Skip to main content

Flexible Mobility Programs 101: The Benefits and Building Blocks

The modern workforce is characterized by its diversity — today’s mobile employees come from varied backgrounds and circumstances, which means they also have a wide range of concerns and priorities. Meanwhile, the social and economic challenges of the last few years have impacted organizational budgets in just about every functional area, talent mobility programs included. With more employees working from home, new generations entering the workforce demanding flexibility and mobility professionals doing more with less, relocation policies need to adapt to accommodate mobile employees’ distinct needs while still meeting business goals and objectives.  

One-size-fits-all relocation policies often fall short of effectively addressing the individual needs of mobile employees. Whether a self-managed move or a fully supported one, empowering both the relocating employee and mobility professionals to create a customized experience will be crucial to both the success of the relocation itself and the goals the organization has set for the assignment. Guidance from mobility experts – whether through access to a live person combined with the use of a self-service tool or continual conversations and execution throughout a managed process – is also key to successfully navigating the hundreds of options available during any relocation.  

This is where flexible policies come in. They serve as guiding frameworks, allowing organizations to offer tailored benefits and options to their mobile workforce while still keeping an eye on the company’s bottom line. This balance between structure and flexibility creates a win-win situation for all: it allows mobility professionals to provide exceptional experiences that make employees feel seen and well-supported throughout their relocations, while aligning with company goals and maximizing program spend. When managed properly, it also helps to control costs. 

Below are some insights into how you can leverage a flexible policy within your own organization and several compelling benefits – for your company and mobile employees – that make the case for why you should consider implementing flexible policies.  

Is your mobility program flexible enough? Spotting clues and weighing considerations.

To figure out if a more flexible mobility program is right for your company, start by assessing employee needs, budget considerations and customization options. Program flexibility requires a thorough understanding of the organization's goals and a willingness to empower employees in making some of their own relocation decisions. Here are a few indicators that your mobility program might be due for a flexibility makeover: 

  • Program exceptions: If mobility managers often add or remove benefits by employee request or employees share that they feel unsupported, it may signal that the program isn’t reflective and inclusive of the employee/family population’s needs.  
  • Exceeding your budget: As the number of exceptions rise, so do the costs of administering those exceptions, both in hard costs and in the soft/administrative costs that come with the troubleshooting needed to address exceptions. 
  • Unfavorable business stakeholder feedback: If there’s a pattern of frustrated colleagues outside HR/mobility saying their needs aren’t being met, or of confused stakeholders saying they don’t understand the process, this could mean your program needs more flexibility and better alignment with corporate culture, global challenges, DEI and sustainability efforts.  
  • Mobile employee dissatisfaction: Early repatriations, unmet relocation goals or talent losses pinpointed to an unsatisfactory relocation experience may indicate inadequate support or unsuitable benefits. It could also lead to a negative mobility brand reputation, which could hurt a company’s talent recruitment efforts.  

If you feel like a flexible program model could be right for your company and mobile employees, here are a few things to consider as you explore creating and implementing one: 

  • Understand key policy differences: A traditional relocation policy typically provides all employees with a set of structured benefits to cover the basics of a relocation: travel, housing, transportation of household goods and expenses. This type of program can work well for some organizations because it's easy to administer and provides the necessary benefits to help employees relocate with their families. On the other hand, flexible policies such as a core-flex approach, utilize an established set of “core” benefits – such as travel, household goods, and compensation – that provide ‘duty of care’ to all employees, along with any additional flexible benefits the company may want to offer (temporary living, destination services, intercultural training, etc.). These supplemental benefits are given a limit, typically determined by the number of choices, allowing the employee to select the benefits they need most. An a la carte program offers the greatest flexibility and can be administered as a choice selection or a point-based system. When structured as the latter, every benefit is assigned a point value and the employee chooses what works best for their family situation, up to the designated allotment. 
  • Work with experts that have flexible technology solutions: Relocation management company partners can provide technology solutions, data-driven recommendations and crucial support to mobile employees as they evaluate their benefits options. To create a truly exceptional relocation experience, mobile employees typically need a combination of one-on-one support, when needed (via expert guidance, education and data-driven recommendations) and tech access (via benefits selector tools and tech platforms like Graebel’s globalCONNECT®) that simplify the experience and provide the information needed to make good decisions.  

    Benefits of flexible policies — for employees and companies 

    Why should companies consider flexible policies and advocate to leadership for them? They offer a variety of benefits for companies and mobile employees, including: 

    • Supporting unique circumstances: Flexible policies enable employers to provide support that caters to each employee's unique circumstances. This empowers employees and mobility professionals to make decisions that align with each employee’s/family’s specific needs, creating more positive relocation experiences that generate better returns on mobility. 
    • Creating opportunities for financial forecasting: A flexible approach to mobility helps employers better understand the costs associated with employee relocations. For example, by assigning a points value to each available benefit and monitoring employee use of those benefits, employers will not only understand which benefits are most often used, they’ll also have an analytic view of the cost of relocation. This all helps the employer to make better informed financial and planning decisions. 
    • Reducing policy exceptions/enabling cost control: When employees have the chance to choose benefits that align with their specific requirements, it can lead to fewer exceptions. Each exception reduction helps alleviate administrative complexities and associated costs. In addition, by providing employees with the services they need and eliminating those that they don’t, businesses often benefit from the resulting cost savings.  
    • Fostering DEI: By choosing the benefits that meet unique needs, such as additional travel support for mobile employees who use wheelchairs or coverage in cultures where the relocation of extended family would be the norm, flexible policies create more inclusive relocation experiences. They can also create more equitable relocations and career opportunities, which support companies’ workplace DEI goals
    • Empowering two-way success: Flexible policies focus on asking "what do you need to be successful?" rather than simply outlining predetermined offerings based on generic assumptions. This shift in approach is compelling for organizations seeking to attract top talent, as it demonstrates a commitment to meeting individual needs and preferences. It also contributes to overall business objectives, since employees who feel supported during a relocation are more likely to settle into their new surroundings faster, worry less about accompanying family members, and focus more fully on their new roles and related goals.  

    Every employee’s relocation is different – just like the companies that employ them – so conducting an initial assessment is key to determining the optimal mobility program options and models for your specific business and mobile employee needs.  

    If you’re interested in exploring flexible mobility program approaches, reach out to us. With our expertise and tailored approach, we can assist you in strategically crafting flexible policies that meet your organizational goals, align with the evolving needs of your workforce and help employees build successful careers. By partnering with Graebel, you can navigate the complexities of talent mobility with confidence and create a win-win scenario for both your organization and your employees. 

About the Author

Natalie Campbell is Senior Vice President of Enterprise Initiatives. Natalie has over 20 years of global mobility experience in international assignment management, domestic relocation and client-facing technology. She joined Graebel in 2015 after holding positions in client technology, global support services and operations with another relocation management company. Natalie ensures smooth transitions for our new clients with a well-defined process along with supporting staff and tools. Natalie holds the CRP®, GMS® and CERP designations and is a Six Sigma Green Belt.

Profile Photo of Natalie Campbell