2012 Corporate Relocation Survey


Who Responded?

To qualify for participation, a respondent must have relocation responsibility and work for a company that has either relocated employees within the past two years or plans to relocate employees this year. Atlas sent invitations via e-mail, and 361 relocation professionals completed online questionnaires between January 10 and March 2.

  • Most (82%) work in human resources/personnel or relocation/mobility services departments for firms in:
    • service (39%)
    • manufacturing/processing (30%)
    • financial (12%)
    • wholesale/retail (10%)
    • government and military (2%)
    • other industries (6%)
  • For analysis, firms are categorized by size:
    • 32% have fewer than 500 salaried employees (small)
    • 38% have 500-4,999 salaried employees (mid-size)
    • 30% have 5,000+ salaried employees (large)
  • Over half (57%) are international firms.

Results Highlights

Relocation Volumes and Budgets

Recovery Gained Traction Last Year; Expectations Stabilizing, Risks Remain

In 2011, relocation gained traction: nearly half of firms saw volumes increase, and over a third reported budgets increased as well. Large firms posted the biggest gains – nearly two-thirds had increases in volumes and about half had budgets improve. Overall, expectations for 2012 show continued optimism far above 2009 recessionary levels. However, expectations for increased volumes remain somewhat muted compared to 2004-2005, similar to 2006-2008. Expectations for increased budgets remain similar to 2010-2011, but are also somewhat muted compared to 2005-2008, when roughly a third of firms expected increases. Although the vast majority foresee stability and improvement, expectations overall remain somewhat subdued compared to the last post-recession recovery of the previous decade.

Expectations for budgets are fairly consistent across company size, with roughly a fourth of firms expecting increases and well over half expecting stability. However, differences emerge in volume expectations. Large firms are most optimistic: more than a third expect an increase. For mid-size and small firms, just under a fourth expect an increase, while the vast majority anticipate volumes similar to 2011. However, while the overall expectation of budget decreases remains low, the 16% or less of mid-size and large firms anticipating decreases are about double the percentages reported last year, while for small firms this is a significant drop from nearly one-fourth.

The percentages of firms that expect increased volumes and budgets maintain improvement over recent severe retractions, but remain below levels reported during previous economic recovery and growth periods, especially among large firms. This indicates that while the recovery gained momentum last year, it remains subdued. Rather than high growth, expectations are for stabilization with improvement, with indications the potential exists to slip back into recessionary territory.

  • The median number of relocations by large firms finally increased in 2011, returning to the "200-399" average range reported in 2002-2007 after falling to "100-199" in 2008-2010. The median range (20-49) for mid-size firms remains improved for the second year, after falling to "10-19" in 2008-2009.
  • The greatest amount of relocation volume growth occurred for international firms, with more than half reporting increases in 2011; over a third of regional and national firms saw increases as well. Roughly a third of firms across business reach indicate their 2011 relocation budgets also increased.
  • International firms are by far the most optimistic for 2012; about one-third expect further increases in volumes and budgets, while less than one-fifth of regional or national firms do. However, the vast majority of these firms expect stability in this year's volumes and budgets.
International Relocation Volume

Expectations Similar to Overall Relocation

While slightly less pronounced than overall relocation, international relocation also saw volumes bolstered in 2011, with 42% reporting increases. This trend appears across company size, with slightly fewer firms indicating increases over 2010 compared to overall relocation levels.

For 2012, international volume expectations remain improved compared to 2009-2010 and similar to 2011. More than one-fourth of firms expect increases this year, and over half expect volumes similar to 2011. Expectations for increases are greatest among large firms (37%), followed by both small and mid-size firms (23%). Expectations for increased international volume are nearly identical to expectations for increases in overall relocation volume across company size. However, while mid-size firms report similar expectations for increases internationally and overall (23%), far more expect decreases internationally compared to overall volume (18% vs. 7%). This percentage remains near historic non-recessionary levels, but may indicate mid-size firms are likely to pull back relocations internationally before making domestic cuts.

  • For-profit service firms are more likely to expect international volumes to increase in 2012 than manufacturing/processing firms (40% vs. 19%).

While expectations for overall relocation volumes remain somewhat muted compared to those reported in previous economic recovery and growth periods, expectations for international volumes are much like those seen in 2006-2008 across company size. It appears the international arena may be less impacted by domestic factors that subdue a general industry recovery (e.g., real estate market) and is, therefore, experiencing a more comparative rebound.

