With So Many Turndowns, Here’s What You Need to Convince Talent to Relocate Overseas

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Jan 19, 2018

For some, it might seem crazy: offering an employee the chance to move overseas, only to have them turn it down. After all, it’s a move many people crave; one of the most thrilling opportunities that a brand can offer in the world of career progression. Yet, this scenario is not uncommon. HR people and recruiters involved in international relocation projects are reporting rises in the number of rejections they receive when approaching top talent.

For brands, the benefits of relocating staff are obvious. Moving tried-and-tested employees overseas to manage international teams or crucial projects or tasks all but ensures the work is completed effectively. With proven skills and a knowledge of company culture, relocation eliminates much of the risk associated with a new hire.

The benefits for established employees are less obvious. With deep personal roots laid down domestically and ever-growing numbers of split-career partnerships, convincing people to up sticks and leave their life behind can be a hard sell. Relocation, whether overseas or across the country, is not an easy sell. 63% of companies reported employees turning down a relocation assignment, even though 28% of them said it could hinder the employee’s career advancement.

However, it is not impossible.

If you’re facing the prospect of attempting to negotiate an overseas move with a member of staff, or you’ve already been rejected in the offer, carefully consider the advice below.

Target the right employee

If you have a definite target of your relocation project in mind, it can be hard to find another suitable candidate, however, if possible, it pays to be flexible.

Graduates, particularly those of the millennial generation, appear to be more geared towards the idea of international relocation than employees of later generations. 92% of graduate employees would be open to the idea. The reality is that younger employees are more likely to have less in the way of domestic commitments; such as long-term partners with their own career goals, families and dependents, etc. This is not a hard and fast rule, as individual circumstances vary, but in general terms, the millennial generation is more willing to transfer overseas.

You should also consider restless employees: Those who’ve sought promotion on multiple occasions, have formally put forward an interest in internal movement, or just those you know personally are keen to try new things.

Note that those who are uncertain of a move, but cautiously agree to it, are more likely to back out. International relocation can be challenging. You need to have some level of certainty that your candidate is committed to the decision. Targeting the right employee can save your process a lot of time, energy and resources.

Offer a comprehensive support structure

Immigrating, selling up, buying a new home, starting life from scratch, managing potential cultural and language differences, re-establishing family life, finding a new career path if moving for a partner; the list of challenges involved in international relocation is long, complex and exhausting to think about, let alone actually endure.

What every proposed assignee needs to know is that they won’t be left to deal with everything themselves.

HRs can take the weight off their shoulders. Management teams can and should be put in place — either internally or as part of third-party relocation company — to oversee and organise the move. The more elements of relocation you commit to managing, the less your employee has to worry about and the easier it becomes for them and their family to accept.

Family is critical

Family is priority number one for most members of your team and the leading reason why employees refuse relocation assignments. Family issues are also one of the leading reasons oversea assignments fail. Focusing on a sole employee and neglecting the needs of their family is a one-way ticket to relocation disaster.

Comprehensive support needs to be comprehensive, for all people being relocated.

HR should take the time to discuss potential relocation with both talent and their families. Listen to their concerns, explain how you’ll make their relocation easier and how you’ll use their feedback to make sure they get settled in properly.

Be aware that if you take on responsibility for all aspects of a move, you must follow through on that promise. Failure to meet the expectations of the assignee and their family will result in mistrust and the breakdown of the relocation process.

Give the move meaning

Moving somewhere to do the same job, just away from family and friends, is not a very appealing prospect. For brands to convince talent to move, they have to give their international relocation project an edge — something that entices workers to get involved.

Many companies opt to give their assignees a stake in equity in return for their role. The idea is simple: the relocation plan is designed to grow the brand. Therefore, if you move and succeed, equity rises and you gain considerable financial growth as a result.

There are other options for HR, though.

Many people have a desire to travel and explore. Wanderlust can be a powerful tool to be exploited in this respect. Offering to relocate your assignees somewhere exotic or culturally intriguing is something many will find very attractive. You could also offer perks such as more valuable property, better quality of life, career development opportunities, traditional items like insurances and a company car, etc.

Whatever you do offer in terms of perks to the international assignment, make sure it provides genuine meaning to your talent. If they see the move as benefiting them on a deeper level than just enabling them to keep their current job, they’ll be more incentivised to take that step forward.

Provide flexibility

Part of an employee’s apprehension is likely to come from dedicating themselves to a long-term overseas move and becoming trapped — seemingly stuck abroad, tied to a long-term plan. People don’t like feeling trapped. A consequence of pushing your employees into such a state is that it may lead them to re-evaluate their position at work, and life in general.

To allay fears and avert later disaster, provide your employee with flexibility. Give them options for mobility if things should not work out the way you intend, and don’t fix contracts for the long term. Telling an employee that they are being assigned a four-year project that must be completed, for example, is going to leave them feeling as though their only exit option is to quit; which will likely be a huge deciding factor when it comes to making that all-important commitment and accepting the role.

Injecting flexibility into your overseas assignments avoid such problems. Give them options for mobility if things should not work out the way you intend, and don’t fix contracts for the long-term. Offer to review and discuss their position on a regular basis. Repatriation is a worst-case scenario, but providing that option does ensure you retain your talent and provides a necessary safety net for those on the fence about moving.

Be transparent

In a world of rhetoric, people appreciate honest engagement and candid conversations.

Employees need to understand the implications of their decisions and they’ll appreciate the transparency provided. Lay your cards on the table and explain exactly why you are proposing relocation. Outline the benefits of their move overseas, both for them and the company, and the potentially negative impacts (if there are any) of refusal. Employees deserve to know if they risk their job by not relocating, or if their decision will threaten the work of others.

Aggressive tactics can lead to disgruntled employees, tensions between staff and HR, and even potential resignations. Be careful how you present the information. Make it informative and transparent, without being so curt as to say ‘you either move or we’re screwed’.

Lure them in with better pay

You can find the right person, provide the best support available, give their move meaning and be flexible in what you offer, but in the end, the biggest lure for your workers is often financial.

Money really does talk in the world of relocation, so offering your workers a generous financial incentive to get them past their concerns about moving overseas is likely to be your easiest route to success. Some HRs may seek to avoid this tactic if possible, and for good reason. These costs can seriously stack up for an international assignment that is required as a long-term plan. However, when all else fails, you’ll find pay packet increases can be the pre-move element that sells the entire package.


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