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Designing a Flexible Mobility Program (Part 2 of 4)

Published: Wednesday, July 22, 2020
Kathy Burrows

Core/Flex Mobility Programs: Advantages and Challenges

In a recent blog post, we discussed one of many reasons companies are striving to incorporate flexibility into their mobility programs. There are a variety of barriers to relocation today, from the career-and economic-related issues that can be associated with dual-income households to unique real estate complications and family needs. Organizations are in search of creative ways to traverse these barriers but, simultaneously, they also need to manage mobility investment costs and align with organizational goals. Core/flex mobility programs can be a valuable way to accomplish all of this, as they typically offer degrees of both control and flexibility. However, this is only true when they’re designed and administered properly. Below, we’ll discuss what core/flex plans are and the pros and cons of using one. In a later post, we’ll discuss how to know if your company’s mobility plan is too flexible or not flexible enough.

What is a Core/Flex Program?

As mentioned above, in a core/flex program, flexible components are typically offered (within company-established parameters and/or limitations) in conjunction with a core set of services that are provided to all employees within a group or move type, across the board. In theory, this should result in packages that can be tailored to address employee preferences, providing them with services they do need while omitting those that they don’t. The structure of core/flex programs differs from company to company, as the unique needs of each organization drive their design, but most consider compliance as they determine many of their core offerings. Regardless of structure, there are some benefits and challenges that are consistently shared.  

Advantages of Utilizing a Core/Flex Program:

They address both company and employee needs: While the core components of a core/flex program allow a company to control offerings in a way that manages costs, flex components allow for addressing the unique needs and preferences of the business and/or employees. A single executive from the United States who has accepted a long-term assignment in Brazil will have very different relocation needs than a manager from Germany who has been asked to permanently relocate with family to China. As stated above, a core/flex program would allow each employee to maximize the components they need while declining services they don’t. In some cases, it might also allow for spending more on services that are a priority to them and less on those that aren’t. Core/flex allows for greater customization and empowerment, which positively impacts the employee experience.

They assist with controlling relocation costs: Because core/flex programs typically provide parameters and guidelines for both core and flex services, companies can control the type, delivery, and scope of the services being offered.

They reduce exceptions and exclusions: Because guided flexibility is already built into the program, the need for exceptions can be minimized or eliminated altogether. Additionally, in cases where unique circumstances would otherwise preclude candidates from accepting assignments or relocations, core/flex programs allow mobility managers to potentially address and remove barriers to the move.  

They remain flexible as relocation progresses: Often, needs may change as a relocation progresses. Depending on the selections made in the early stages of the process, core/flex programs can continue to be adjusted throughout a relocation.

In short, core/flex programs are an equitable way to provide flexible benefits, when designed and administered properly. They also allow companies to expand their talent pools since unique needs can be considered and employees and mobility managers are both engaged in the management of their package and associated costs.

Challenges Associated with Core/Flex Programs:

Though there are significant benefits to utilizing a core/flex program, there are also a few challenges that come with utilizing this type of delivery model:

  • Program/policy counseling and administration can be more complex than those of more strictly defined and/or tiered policies.
  • Budgeting may be more challenging due to variable policy elements.
  • Tracking program metrics can be more difficult, since employee support components vary.
  • The need for managing employee expectations and communication is heightened, as some may believe that other employees received benefits they should have been entitled to, but were denied – particularly in cases in which mobility managers have discretion of component choices.

Too Much Flexibility or Not Enough? Striking the Right Balance

There are many ways to structure a core/flex program but, ultimately, success will depend on striking the right balance between structure and flexibility. In our next blog post, Conducting an Efficiency Check: Is Your Mobility Program Too Flexible or Not Flexible Enough? we’ll discuss how to know if your mobility program is too flexible – or not flexible enough – and what to consider when utlizing this type of mobility model.

To learn more about how SIRVA can help your incorporate flexibility into your mobility program, please contact us, at: concierge@sirva.com.