Economic Outlook

Continued Optimism for U.S. Economy and Individual Firms

For the third year in a row, most firms, regardless of size, expect their overall financial performances to improve. While nearly half of all firms expect the U.S. economy to improve, mid-size firms are the most optimistic – over half (53%) expect the U.S. economy to improve, far more than respondents at small and large firms (40% and 37%). Expectations for the U.S. real estate market are similar across firms of all sizes: more than half expect stability compared to 2011, and about a third or more expect improvement. Even though expectations for improvement in real estate remain muted compared to expectations for individual company performance and the U.S. economy, the trend is for expected stability or betterment, rather than worsening conditions, compared to the dire predictions noted in 2008-2009.

  • More than half of small and nearly two-thirds of mid-size and large firms saw their financial performances improve in 2011, and roughly two-thirds or more expect further improvement in 2012.
  • International firms are the most optimistic: nearly three-fourths expect improved financial performances this year compared to roughly two-thirds or less of national or regional firms.
  • The highest levels of optimism for an improved U.S. economy in 2012 are among mid-size firms (53%), international operators (47%), for-profit service firms (47%), those in the Midwest (56%) and South (47%).
Market Impact on Relocations

Depressive Pressures Continue Lessening on Relocations across Employee Levels

The depressive impact of economic and market pressures on relocation continue to lessen across employee levels. In 2008 and 2009, roughly four out of ten firms decreased relocations among entry level/new hires and middle management employees in response to pressures; in 2010, only about one-fourth did so, and in 2011 less than one-fifth made cuts. The continued decrease is being driven by far fewer mid-size and large firms decreasing relocations among entry level/new hires (15% vs. 28%, 21% vs. 40%) and fewer firms of every size decreasing middle management relocations compared to 2010 (20% vs. 28%, 18% vs. 26%, 12% vs. 35%), with the biggest drop occurring at large firms.

While less pronounced, the overall percentage of firms decreasing senior manager/executive moves also fell (13% vs. 21%). Additionally, the number of companies for which market pressures have increased relocation volumes has risen across company size, indicating that some of the economic/market forces at work are more enabling to employee mobility. Overall, half or more firms across company size report relocations were unaffected by market pressures across employee types.

  • In 2011, roughly a fourth or more of international firms increased relocations in response to economic/market pressure across employee levels. Large firms were the most likely to increase relocations in response to these pressures; nearly a third or more did so across employee levels in 2011.

Most firms of all sizes report no effect on the duration of assignments (long or short-term). However, among affected firms, nearly twice as many note short-term assignments increased rather than decreased (20% vs. 10%). Large firms were most apt to see assignment length impacted (39% and 40% vs. 28% or less of other firms), with far more reporting an increase rather than decrease in the number of short-term assignments (32% vs. 7%). Slightly fewer firms overall compared to 2010 say long-term assignments decreased (13% vs. 20%), with nearly twice as many large firms indicating these pressures actually increased rather than decreased long assignments in 2011 (27% vs. 13%).

Alternative Assignments

Used by Nearly Half of Firms; Traditional Assignment Impact Varies by Company Size

To better understand the increasing use of alternative assignments in relocation, the survey included two new questions. Just under half of all firms report using alternative assignments, with mid-size (47%) and large (60%) the widest adopters. The largest force behind using such assignments is to meet strategic business goals (57%), and this is true across company size among firms using these types of assignments (50%+). Also, while roughly half of firms overall use these assignments to maximize budgets/corporate resources, just over a fourth use them in place of traditional long-term assignments, and only 15% use them in place of traditional short-term assignments. In fact, more firms overall use alternative assignments in addition to, rather than as replacements for, traditional assignment types. Large firms are driving this overall trend, using alternative assignments in addition to, rather than as replacements for, long-term arrangements two-to-one (52% vs. 25%) and in addition to traditional short-term assignments by an overwhelming majority (42% vs. 9%). Mid-size firms are more likely to indicate similar usage levels of replacement or addition, while more small firms indicate using them as replacements than as additions (26% vs. 12%, 18% vs. 12%).

  • Internationally operating firms are the most likely to use alternative assignments overall (64%), with more using them in addition to long- and short-term assignments than as replacements (44% vs. 28%, 33% vs. 15%).
Employees Declining Relocation

Reluctance Lower but Remains Elevated; Housing/Mortgage Issues Continue to Play Major Role

While over half (57%) of companies report employees declined relocation in 2011, less than one-fifth saw the number increase over 2010. Increased employee reluctance remains lower compared to 2008-2009 (18% vs. 28%+). Historically, mid-size and large firms have been hardest hit; however, in 2011 only about one-fifth of firms across company size cite year-to-year increases in declined relocations (similar to 2010 and far below the 28%+ of mid-size and 40%+ of large firms in 2008-2009).

