Relocation and mobility are an extremely important part of driving businesses and families of all shapes and sizes forward. According to the American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA), the average annual percentage of Americans who move each year is 11.2%. In the 52nd edition of the Atlas® Van Lines Corporate Relocation Survey, the company considered the demographic, geopolitical, and economic shifts affecting mobility and analyzed the findings to uncover and understand the industry’s evolving challenges.
Invited via email, 444 decision-makers completed online questionnaires with more than a third (36%) of respondents from small or mid-size companies and 29% from large companies. Below are some of the most noteworthy findings indicating the current state of corporate relocation.
1. Volume. Budgets & Tax Reform
Overall, 2018 was another positive year for the relocation industry, with roughly nine out of ten organizations indicating both corporate relocation volumes and budgets either held steady or increased. Nearly six out of ten mid-size firms reported budget increases compared to just four out of ten among smaller and larger firms. Projections for 2019 are similarly optimistic, with more than four out of ten organizations expecting increases in volumes and budgets. Expectations are essentially in line with last year’s experiences across company size—firms of all sizes expect growth or stability for relocation volumes and budgets, while only a few expect decreases. In light of tax reform and increasing costs, it appears firms are working to ensure their budgets cover the relocations projected in the coming year.
2. Factors Impacting Relocation
For the past six years, family issues and ties have taken the top spot among reasons for declined relocations by employees, while spouse/partner employment has held second place. The impact of housing/mortgage concerns has lessened notably during this period, while dual-income households with family commitments continue to be a prime reason for declined relocations. Near its lowest point in more than 15 years, housing/mortgage concerns remain within pre-recession levels for the fourth time since 2007 and for the third year in a row across company size. However, one in four firms indicated housing/mortgage concerns still played a role in their employees’ decisions to stay put.
3. Relocation Reimbursement/Cost Coverage
Even as companies expand their reliance on lump sum payments for relocating employees, they are utilizing them as a supplement with flexibility for specific costs versus a total reimbursement replacement. The Corporate Relocation Survey continues to investigate which costs fall under lump sum payments. Among firms using lump sums, fewer than half apply them for the entire cost of an employee’s relocation. Usage has increased progressively for travel expenses, household goods shipping/storage, temporary housing, rental assistance/transactions, and real estate assistance/transactions.
Survey respondents indicate the customization of employee relocation packages continues, with assistance most often based on one’s job level or position and job title. However, the biggest differences occur in company size. Small firms are the most likely to offer either a lump sum or no reimbursement option to entry-level employees they are relocating. Around a fourth or more of both mid-size and small firms use lump sums or do not offer assistance for mid-level or executive homeowners, far more often than large firms.
4. International Assignments
Until 2015, the majority of firms overall reported international assignments lasting one to three years. The percentage dropped in 2015 and remains lower for the fifth straight year at 43%. Assignments of less than a year are almost as “typical” as those lasting one to three years, with longer engagements falling out of favor.
Despite stricter immigration enforcement and a challenging political climate, the United States was a top international destination again in 2018. The five most-frequented destinations for relocating employees were the United States, Canada, Western Europe, the United Kingdom, and Asia.
About the Author: Mary Beth Johnson serves as Vice President of Corporate Marketing for Atlas® Van Lines, Inc. and Vice President of Avail Move Management, both subsidiaries of Atlas® World Group. Her key focus areas include brand management, go-to-market strategy, pricing and contract administration, corporate communications, account management, agent support. In addition to optimizing customer service throughout the lifecycle of shipments, she is also focused on identifying opportunities to drive growth and profitability.