Considerations and Flexibility in Tiered Mobility Programs (Part 4 of 4)

Published: Thursday, October 1, 2020
Elaine Baker

Relocating employees come from a variety of backgrounds, with varying job titles, experience levels, and individual/family needs. Their origin and destination locations differ, as do the compliance and logistical requirements associated with each locale. In short, relocations are as diverse and complex as the many employees that a company may move. To be successful, mobility programs need to be flexible enough to address this diversity.  

Businesses often use tiered programs to provide varying levels of support to relocating employees, based on pre-defined eligibility criteria. Most commonly, the eligibility is related to the reason for their deployment and/or employee level.  For domestic moves, homeowner status may be an additional consideration. In certain regions, geography can also be added to the list of factors. Tiered programs segment employees into company-determined program types or tiers, each of which comes with a defined set of mobility services. This approach results in programs that reflect the nature and level of support that is required to facilitate a successful relocation.  

Additional flexibility can be provided within each tier by providing a range of support and delivery levels for each service/policy component. These levels could vary based on a variety of company-determined factors, such as tenure, relocation drivers, destination location, employee preference, etc. For instance, if a company designates three tiers (entry-level, mid-level, and senior-level employees) and an employee falls into the senior-level tier based on her job title, s/he would be entitled to all of the same services any employee would receive within that tier. However, while all employees might receive temporary living accommodations, this same employee might receive 90 days of accommodations while she looks for a new home because she’s had a lengthy  tenure with the company or is considered a critical talent placement. Another employee in the senior-level tier might only receive 30 days as a self-selected assignee if s/he only has one year of tenure with the company or has self-selected the relocation.

Mobility Readiness: How Personal Situations Impact Relocation Support

While an employee’s position and tenure within a company can certainly influence the type and level of support that might be needed for a relocation, personal needs and circumstances should also be considered. With this in mind, once employees have been placed within tiers, company stakeholders should always remember that they are moving people with individual needs and preferences. Enhancing the relocation experience for each employee and accompanying family may contribute to successful integration into the destination location and, therefore, a successful relocation experience.  Ultimately, this allows employees to spend more time working and less time managing their moves. This benefits employees, their families and the companies themselves.

Employees Who Are New to Relocation

Whether relocating an intern or a tenured employee who is inexperienced with relocation, employees in this category may need significantly more support and guidance than those who have relocated before. In every case, it’s important to remember that each relocation is different. Even if an employee is familiar with the process, the origin and/or destination location or any changes to personal/family situations may impact the employee’s ability to navigate the process.  Interns and entry-level employees may have never moved more than a roomful of possessions in and out of a dorm. Older employees with homes may have moved across town but never across country borders.

Regardless of age or tenure, individuals who are new to relocation will need plenty of guidance on even the most basic aspects of the timeline and process. If the company will be providing a lump sum to employees, we suggest educating them on best practices for choosing appropriate vendors and housing, the intricacies of an immigration timeline, the complex logistics of relocation, and how to maximize their moving budgets. If managing the relocation for employees, company stakeholders should educate employees about what to expect before, during, and after the move, in areas including visa and immigration, processes surrounding household goods shipments, methods for dealing with culture shock, cultural training, area orientations, and more. 

Homeowners and Employees with Families

Many employees, regardless of tier, have more complex needs. Those that own homes may need extended support in the area of home finding and/or sales. Depending on the origin and destination locations, changes in the standard of living or property values may need to be considered. Individuals that come from dual-income households may require employment placement assistance for their spouses/partners – or some other form of accommodation to offset lost income and career opportunities. Employees with children will need help finding neighborhoods that allow for reasonable commute times to work and school, acceptable schools for their children, and/or cultural training.

Two colleagues shaking hands

Critical Talent

When asking critical talent from any tier to relocate, mobility stakeholders have a great deal more to consider. C-suite employees, for example, will likely expect a much higher level of support for relocation services. Properties being sold and bought may be of higher value, as well as the furnishings and collections that might need to be shipped and stored. These individuals may also expect or require white-glove packing and unpacking services, on-call consultants, and/or a designated concierge who handles all aspects of facilitating the smallest details regarding a relocation.

However, top-tier/seasoned employees aren’t the only ones who fall into the “critical talent” category. What about a highly-skilled manager whose training expertise is needed in a new facility? Or a millennial, single account manager whose fluency in Mandarin makes her the perfect on-site point person for a new, long-term partnership? In each of these cases, a variety of individual circumstances must also be considered.  Would either take a loss on their home and investments by moving to a more competitive market? Would a home sale benefit be required to offset those losses? Will the manager’s son have access to a school that specializes in meeting his special needs? What if the account manager is caring for an ailing parent? When getting the right person to the right location is crucial, it’s equally important to remember that employees may have needs that will need to be addressed before they can accept an assignment.

Employees that have Relocated Before

When relocating an employee who has had past relocation experience, it could be tempting to assume that s/he may need minimal guidance during the process. While it’s certainly true that previous relocation experience can be beneficial during a current relocation, by no means does it mean that these individuals would be completely prepared for the nuances facing them in a new country or scenario. Visa and immigration requirements vary from country to country, as do housing markets, the cost of living, geopolitical and social climates, customs, and the steps required at each phase of the relocation process. Mobility stakeholders should always treat each relocation as though it was their employee’s first to avoid miscommunications, missed deadlines, and mismanaged expectations.

Building Flexibility into Tiered Programs

Tiered programs offer a great deal of flexibility to mobility managers and their teams, but employees should never be defined by their tiers alone. Rather, by offering a range of service levels and support within each tier, defining the drivers behind each relocation, determining the individual needs of each employee, and then providing the right levels and delivery methods based on those drivers and needs, tiered programs can provide the right balance of flexibility and employee experience. Each employee within a tier receives a standard set of services but is also treated as an individual, with an opportunity to receive services that would be of benefit in his/her particular circumstances. Ultimately, this benefits all stakeholders involved. 

There are a variety of ways to build flexibility into mobility programs. Tiered and core/flex programs are two of them. For more information on how SIRVA can help you find the right balance between flexibility and employee experience, contact us at



Lisa Marie DeSanto | Manager, Content Marketing


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