Overall, increased employee reluctance remains somewhat elevated and similar to 2007 (18% vs. 16%), which corresponds to the same year housing/mortgage concerns began climbing as a reason, roughly double that of 2002-2006 (7% to 9%). Housing/mortgage concerns remains the top reason for the fourth straight year, although the percentage is slightly lower than in 2009 (71% vs. 77%). Family issues/ties (the former first-place issue since 1983) remains in second place, but has increased progressively over the past three years (51%, 55%, & 64%) and now weighs similarly to housing/mortgage concerns.

  • For large firms, housing/mortgage concerns remains the biggest factor (73%), although down substantially from 2010 (85%).
  • Housing/mortgage concerns is not the biggest issue for mid-size firms; more indicate family issues/ties as a factor last year (74% vs. 66%).
  • The impact of housing/mortgage concerns jumped substantially among small firms compared to 2010 (76% vs. 49%), surpassing family issues/ties, which also increased (64% vs. 53%).
Incentives & Cost Containment

Maintaining Balance While Juggling Needs

Most firms (73%) offered incentives to encourage relocations in 2011, an increase over the past three years (60%+). Extending temporary housing benefits remained the most popular, offered by roughly three-fourths or more firms across company size, similar to 2010. Relocation bonuses (49%) and loss-on-sale protection (43%) rounded out the top three. Although roughly half of all firms offered relocation bonuses, large firms were more likely to offer loss-on-sale protection than were mid-size or small firms (71% vs. 37% and 21%, respectively). About 9 out of 10 companies said extra incentives "almost always" or "frequently" convinced an employee to relocate, similar to the past two years.

  • Large firms were more likely than mid-size or small firms to have extended duplicate housing benefits (51% vs. 37% and 21%).
  • International firms were more likely to have offered loss-on-sale protection and COLAs than were regional or national firms (53% vs. 22% and 33%, 50% vs. 19% and 22%, respectively).
  • Manufacturing/processing firms were more likely to have offered loss-on-sale protection and mortgage payoffs/loans than were for-profit service firms in 2011 (57% vs. 30%, 20% vs. 8%).

Most firms (70%) used cost-containment measures in relocation policy/practice as well. The most popular measure at mid-size and small firms was capping relocation benefit amounts (36% and 42%), while the top two measures at large firms were offering pre-decision counseling (42%) and reviewing/renegotiating supplier contracts (40%). Only about one-fourth of large firms capped benefits in 2011, and similar percentages restructured policy tiers/eligibility for certain benefits (29%) or offered short-term/extended travel/commuter arrangements rather than relocation (26%).

External Factors

Talent Needs Driving Relocations, Recession Impact Continues Lessening, Real Estate Market Still Issue; Impacts Differ by Company Size

Factors impacting relocations point to a post-recession recovery solidifying last year. Lack of qualified local talent approached previous pre-recession highs (51% vs. 52%+), indicating talent needs began outpacing economic conditions (37%) and real estate market issues (36%) by a significant margin for the first time since 2007. However, the real estate market impact remains at an elevated level overall compared to 2007 (36% vs. 22%), so even with a decline from its 2008 high (40%), it continues to have an inhibitive impact on the economic recovery's generation of increased relocation volumes.

The impact of external factors differs widely by company size. At mid-size and small firms, talent needs clearly outstripped economic conditions and real estate market concerns (54% vs. 30% & 34%, 51% vs. 34% & 30%). However, at large firms, economic conditions, lack of qualified local talent, and real estate market concerns weighed almost equally (48%, 46%, 45%, respectively), indicating relocation challenges last year were more complex for large firms than for smaller firms.

In light of historical data and economic cycles, notable trends appear. The overall percentage of firms reporting economic conditions as a major factor has continued to decline since 2009 (37% vs. 53%). Although it is near historical post-recession recovery ranges, it remains significantly elevated above levels seen during periods of strong economic growth. This is true across company size, indicating that 2011 volumes were universally impacted by economic concerns, albeit to a continually lessening degree over the past two years.

The impact of the lack of qualified local talent continues to rebound, approaching levels seen during previous economic growth and near historic highs (51% vs. 48%+) after hitting its lowest level since 1996 in 2009 (31%). Similar trends appear across company size, indicating that qualified talent shortfalls has continued growing over the past two years, and is now the largest driver of relocation volumes overall.

