CORPORATE RELOCATION VOLUMES & BUDGETS INCREASING AS COMPANIES BALANCE EMPLOYEE NEEDS, ADDRESS COVID-19 & ECONOMY
EVANSVILLE, Ind. (May 27, 2020) — According to one of the nation’s leading movers, Atlas® Van Lines, Inc., 2019 was positive for the relocation industry with roughly nine out of 10 organizations indicating both volumes and budgets either held steady or increased. Atlas’ annual Corporate Relocation Survey captures comprehensive relocation policy data from industry professionals operating in North American companies and managing employee relocations as part of their job function.
More than half of mid-size firms (500-4,999 salaried employees) reported budget increases in 2019 compared to 43% of small (fewer than 500 salaried employees) and large firms (5,000+ salaried employees). Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, projections for 2020 were similarly optimistic. Roughly four out of 10 organizations expected increases in volumes and budgets for 2020, with mid-size firms holding the greatest expectations for growth. Firms of all sizes expected growth or stability for volumes and budgets, and few expected decreases—all before the dramatic events of the spread of coronavirus across the globe.
Among firms relocating employees internationally, 44% saw increases in international volumes last year, and the same percent expected increases in 2020. While projected increases outpaced decreases roughly three-to-one, the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit create marked uncertainty.
This year, 414 corporate relocation professionals completed Atlas Van Lines’ online survey. Nearly all respondents (94%) work in human resources/personnel or relocation/mobility service departments, and 58% work for firms that relocate employees internationally. Below are additional trends and findings identified in this year’s Corporate Relocation Survey.
Before the global pandemic reset the world stage, the vast majority of firms expected either stability or improvement in the U.S. economy in 2020, with a greater percentage expecting further improvement compared to 2018 (50% vs. 46%). Along with COVID-19, Brexit was a wildcard in the mix of relocation this year.
Additionally, one in three or more international companies expected increased relocation costs, volumes, policy changes, recruiting difficulty, and administration complexity both in the UK & EMEA regions because of Brexit. Globally, expectations trended positive, but there was some dissonance. Overall expectations shifted back to growth versus stability as the percentage of firms expecting improvement in both emerging and developed global market economies went back up (49% vs. 43%, emerging; 47% vs. 39%, developed). However, both saw projections for worsening performances more than double over the last two years (14% vs. 6%, emerging, 16% vs. 7%, developed). This indicates that even prior to COVID-19, there were signs that the global picture showed areas of potential weakness.
Building in the capacity for relocation to be adaptable to employee needs while keeping costs contained is now a nearly universal policy stance across organizations. Over the last six years, the majority of firms have used candidate assessments to support relocations. This year, 79% of firms assessed candidates prior to making offers—reaching a historical high. The data shows 78% of companies estimate the most frequently relocated, salaried employee is between 30-45 years of age and male (79%.)
To stay adaptable for employees, the top cost containment method continues to be using lump sum payments for relocations, with 40% of companies indicating they use lump sum payments for this purpose. In 2019, roughly one out of every four moves by firms participating in the survey was estimated to have been entirely paid for by lump sums.
Over the past decade, companies have gained a fundamental understanding that relocation policies must have built-in flexibility. Many companies do this by identifying what relocation costs are considered “core coverage,” or by allowing relocation funds to be used on select services from which an employee can choose. From 2015 to 2019, more than 80% of firms used aspects of fixed/flex policy. Usage jumps to nearly 96% in 2020, indicating that offering some form of flexibility in how relocation benefits can be used is essentially universal practice. In addition to having flexibility in policy, the ability to use additional incentives to convince a key employee to take a relocation assignment remains mission critical. Over the past six years, most firms across company size indicate they are offering additional, non-standard incentives or policy exceptions. Since 2008, the overall use of incentives/exceptions has grown 30% (90% vs. 60%: 2008).
An estimated one in ten relocations last year involved an employee in a caregiving role with one in three relocations involving an employee with children. Many employees who are caring for children and elderly parents find themselves in this “sandwich” of dual caregiving challenges, and relocation policies have had to adapt.
In response, 71% of firms offer childcare assistance for relocating employees—increasing again over last year’s largest percentage measured for this accommodation. According to this year’s data, 66% percent of firms are also offering accommodations for elder care—increasing for another year to the highest percentage ever seen.
For this year’s complete survey results, visit the Atlas Van Lines Corporate Relocation Survey results online at www.atlasvanlines.com/Corporate-Relocation/Survey. A PDF booklet of key findings, charts and the complete survey is also available for download here.
About Atlas® Van Lines, Inc.
Atlas® Van Lines, Inc., a national moving company, is the largest subsidiary of Atlas® World Group, Inc., an Evansville, Indiana-based company. Atlas World Group companies employ nearly 700 people throughout North America. Over 430 Atlas interstate moving agents in the United States and Canada specialize in corporate relocation, household moving services and in the specialized transportation of high-value items such as electronics, fine art, store fixtures, and furniture. For more information, visit www.atlasvanlines.com.