The other half's career make workers reluctant to move countries

Jul 04 2005 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Companies spend fortunes on relocation packages to soften the blow of moving to a new country, yet too often fail to take into account the impact relocation will have on a spouse or partner's career.

As a result they risk losing some of their best and brightest talent, and so need to think more flexibly and innovatively about how they move employees around the world, a management consultant has argued.

The view from Jonathan Stanley, managing director of consultancy The Real Game, comes as latest research from the UK has shown workers are most likely to turn down a potentially career-boosting opportunity to be relocated because of the impact it will have on their partners' careers.

Parental and carer responsibilities, language barriers and a fear of being away from the centre of power are also key factors in persuading people to think twice, the study in the journal IRS Employment Review has suggested.

But Stanley has argued that, with a bit of sensitivity and forethought many of these challenges can be overcome.

"Companies need to be more proactive about it, and see it less as just a problem of logistics. This is a big missed opportunity," he told Management-Issues.

"They may, for instance, be able to give people more lead-time so they know what is coming up and be more flexible about when people move. At the moment it is you are in Manila one day and then in three months they want you in Casablanca," he added.

Businesses could also be more proactive in communicating with the company of the spouse or partner about whether there is scope for them to be relocated, he suggested.

If the choice is either to mess up your partner's career or harm your own prospects, the relocation is much less likely to go well and the employee is equally unlikely to feel as positive about the employer as before, he added.

The IRS survey found that, within the UK, London, the south east of England, south west and east Anglia were the most popular UK destinations to be relocated to.

Outside the UK, western Europe topped the international league for staff relocation, followed by north America.

This is despite the fact that last year a survey found the U.S to be the most challenging location for international relocation, followed by China and Japan.

The most common reason for relocating a staff member, chosen by seven in 10 employers was simply because they were the "right person for the job".

Career development and promotion were also important reasons, although employee motivation ranked as the least popular reason.

IRS Employment Review managing editor, Mark Crail said: "Most organisations need to relocate only a handful of employees each year, with international relocation still less common.

"But there is little evidence that either domestic or global relocation is becoming less common, and alternatives such as the use of short-term assignments or recruitment in local job markets is doing little to eat into the opportunities available," he added.

He continued: "Although there has been little change in employees' willingness to relocate for work in recent years, family commitments can deter individuals from coming forward Ė particularly when their partner's job is at stake.

"However, few employers appear to take this into account in the support they offer employees who are on the move."

After western Europe and north America, the most popular international relocation destinations, in order of preference, were: the Indian sub-continent and south-east Asia, the Far East, Middle East, Australia and New Zealand, Eastern Europe and Russia, Africa and south and central America.

Firms also needed to be careful relocating staff does not lead to an exodus. A study published in May by consultancy Rialto found that an office relocation was among the main reasons why people decide to quit their jobs.