Since market-impact data for real estate has been collected for only the last five years, trend identification is more limited. However, while the impact of real estate remains elevated across company size compared to 2007, it has lessened among mid-size and large firms since 2008 (34% vs. 50%, 45% vs. 52%). Small firms have indicated a progressively greater impact; however, it was a major factor for less than a third in 2011, compared to roughly a fourth or less the previous four years.

Additional Insights:

  • The largest increase in the impact of the lack of qualified local talent occurs at large firms, cited by nearly half (46%) last year compared to 29% in 2010 and 18% in 2009. This is near 2004-2006 post-recessionary levels (44%+). While economic conditions remained the top concern for large firms by a slim margin (48%), this is similar to most of the past nine years, significantly below 2003 (70%), the peak of the previous recession's impact and similar to recovery levels in 2004-2005 (42%+), although significantly above 2006-2007 (32%+).
  • More than half (54%) of mid-size firms cited a lack of qualified local talent in 2011, markedly increased over 2009 (38%) and 2010 (47%), and within the range of recent historical highs (52%+, 2005-2007). The percentage citing economic conditions remains near 2004-2005 post-recessionary levels (30% vs. 33%+), significantly lower than historical recessionary peaks (44%+), but far higher than in 2006-2007 (18%+).
  • Among small firms, the percentage citing a lack of qualified local talent returns to levels similar to 2002-2008, when nearly half or more reported it as the top issue (51% vs. 47%+), significantly above 2009-2010 (34%+). The percentage of firms citing economic conditions remains similar to 2004 (34% vs. 32%); however, despite falling progressively 2009-2011, it remains significantly above 2005-2007 (19%+).
  • For national firms, the top three external factors (lack of qualified local talent, economic conditions, and the real estate market) weighed nearly equally last year (40%, 37%, and 34%). Both regional and international firms, however, cited the lack of qualified local talent as their top issue (51% & 56%, respectively). Real estate issues were more of a concern than general economic conditions to regional firms (40% vs. 27%), while these factors were nearly equal in weight for international firms (36% & 39%).
Internal Factors

Company Growth Remains in Top Spot but Still at Recessionary Levels, Budget Constraints Continue Lessening

While company growth remains in the top spot among internal conditions after falling in 2008-2009 and budget constraints dropped significantly for the second straight year (14% vs. 21% & 29%), the percentage of firms citing company growth remains similar to previous recessionary lows (see trend chart), despite maintaining a substantial increase over 2009 (39% vs. 24%). The percentage of firms citing budget constraints also remains slightly elevated compared to previous periods of economic growth, although markedly below previous recessionary peaks and nearer recovery levels overall. As noted last year, the severity of the most recent economic retraction may signal a protracted recovery before company growth regains its former prominence.

The top internal factor varies by company size, but maintained improvement in company growth over 2009 lows is the key trend for firms of all sizes. It comes in third (38%) among large firms, just below knowledge/skills transfers (45%) and corporate reorganization/restructuring (44%). At mid-size firms, company growth retook the top spot for the first time in four years, while the former top factor, promotions/resignations, came in a close second (38% vs. 43%), and knowledge/skills transfers followed with nearly equal weight (35%). Company growth is the top internal factor cited by small firms (36%), followed closely by knowledge/skills transfers (31%) and promotions/resignations (31%).

  • The top factor among for-profit service firms was clearly company growth (46%), with knowledge/skills transfers, promotions/resignations, and new territory expansion cited as well by roughly a third (35%, 33%, & 32%). At manufacturing/processing firms, knowledge/skills transfers was the top internal factor (40%), with less than a third citing promotions/resignations (30%) or company growth (29%).

Increases Overall, Historic Highs

Almost three-fourths of companies outsourced relocation services in 2011, up significantly from 2002-2010 (55% to 66%), and at the highest level reported in ten years. Generally, mid-size and large firms continue to outsource a greater variety of relocation services than do small companies. Large firms are more likely than mid-size firms to have outsourced real estate sales/marketing, real estate purchases, orientation tours, expense tracking/reimbursement, company policy counseling, audit/payment of invoices, property management, and supplementary services. Nearly half or more of large firms outsourced the relocation-related services listed in the survey (with just one exception).

Overall Shifts

  • Outsourcing increases across every service category from 2010 with the exception of supplementary services; most increases are significant, and this is the second year in a row this has occurred.
  • Individual outsourcing category levels are the highest in ten years with two exceptions: the arrangement of family transportation/accommodations falls just shy of historic highs, and supplementary services remains at mid-range levels.
  • Most services have seen outsourcing roughly double or more from the lowest levels of the past decade. The only categories which haven't (i.e., counseling about the planning/details of relocation, real estate sales/marketing, and real estate purchase) have seen more than 10% growth from their lows during this period.

