Let’s start by establishing some important facts:

  1. Businesses are seeing increasing demands for internal overseas mobility. Ninety-two percent of global companies expect to see a rise in, or to at least maintain, international mobility levels in 2018.
  2. Convincing employees to relocate is not easy. Two-thirds of corporations find employees will decline relocation.
  3. The failure rate for international relocation is staggeringly high at around 40 percent. This isn’t a new trend, as failure rates have been the same for decades.

As these facts suggest, it is important to go into relocation conversations with carefully considered negotiation strategies. Moving employees can be valuable, but also difficult to achieve and potentially disastrous if done incorrectly. Before heading to the negotiating table, HR pros need to consider how to achieve the best results for their assignments.

Why Do Employees Decline Relocation Opportunities?

To understand how to properly negotiate relocation projects, we must first look at why people decline these opportunities. On paper, relocation can sound like a romantic notion, but for many, it’s not an appealing prospect. There are many reasons people will decline a move overseas. Common objections include:

1. Family Concerns

Relocating or moving away from children and loved ones is a major decision that impacts not only the employee, but also their family. The more roots somebody has, the harder it is for them to pick up and move.

2. Two-Career Partnerships

Today, it is very common for people to be in committed relationships with partners or spouses who have their own career goals and ambitions. Relocation can place a partner’s goals in jeopardy, so many couples will make the joint decision not to move.

3. Cultural Barriers

Cultural barriers are a major challenge. They can leave people feeling isolated and without community. Fears of being unable to adapt put many people off working abroad.

4. Stress

Relocation is one of life’s great stressors, even more so than divorce and relationship breakdowns according to some studies. Another of life’s great stressors is starting a new job. Combine the two and you have a cocktail of emotions and anxiety that many would rather avoid.

Tips for Negotiating Overseas Assignment Contracts

You know the facts of relocation. You know why people are turning down contracts and staying put. How do you take the necessary steps to secure those overseas assignments that you desperately need? You negotiate strong terms that entice and reassure your workers.

1. Provide Comprehensive Support

Negotiation should start by addressing and allaying major fears associated with moving, such as stress management, family support, and cultural adaptation. Provide evidence through internal relocation policies that your company will support successful integration and manage the moving process on your assignee’s behalf.

Start by negotiating terms of the move and settling details about responsibility for the actual relocation project, such as who is to monitor shipping, sort out visa and immigration, and acquire property. You can then assess the potential for supporting cultural adaptation, including language lessons, methods of area orientation, and direct assistance in helping people and families integrate with local communities.

plane2. Assist in Partner Employment

It is uncommon, but it can be necessary to offer support in helping an employee’s partner find work overseas, often by establishing links with recruitment agencies. Many organizations would rather not go the extra mile, but if the need is great enough, this could be a deciding factor in the negotiation.

3. Target the Right Person

Attempting to relocate some employees is simply a waste of time, even if they seem like the perfect candidate. In one survey, 55 percent of employees said they would flat-out refuse relocation opportunities, no matter the circumstances. Taking these people to the negotiating table will just burn resources unnecessarily.

Before engaging in the relocation process, identify those employees who could potentially be open to the move. There are two ways you can do this.

The first is to target younger employees. Millennials are far more likely to be open to relocation, with 92 percent of them interested in international work.

The second tactic is to conduct an internal survey. Ask employees about their interests in relocation and gauge responses. Eliminate from the running those who have very strong opinions against moving.

4. Incentivize Your Employee to Move

Part of the negotiation process must include weighing the negative aspects of an overseas move and offering benefits that outweigh the drawbacks. Examples of incentives to include are:

- More Money: Money makes the world go ’round — or rather, people go around the world. Fifty-five percent of people in one survey said a pay raise would be one of their top reasons for considering relocation.

- Immaterial Perks: It’s not all about money, however. Some people seek more immaterial things. Advertising the benefits of moving as part of your negotiation process can help boost interest. These benefits might include the ability to travel and explore new locations, a better quality of life, and new opportunities outside of work.

- Career Advancement: Moving overseas can offer many opportunities for career advancement, such as faster promotions and new skills. Bring these advantages to the negotiating table.

- Flexible Terms: More and more people are interested in flexible work arrangements, and you can use this fact to your advantage by making flexible work part of your relocation program. You should also be willing to offer flexibility in terms of the contract itself, with designated points within the project at which candidates can reevaluate their circumstances and opt out if necessary. This isn’t an ideal scenario, but the notion of being locked into relocation for the long term can be enough to drive many people out of the process.

Make Sure Your Candidate Is Invested in the Move

Work at the negotiation table should not be focused on pulling an employee into a process they are against. The point of a strong negotiation process is to create a plan that benefits both you and the employee, producing an international relocation assignment that you both want to succeed.

If an employee feels pressured to take the assignment and begrudgingly accepts, this is likely to lead to failure. Overseas assignments need to be mutual decisions to ensure success.

Mark Costa Rising is group sales and marketing director at Gerson Relocation.

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