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Relocation Negotiation: How to Incentivize an Employee to Move Overseas

By Heather Darby, writer
Jan 09, 2018
Image Credit: XiXinXing/Shutterstock
> Human Resources

Four tips on how businesses can encourage their employees to work abroad.

Businesses face an uphill battle when it comes to relocating employees to the company's overseas operations. Yet mobility is incredibly important to many companies. With two in three businesses operating some sort of international transfer process, investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in relocation every year, the concept is clearly popular among corporations around the globe, and it's not hard to see why. With international markets booming, businesses seek to expand their consumer bases and increase profitability. Thus, internal mobility is one of the keys to successful overseas operations and has been common practice in many industries for decades.

However, given that many employees are against or apprehensive about corporate relocation, it can be challenging to achieve those much-needed mobility goals. What can business owners and HR departments do to get their employees interested in moving abroad?

Increase pay

Let's not waste time. The incentive that many people have outlined as their biggest driver toward accepting an international working role was increased pay. Money is hugely influential when it comes to moving abroad, and when struggling to get people interested in the prospect, financial stimulus is going to be your most effective solution.

If you don't want to simply raise salaries as an incentive, you may also consider offering equity in return for international relocation. Moving a worker overseas often has one goal: to increase profits and make the company more valuable. If you lay this idea out to your staff and offer them equity in return for moving, their commitment and hard work will not only pay off for you but also greatly benefit them as well.

Establish support structures

International relocation involves a lot of elements that need effective management. These include:

  • Immigration
  • Shipping
  • Locating accommodation
  • Finding schools
  • Moving pets
  • Selling property
  • Relocating family
  • Establishing day-to-day essentials, like bills and banking

There is so much to think about and so many subtasks to manage, that employees will be deterred by the sheer scale of the project. If you, as their employer, put forward a relocation policy that guarantees management of all the details involved, from the major elements to the little things, you'll be far more likely to convince them to move, as you remove much of the responsibilities and strain of the process.

You should also offer a continued support structure following the move. Employees need to know they have assistance and can gain guidance after a move is complete. Often, when out in a foreign country without local links, HR might be the only support they have. Offering assurances about your continued involvement throughout their entire assignment will help to provide them with the confidence both they and their families need to commit to a move.

Offer flexible contracts

Stress is a major contributing factor to relocation derailment. One such element of an international move that can seriously contribute to stress is the notion of becoming trapped in the position. Consider the challenge of a long-term move, overseas, away from family and friends, in a place that is unfamiliar with a potentially alien culture. Committing to this lifestyle, and committing to it for years, can be too much for many members of your talent pool. However, there are ways around this stress.

Flexible contracts can offer some peace of mind to employees while ensuring you get them overseas to at least establish work. The goal is to then offer them other incentives and support, helping them settle in and remain for the duration. Once you have employees involved, it becomes easier to work with them to create a relocation plan that works for both the individual and company. Inflexible contracts can stop them putting that first foot forward, and by offering a more lenient working atmosphere, with opportunities for shorter assignments or repatriation, you create a more relaxed environment and a more attractive career development opportunity.

Find the right employee

There are a small number of employees who don't need persuading, they are happy to move overseas – you just need to find them.

Internal moves often require an employee with a certain set of skills or level of experience, which means you can't just send your accountant who's willing to move abroad to establish a marketing base in China. However, being aware of what (and who) your options are allows you to make decisions quickly. If you can transfer an employee who is eager to experience life abroad, instead of having to negotiate a deal with a tougher-to-please employee, it is better to do so. This has benefits in terms of simplicity, resource expenditure and time frames.

How can you find out if your employee fits within a certain category? You ask. Gather feedback from all employees as to their position on international relocation. Are they set against it, not sure or ready to go? Any company running international relocation projects should maintain a keen awareness as to the status of their employee’s willingness to become involved.

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Heather Darby
Heather Darby
See Heather Darby's Profile
Experienced contributor to HR and Business publications, expert in international relocation projects, dealing with everything from personal moves to full-scale corporate relocation. Heather has been working in the industry for many years and is keen to share her knowledge and insight with other members of the business community.
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