Outsourcing Changes by Company Size

Significantly more large firms outsourced than did in 2010 (95% vs. 89%) with increases across every category except supplementary services, resulting in most categories yielding the highest levels of outsourcing in ten years. The following categories saw the largest gains from the previous year: orientation tours (64% vs. 50%), counseling about the planning/details of relocation (57% vs. 43%), expense tracking/reimbursement (65% vs. 53%), household goods carrier contracts (63% vs. 51%), counseling about company policy (56% vs. 45%), and the audit/payment of invoices (54% vs. 44%). Overall, significantly more large firms outsourced relocation services in 2011 than in the previous nine years (2002-2010: 78%+).

Most mid-size firms outsourced in 2011 (83%), the highest level in ten years and significantly above 2002, 2005-2010 (62%+). Nearly all category percentages increased compared to 2010, with most approaching, meeting or exceeding ten-year highs. The exception was supplementary services, which fell well below historic highs (15% vs. 25%+).

Overall, outsourcing at small firms dips only slightly compared to 2010 (36% vs. 41%) and remains similar to the past nine years. Nearly all categories of outsourcing remain within a few percentage points of the previous year, with most approaching, meeting or exceeding ten-year highs.

  • Across company size, most service categories have seen outsourcing roughly double or more from the lowest levels over the past decade, and those which have not doubled have seen increases.
Relocation Reimbursement/Payment

Full Reimbursement Use Rebounds; Multiple Methods Still Favored

After progressively declining over the past two years, the percentage of firms using full reimbursement rebounds to near previous highs (65% vs. 69%+) and remains the most popular method overall. The progressively greater use of lump-sum and partial reimbursement appears to plateau; nearly half of companies use lump sums, similar to the past four years, but the percentage using partial reimbursement dips to 40%, down from nearly half in 2011, and nearly equal to 2008-2010. Interchangeability in methods appears to decline slightly from last year, but remains a clearly entrenched trend compared to 2003-2007. Of note are differences by company size: small firms are less likely than mid-size and large firms to offer a lump-sum option (38% vs. 53% and 48%), and large firms remain the most likely to offer full reimbursement (77% vs. 60%).

For new hires, full reimbursement retakes the top spot as the most popular method, reversing its progressive decline from 2009-2011. The percentage of firms using full reimbursement is at its second highest level since 2003 (57% vs. 59%). This method is followed closely by lump-sum payments (50%) which roughly half of firms since 2008 have used for new hires. The percentage using partial reimbursement falls significantly from 2011 (40% vs. 51%) and is at its lowest level since 2006. Full reimbursement and lump-sum are the top two methods across company size for new hires; however, small firms are much more likely to use full reimbursement than either lump-sum or partial reimbursement (55% vs. 40% and 34%). While roughly half or more of mid-size firms use any of the three, large firms show a clear preference for either full reimbursement or lump-sum payment over partial reimbursement (64% and 54% vs. 38%).

  • In 2012, percentages of firms offering full reimbursement to transferees or new hires return to levels near 2003-2005 highs. While the use of lump sums for both transferees and new hires has generally increased over the past ten years, it dips slightly in 2012 but remains at elevated levels compared to 2003-2007. The use of partial reimbursement drops significantly compared to last year for both transferees and new hires, remaining markedly above 2003-2007 for transferees, but near historic lows for new hires over the past ten years.
  • The percentages of small and large firms offering full reimbursement to transferees or new hires approach or exceed the highest levels in ten years, while the percentage of mid-size firms offering this increased only slightly and remains significantly below historic highs. Among mid-size and large firms, the use of lump sums remains near historic highs, roughly double or more its lowest levels over the past ten years, while at small firms it remains at its highest level of use among transferees, but declines in favor slightly for new hires.
  • The use of partial reimbursement compared to last year falls across company size for both transferees and new hires, with the most pronounced drops occurring for new hires at large and small firms (38% vs. 50%, 34% vs. 47%). This matches the ten-year low for new hires among small firms, although usage remains well above historic lows at both mid-size and large firms for new hires and across company size for transferees.
  • Approximately half or more relocations last year were fully reimbursed across company size, but a significantly higher percentage of relocations by large firms were fully reimbursed than at small to mid-size companies (67% vs. 49% and 53%).

