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As seen in the Atlas Amplifier
Volume 50 — Summer 2002
You never know what you might learn when you ask your customers to honestly tell you what they think.
Which is precisely why Atlas has surveyed corporate relocation professionals for each of the last 35 years.
Begun as an experiment in open communication, the first "Traffic Managers' Forum on Moving" was sponsored by Atlas Van Lines and International Sea Van on April 23-24, 1968. The event took place in Evansville, and the survey emerged from a 150-minute forum in Shanklin Theater on the University of Evansville campus.
In his address at the luncheon preceding the forum, President O. H. Frisbie spelled out the high purpose to which he hoped the unique gathering would aspire.
After thirty-five years of annual investigation, the corporate relocation survey has produced a mountain of data. From one year to the next, changes in the findings are typically subtle. But from a long-range view, the little ticks add up to shifts that can provide interesting points of reflection.
— 83% of companies surveyed said their traffic department personnel were responsible for contracting the household goods carrier's services.
— The average expenditure per move for direct van line services of packing and transportation was $985.
— Almost two-thirds (63%) of companies experienced no declinations. Ten years later, that number had dropped to 27%.
— Only 16% of companies had utilized the services of a relocation service firm to purchase and resell residences of transferred employees. By 1982, 50% of companies had enlisted outside help for this purpose.
— 74% of respondents said the majority of their overseas shipments were forwarded by surface transportation.
— 64% said volume discounts were the most beneficial program or service since the Household Goods Transportation Act of 1980.
— 1% of respondents offered no reimbursement for moving expenses.
— 70% of firms provided full reimbursement of moving expenses.
— Companies spent an average of $19,515 per relocation on real estate services such as home marketing, home search, pre-move house-hunting, etc.
"The hope expressed at the genesis of this ground-breaking event still guides its course," says Jim Stamm, president and COO, Atlas Van Lines. "Our industry has evolved considerably over the last three-and-a-half decades. During that time, the forum and survey have consistently charted the changes and brought vital issues forward, to the benefit of everyone."
The moving industry, which traditionally parallels the curve of the GNP, is considered an important barometer of the nation's economy. By putting a light on company relocation policies, the annual survey provides a unique glimpse of the corporate mindset at work. Not only does the survey describe what the industry is thinking, it offers clues about where business is headed.
"As you would expect, our survey annually generates a lot of interest among industry reporters and analysts, and it is often cited in trade publications," says Jim Huth, director, corporate communications. "Too, our findings are regularly covered by major business and news media outlets, such as the Wall Street Journal and U.S. Business News."
"As a journalist who frequently covers relocation-related issues," says Julie Cook, Human Resource Executive magazine, "I find it extremely valuable to have a resource... that provides reliable, useful data on trends and real-life practices."
Other industry experts see particular value in the survey's institutionalized role as an objective resource. "Atlas Van Lines' annual survey...has long been a staple in the relocation industry," says E. Greg Brewer, CRP, president of Dotsero Inc., publisher of Relocation Compass. "Atlas' survey... tracks the trends of those in corporate America who have no vested interest in strengthening the political or business dominance of any organization within the relocation marketplace."
See some of this year's survey results below.
|Atlas is pleased to give Amplifier readers a brief overview of findings from the 2002 Corporate Relocation Survey. This is the third year the study was conducted by telephone, with 302 interviews conducted between January 22 and February 28. Most respondents (79%) work in human resources or personnel departments for firms in manufacturing (46%), service (30%), financial (7%), government and military (3%) and other sectors (14%). Almost half (49%) of the companies surveyed are international firms. Here are some of the things we found out...|
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Based on number of employees, the sizes of participating firms is smaller this year. Half of the companies surveyed employ less than 500 salaried workers; one-third have 500-4999 such employees; approximately one-sixth employ 5000 or more. However, based on average annual sales, the size of participating firms is larger ($76.5 million, or about 20% more than last year's $63.6 million).
|Outsourcing of Services:
The outsourcing of services is up. Sixty-four percent of respondents said their companies outsource the administration of relocation services (compared to 53% last year).
