2023 has been a year of normalization in global mobility after three-plus years of unpredictability thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, companies in general have been conservative in their relocation activity, as they co-managed concerns about a recession and controlling costs alongside the implementation of new recruiting and employment guidelines including, most visibly, their ‘return to office’ policies.
What does this mean on the ground, in real-time? Dwellworks provides services to globally mobile talent in hundreds of markets all over the world. With that unique view as context, here are my top 5 key trends and takeaways from the perspective of customer experience and expectations.
1 - Employees Want Options As Mobile as They Are
Employees value choice in their service options and modes of delivery. This means companies are more widely adopting various core/flex models. Depending on the type of service and local market conditions, the customer may prefer digital and virtual support to in-person accompanied tours. This is the case in our US Rental Assistance programs, where 80% of transferees who are given a choice opt for ongoing virtual engagement vs a single-day, all-at-once experience. Dwellworks’ Xpedite product was created specifically to support these preferences in global destination services by presenting policy-driven core services and flexible, customer-defined add-ons in a single easy-to-use online menu. These optional ways to engage reflect the growing expectation for continuous access to information, curated by experts, and actionable by employees on their own schedules in coordination with their local Consultants. Contrast this model with an isolated service event that happens primarily in a single, in-market day or two, and which may or may not meet the full expectations of the customer.
2 - US Rental Markets Stabilizing as the World Catches Up
This is an important policy issue because workforce mobility in the US has a strong ‘home sale/home purchase’ component and that segment of the population is experiencing great difficulty when considering relocation, due to high interest rates, cautious buyers, and even more cautious sellers, who don’t want to miss out on securing the highest possible price for their properties.
The good news for renters in most US markets is the stability of apartment rental costs and the increase in supply, with up to 1 million units under construction as of June 2023. From a policy/scope of work perspective, Dwellworks teams in the past year have had to focus a disproportionate amount of the available time for service delivery on explaining market dynamics, setting expectations, and sharing the unwelcome news of limited options in rental housing in most markets. With some increase in supply and more stability in the cost of rental housing overall, the rental customer experience is improving as well. Dwellworks had the bellwether feedback of 100% service satisfaction scores from one of our largest rental clients in June – a positive indicator that between service support and market dynamics, the relocation experience is getting better for employees on the move. We cannot, unfortunately, make the same statements about markets in Canada or Europe, where overall demand, independent of relocation activity, continues to put significant pressure on price, supply, and availability.
3 - DEI Needs to be Part of the Policy Conversation
In a recent industry forum, Morgan Crosby, Chief Strategy Officer at AIRINC, described policies and practices that are ‘an exception in advance’, recognizing that every employee who moves may have needs other than those outlined in a company’s policy and scope of work. Dwellworks recommends even more broadly that no employee should be called an ‘exception’ for who they are or what they need. In our experience, there is enough variation in the use of destination services benefits to fund the flexibility that employees require; some employees use less than the stated policy, some need more, and most can have their needs met in a program that provides for essential as well as customized experiences. DEI is not a slogan or a marketing call to action. It’s an opportunity to recognize how significantly the global workforce has changed (and is still changing) and to support those changes with policies that encourage interest in mobility opportunities through respectful understanding and support of each individual. See our white paper “DEI - The Key to a Better Destination Services Experience” for practical examples.
4 - Technology is Helpful; Expertise is Essential
Earlier this year, I read the 2023 Atlas Corporate Relocation Survey cover to cover, as I’m sure many industry colleagues did. This industry resource captured feedback from nearly 600 small, medium, and large-sized companies. Among the trends noted was the use of lump sum, self-managed move benefits by approximately one-third of respondents for some segments of their employee mobility population. What we know from years of customer engagement experience is that employees who are relocating need access to more than cash, technology, and tools. The majority of Dwellworks’ customers fully embrace digital participation in their service experience through our myDwellworks platform, for example. This gives them access on the go, anytime, in multiple locations to a wide array of helpful content like real-time rental rates in their new neighborhood, school admissions requirements, and local sustainability resources. (Contact email@example.com or your Dwellworks account director to organize a myDwellworks demonstration.)
For all the value of self-paced information and 24-hour access to data, however, Dwellworks' sustained, global customer satisfaction score of 98% is all about personal support, expertise, guidance, and insights. “Availability of the Consultant” is both the number one complaint (from the 2% of concerned customers who provide that feedback) and the number one call-out in positive feedback comments. The busier top talent gets and the faster their employers expect them to be productive in their new roles, the more essential local expertise is to organize information, source properties, and set employees up for success.
5 - Relocation is Not Over, it’s Resetting
With 2023 being a transition year, companies are reviewing recent, reactive practices from the last three years. Going forward, this means having talent mobility strategies in place that evolve to support the success of the business rather than having to reset policies on demand to support emergency needs. Interestingly, even though 2023 has been a quieter relocation year than 2022, there has been no widespread commentary in industry whitepapers or webinars that predicts ‘the end of relocation.’ Employers are thoughtfully assessing what they want to do next and how to manage going forward, but the expectation is that global mobility will continue, for business needs and as a key factor in attracting and retaining talent.
Be sure to look for a new "Ask Maura" blog regularly. Have a mobility question? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and label your subject line: “Ask Maura.”