Lump Sum Application:

For the second year, the survey included additional questions about the costs covered under lump sums and the employees to whom they are offered. Among firms using lump sums, far more firms offered them for the entire relocation compared to last year (51% vs. 39%). Small firms were the most likely to do this in 2011 (49% vs. 38% mid-size and 29% large firms), but now roughly half of all firms across company size indicate doing so in 2012. Despite this change, some trends remained. Similar to last year, more than a third of firms use lump sum payments for temporary housing and more than a fourth offer them for shipping and storing household goods. Small and mid-size firms remain much more likely to use lump sums for shipping and storage expenses than large firms (44% and 30% vs. 17%). Large firms are more likely than small or mid-size companies to use lump sums for miscellaneous allowances (79% vs. 42% and 64%) as well as for temporary housing expenses (55% vs. 31% and 30%).

Some shifts in lump sum application may be related to shifts in who is commonly receiving them. In 2011, nearly half or more firms reported using lump sums for nearly every type of employee with the exception of homeowners (31%). This year, the gaps between who receives these benefits widen. Entry level employees are much more likely than executives to be offered a lump sum (52% vs. 32%), new hires are more likely than transferees (65% vs. 43%), and renters are more likely than homeowners (48% vs. 30%). In general, employees that would typically cost less to relocate are more likely to be offered lump sums (i.e. entry level employees, renters, etc.), while those that typically receive more expensive packages are less likely (i.e. transferees, executives, etc.). The greatest decrease in lump sum offers compared to last year occurs for executives (32% vs. 43%).

This year, new hires are much more likely than transferees to receive lump sums across company size (56% to 71% vs. 37% to 48%), a change from 2011 when there was far less discrimination between new hires and transferees at mid-size (60% vs. 53%) and large firms (55% vs. 52%). However, similar to last year, mid-size and large firms more commonly offer lump sums to entry level employees than to experienced professionals or executives (53% vs. 38% and 24%, 72% vs. 45% and 40%, respectively), while small firms remain more likely to offer them to experienced professionals than to entry level employees (48% vs. 29%).

Cost Coverage

On average, as in the previous nine years, nine out of ten companies reimburse or pay some relocation costs for transferees or new hires. Overall, coverage of core relocation expenses (i.e. pack all items, move unlimited weight, unpack all items, etc.) remains nearly identical to last year or increases slightly. The percentages of firms reimbursing core relocation expenses nearly meet or exceed historically high levels, similar to last year as well. Across company size, the percentages of firms that reimburse core relocation expenses remain similar to last year and to most of the past nine years with one exception: the percentage of small firms covering the cost of relocating an automobile is the highest in ten years and is significantly higher than in 2003-2010 (69% vs. 51%+).

Half or more of companies reimburse/pay to:

  • Pack all items (82%)
  • Move an automobile (80%)
  • Move exercise equipment (52%)
  • Move a second automobile (52%)
  • Unpack all items (49%).

While the percentages of firms covering some non-core relocation benefits remain well below historic peaks and nearly match or surpass ten-year lows, those offering to cover costs associated with relocating a second automobile, picking up items from a second home, permanent/extended storage, moving pets, and moving via containerized shipment remain the same or increase over last year overall, rising to levels significantly above historic lows and approaching, meeting or exceeding the highs of the past nine years.

Specialized Assistance for Homeowners/Renters

Most firms offer specialized relocation assistance for homeowners, however, small firms remain less likely to do so than mid-size or large firms. Similar to the past four years, the percentage of firms offering loss-on-sale reimbursement remains significantly elevated over 2007 (31% vs. 20%). The percentages of firms offering qualified home-sale programs and bonuses/incentives for employee-generated home sales stay significantly above 2007-2008 as well, similar to the past two years (39% vs. 31%+, 28% vs. 21%+). Additionally, the percentage offering mortgage subsidies/allowances remains significantly lower than in 2008-2009 for the second straight year (14% vs. 22%+). Also similar to last year, significantly more firms reimbursed employees for home sale costs than did in 2010 (57% vs. 50%). Two shifts of note occur in 2012: significantly more firms are offering home marketing assistance compared to the past five years (53% vs. 40%+) and significantly more are offering storage (61% vs. 50%+) compared to 2007, 2010-2011.

