. The most popular forms of assistance are: to find the trailing partner employment outside the company (43 percent), pay a job-finder's fee (30 percent), and find employment within the company (23 percent). It is interesting to note that 79 percent of participants said their companies permit the hiring of a trailing spouse or partner. Larger corporations were more likely to make this provision.
Another family-related issue that surfaced is the scarcity of assistance with elder care. Only 8 percent give their transferees such services, the most common of which is to provide a list of nursing homes (68 percent).
It is encouraging to note that respondents expect the number of relocations and the size of relocation budgets to increase. Eight in ten anticipate that the number of relocations will either stay the same (52 percent) or increase (29%) in 2000. A similar number said that their 1999 relocation budgets either stayed the same (39 percent) or increased (44 percent) compared to 1998.
|Question 20: Eight in ten respondents anticipate the number of relocations to stay the same or increase during year 2000.|
"This appears to be good news for the industry," says Steve. "However optimistic the numbers seem, though, we should stay aware of the potential that other factors can have."
Along those lines, more respondents thought that internal factors (54 percent) had an impact on the number of relocations than external factors (29 percent). The two internal factors cited most were growth of the company (76 percent) and promotions/resignations (74 percent). The two external factors cited most were economic conditions (59 percent) and lack of qualified local people (52 percent).
|Question 30: The factors impacting number of relocations are shown here.|
Other findings of interest in this year's survey:
|—||20 percent of their transferees during
1999 were women
|—||93 percent of all transferees were from
25 to 45 years of age
|—||only 4 percent of transferees were
more than 45 years of age
|—||65 percent of large companies, and 40%
of all companies, outsourced some or
all of their relocation services
|—||Most likely services to be outsourced
were household goods transportation
and real estate
|Questions 24 and 25: Sixty-five percent of large companies, and 40% of all companies outsource some or all of their relocation services. A breakdown by size of company and type of service is shown here.|
|—||50 percent of all companies reimbursed
employees for moving expenses using
some combination of all four methods:
no reimbursement, partial
reimbursement, full reimbursement,
and lump sum reimbursement.
|Question 29: "No reimbursement" for moving expenses was a small percentage of the answers received. While 50% of respondents said their companies use a combination of "full, partial, lump sum, or none."|
|—||78 percent cover expenses to
pack all items
|—||74 percent cover the cost of moving
|—||73 percent cover the cost of moving
|Question 30: The types of covered expenses are shown here.|
Thanks to the new survey methodology, which allows responses to be sorted by company size, the findings from this year's research confirm a long-held notion within the industry. In general, larger companies provide more extensive relocation benefits to employees than smaller companies do. It's also interesting to note that larger firms are more likely than smaller firms to outsource relocation services.
"It seems logical," says Mumma, "that, given greater financial resources, a firm would build more benefits into its relocation effort. Size, it follows, can offer an edge in a tight labor market."
Perhaps the one finding in this year's survey that comes as no surprise is the one to which all should give pause. Asked to name the important attributes when selecting contract carriers, 94 percent of respondents cited service. Asked to name the important attributes when evaluating a carrier, 95 percent said service and 89% said on-time delivery.
"While many details are reflected in the numbers," says Mumma, "it is good to be reminded of some simple truths. If we keep these in mind during 2000, our actions can have a positive impact on this industry... an impact we can hope to see reflected in next year's numbers."