Almost three-quarters (73%) of the companies surveyed have a formal relocation policy, a 16% drop from last year's 87%. Large firms are almost 50% more likely than small firms to have a formal policy (94% versus 63%).
Among the decision-makers who responded, most (79%) work in human resources or personnel. Their two most popular trade publications are HR Magazine and Mobility, read by 39% and 25% of respondents, respectively. These are followed by Human Resource Executive (17%) and HR News (15%).
|2002 Relocation Anticipation:
This year the percentage of small companies which expect increased relocation activities rose to 14% (compared to 9% last year), with larger companies expectations for relocation activities gaining as well at 34% (compared to 31% last year).
Only 26% of firms had a budget increase over the year before compared to 40% in the prior year's survey. Nearly half of respondents (47%) expect relocations will stay the same in 2002; 20% anticipate an increase; and 33% expect a decrease. These findings may reflect a tinge of economic pessimism; last year, only 23% of respondents expected a decrease.
Of the 32% who said external factors had a significant impact on the number of employee transfers in 2001, "economic conditions" was cited most frequently (77%). According to the 41% who thought that internal factors were significant, three conditions were cited almost equally: corporate reorganization (42%), promotions/resignations (38%), and growth of company (37%).
About one-third (34%) of all companies outsourced relocation services during 2001, a sizable drop from last year when more than half (53%) outsourced services. The decline was evident among both small companies23% outsourced during 2001 versus 32% in 2000and large firms63% outsourced in 2001 versus 77% the year before.
|Allowance of hiring of spouse of employees:
The percentage of companies willing to provide a job for trailing spouses dropped this year to 84% from 88% last year.
The most popular area for outsourcing is real estate services (83%). Counseling services (68%) overtook household goods transportation (64%) as second in popularity. Other outsourced services are employee claims (62%), and monitoring shipments (61%).
A little over one-third (36%) say they use the Internet for relocation-associated matters. As was the case last year, e-mail communication remains the primary application.
When it comes to reimbursement of moving expenses, it appears budgets may be slimming. The number of companies who provide no reimbursement grew from 3% last year to 9% this year. Although 28% of companies surveyed provide full reimbursement of moving expenses, that figure is down from last year's 32%.
However, within those budgets employees are likely to get many nice benefits. Perhaps reflecting the value employers place on employee fitness, 88% of companies pay to move exercise equipment. Almost as many pay to pack all items (86%), to carry items down from the attic (82%), to move an automobile (77%), and to move recreation and lawn equipment (75%).
Reorganization moved ahead of last years top two influences (Promotions/Resignations and Growth of Company) to become the number one reason for relocation within a company.
The number of companies who assist an employee's spouse or partner in finding employment in the new location dropped to 23% from 34% last year. Whereas only 1% said they will pay the salary of a spouse or partner until hired, last year 7% were on record for such assistance.
Perhaps one of the most dramatic findings this year is that companies have, on average, 1.3 standing contracts with household goods carriers. This number is half of the 2.6 average revealed in last year's survey, a significant shift downward. Nearly half (45%) of respondents said their company has preferred carriers they do business with regularly; large companies are more likely to have preferred carrier relationships (56%) than small companies (39%). This, too, is a notable change from last year's findings, when 62% of companies, regardless of size, professed affinities for preferred carriers.
Once again, economic concerns stayed ahead as the highest percentage outside influence affecting employee transfers. However, that number dropped from 85% last year to 77% this year.
"Service" is still the most important attribute among corporate decision-makers when evaluating or selecting a carrier, and they believe "claims processing" is the most important aspect of a domestic move from the employee's perspective.
Excluding Canada and Mexico, the average number of international relocations for all firms was 4.9, with medium and large firms accounting for the lion's share with 8.6 and 10 international moves, respectively. As you might expect, the most important item on international moves is "service."
Nearly six in ten (59%) companies have never used the electronic data interchange (EDI) on international shipments, and 85% offer no assistance to help the spouses or partners of internationally transferred employees find employment in the new location.