For homeowners, more than half of firms offer the following to transferees or new hires:

  • Temporary housing allowance (72%)
  • Home-finding trips (68%)
  • Storage (61%)
  • Reimburse/pay for home sale costs (57%)
  • Reimburse/pay for home purchase costs (55%)
  • Home marketing assistance (53%)

Most firms offer specialized relocation assistance for renters, however, small firms remain less likely to do so than mid-size or large firms. Overall, percentages of firms offering each type of renter-specific assistance increase compared to last year with one exception: fewer firms allow temporary living allowances to be applied toward rent (19% vs. 23%), and this is the lowest level in ten years overall. Compared to the past nine years, significantly more firms say they reimburse/pay for lease cancellation (68% vs. 55%+ 2003, 2005-2011), home-finding trips (66% vs. 55%+ 2006-2007, 2010), storage (54% vs. 41%+ 2003-2007, 2010-2011), and apartment search/finder's fees (39% vs. 27%+ 2003, 2006-2008, 2010).

For renters, more than half of firms offer the following to transferees or new hires:

  • Temporary housing allowance (70%)
  • Reimburse/pay for lease cancellation (68%)
  • Home-finding trips (66%)
  • Storage (54%)

Manufacturing/processing firms are more likely than for-profit service firms to offer specialized assistance to homeowners in general (95% vs. 82%), as well as across specific assistance categories, with two exceptions: qualified home sale program (42% vs. 35%) and storage (65% vs. 62%). Both types of firms share similar likelihoods of offering renter-specific assistance overall (93% vs. 90%), as well as across categories with one exception: manufacturing/processing firms are more likely to offer renters home-finding trips (74% vs. 58%). International firms are more likely than regional or national firms to offer nearly all of the specific types of homeowner assistance listed, and are more likely to offer renter-specific assistance overall (94% vs. 88%+).

Trailing Spouse/Partner Assistance

Assistance Generally Stable

Forty-one percent of all firms offer employment assistance to the spouse or partner, similar to levels over the past nine years except for the high (50%) in 2009 and low (33%) in 2007. At large firms, over half (54%) offer assistance, similar to the past nine years (45%+); for small firms, the level is similar to historic levels for each year (37% vs. 32%+) except for the high (48%) in 2009, and trends higher than most other prior years. The percentage of mid-size firms offering this assistance is nearly equal to last year (36% vs. 37%), similar to most of the past nine years except for the high (47%) in 2010 and the low (18%) in 2007. At firms offering assistance, roughly one out of every four relocations involved spousal employment assistance from 2007-2010; last year this average trended upward to roughly one in three.

  • Most small firms offer networking assistance (83%), much more than do mid-size or large firms (42% and 39%). Mid-size and large firms are more likely than small firms to offer outplacement/career services from an outside firm (54% and 56% vs. 14%).

Overall, the percentage of firms where spouse/partner employment "almost always" or "frequently" affects an employee's relocation returns to the lowest level in ten years (39%, matching 2008), although it is similar to levels in this time frame for every year except 2007 and 2011 (46%+). Impact differs based on company size, however. The percentage of large firms affected regularly is at its lowest in ten years (27%) and significantly below most prior levels; over half of small firms report spouse/partner employment is more of an issue, near ten-year highs (53% vs. 57% in 2007); and over a third (35%) of mid-size firms cite it as a regular issue, similar to the past nine years (32%+).

  • Small firms are more likely to be impacted by the employment status of a spouse or partner than are mid-size or large firms (53% vs. 35% and 27%).
International Relocation Durations

Short-Term Assignment Expectations Remain Elevated

Expectations for increased international short-term assignments (less than 12 months) remain elevated compared to 2008-2010 (27% vs. 13%+) and similar to 2005-2007 and 2011 (22%+). While under a sixth of firms report short-term assignments as the standard length for international relocations, this percentage has roughly doubled since 2006 (15% vs. 8%), driven by increases among large and mid-size firms (12% vs. 5%, 18% vs. 7%). For 2012, over a third of large and over a fourth of mid-size firms expect further increases in short-term assignments (similar to last year) and at higher levels than in 2008-2010 (34% vs. 19%+, 27% vs. 7%+). Expectations for an increase in short-term assignments remain similar to the past seven years for small firms, with the vast majority expecting usage to remain static.

  • For-profit service firms are more likely than manufacturing/processing firms to indicate the typical length of an international assignment is less than a year (23% vs. 8%). Service firms are also more likely to expect short-term international relocations to increase in 2012 (31% vs. 19%).
International Outsourcing

Overall Level Continues Increasing

The percentage of firms outsourcing internationally in 2011 reached the highest level in nine years (77%), surpassing the 2008 high (74%) and significantly above 2004-2007 and 2009 (58%+). Increases were reported in every outsourcing category, with levels nearly meeting or exceeding the highest recorded the past eight years; property management was the only exception, remaining unchanged over the past three years it has been measured. The most noteworthy increases over 2010 occurred within the following: shipment monitoring (52% vs. 36%), counseling about the planning and details of relocating internationally (46% vs. 32%), household goods carrier contracts (54% vs. 43%), and relocation policy counseling (41% vs. 31%).

As they have for the past eight years, most mid-size and large firms outsourced international relocation services in 2011. The percentage of small firms doing so has progressively increased over the past two years after dipping substantially in 2009 (30% vs. 42% and 49%), returning near the highest levels reported in 2007-2008 (49%+), well above 2004-2005 (23%+). Among mid-size firms, the percentage outsourcing internationally surpasses the high in 2008 (78% vs. 76%), significantly above lows in 2006-2007 (59%+). The percentage of large firms nearly matches the high in 2010 (88% vs. 91%), significantly above 2004, 2007 and 2009 (76%+). Last year, nearly half or more of large firms outsourced the international relocation services listed in the survey, with origin home property management (37%) and international real estate services (26%) the only exceptions.

Among companies that outsourced relocation services domestically in 2011, the percentage that also did so internationally reached a nine year high (88%), similar to 2003, 2008-2010 (81%+) and significantly above 2004-2007 (70%+). Large firms were much more likely to outsource internationally than were mid-size firms; however, they showed similar propensities for outsourcing across categories, except for intercultural and language training (63% vs. 45%) and destination services/orientation tours (64% vs. 51%); large firms were more likely to have outsourced these services.

International vs. Domestic Policy

Most Considerations Stable, Trend Lower Historically; International Employment Assistance Similar to Past Years

Most firms (79%) report differences between domestic and international relocation policies in 2012, although this remains near the lowest percentage in ten years and significantly below 2004 (88%). Overall, percentages for individual policy considerations are similar to last year, with two exceptions: significantly fewer firms offer additional leave time with a visit home (45% vs. 56%) or financial services assistance (18% vs. 37%). Historically, most policy considerations approach, match or exceed ten-year lows, significantly below historic highs, yet similar to most other prior years. The three exceptions with significantly lower levels compared to five or more previous years are: additional leave time with a visit home (45% vs. 55%+ 2003-2004, 2006-2011); increased allowances for permanent storage (34% vs. 43%+ 2003-2006, 2009); and additional leave time in general (24% vs. 47%+ 2003-2007).

  • Among large firms, policy considerations are close to the same levels or down slightly from 2011, most near or below ten-year lows. However, three categories decrease substantially compared to last year: increased permanent storage (43% vs. 61%); higher rental allowances (43% vs. 58%); and financial services assistance (23% vs. 46%). Two categories nearly meet or match ten-year highs: allowances for children to attend certain schools (66% vs. 70%) and intercultural/language training (70% vs. 70%).
  • Policy considerations at mid-size firms trend nearly the same or slightly lower across most categories compared to last year, falling in the mid-range or approaching/surpassing ten-year lows. Only two considerations fell significantly compared to 2011: far fewer firms offer additional leave time with a visit home (39% vs. 53%) or financial services assistance (16% vs. 38%), exceeding historic lows (41%, 2003 and 30%, 2010, respectively).
  • Policy considerations remain similar to last year for small firms with one exception: significantly fewer allow additional leave time with a visit home (23% vs. 40%). Overall, policy considerations are similar to ten-year lows, with many significantly below previous category highs. Additionally, the percentages of firms offering additional tax considerations (37%), additional leave time with a visit home (23%), and additional leave time generally (12%) are at the lowest levels in ten years.

Forty-one percent of companies offer to help find jobs for spouses or partners relocating internationally, similar to 2006-2011 (33% to 46%). While fewer mid-size firms offer this assistance than did last year (33% vs. 39%), it remains similar to the past six years and significantly above 2004 (17%). The percentage of small firms also trends lower compared to 2011 (30% vs. 33%), well below highs in 2007 (42%) and 2009 (45%), but similar to most prior years and substantially above 2003 (19%). More than half of large firms (52%) offer this assistance, up slightly from 2010-2011 (40%+), similar to most of the past nine years and markedly above 2003-2005 (24%+). For international moves, both mid-size and large firms are more inclined to pay for outplacement/career services from an outside firm than are small firms (19% and 22% vs. 7%), although large firms are more likely than either mid-size or small firms to offer international employment assistance generally. Nearly half (46%) of manufacturing/processing firms offer this assistance, as do roughly a third (36%) of for-profit service firms; these share similar likelihoods of offering the types of international employment assistance listed in the survey except for outplacement services, which manufacturing/processing firms are more likely to offer (24% vs. 11%).