Apps, portals, and even artificial intelligence are helping ease relocation challenges for employer and employee alike.

Deciding whether to accept a job transfer—particularly an international one—is one of the toughest choices an employee will ever make. Saying “yes” or “no” to global relocation impacts the individual on many levels—from his or her career path and personal earning power to family relationships, home ownership, spousal employment, preferred lifestyle, even pets.

It’s no wonder that “stress counseling” has become a necessary service for so many international assignees. And yet, relocation can be a highly rewarding and positive experience for workers as well as their employers. International assignments are offered as a way to season young executives, solve major organizational challenges, extend company expertise, and reward high-performing workers. Indeed, of the 10,400 businesspeople in 140 countries who participated in the Deloitte 2017 Global Human Capital Trends survey, 68 percent agreed that “a mobile workforce is an enabler of business and talent strategies.”

Why Don’t More Employees Accept Relocations?

The personal upheaval involved in international relocation can be immense. Oftentimes it means: asking a spouse to change jobs; uprooting children from schools, activities, and friends; selling or renting a home and finding suitable living accommodations in the new city; saying goodbye to friends and extended family; and integrating in a new community—perhaps a very different culture.

Depending on the move, immigration, work visas, and cultural/foreign language training may be needed. A host of outside services, from global mobility service providers to realtors, movers, leasing agents, employment agencies, counselors and more, are necessary.

What Are the Major Roadblocks to Getting a “Yes” From Employees?

Perhaps more than any single factor, global relocation candidates need to know they will be adequately cared for by their employer. The need for information and advice before, during, and after a move is crucial, as is access to logistical, financial, and other support services.

The myriad details surrounding a major move is enough to give anyone pause. It starts with real estate services on both ends and quickly expands to include movers, travel agents, auto dealers, utility companies, schools, houses of worship, banks, government agencies, and many more.

The relocation process itself is lengthy. There are HR and organizational steps ranging from payroll and benefit forms to government paperwork. Multiple trips are required to the new location to meet new colleagues, hunt for housing, evaluate potential schools, and shop for transitional items. Along the way, hundreds of questions inevitably arise—and candidates want to know their concerns will be addressed quickly so the chaos will be kept to a minimum.

How Can Technology Help Employees?

Personalized, 24/7 digital HR solutions are changing the game for employees considering—or actually going through—international relocation. From mobile apps to online portals and dashboards, technology can offer a one-stop destination for:

  • Information about the new city—community introductions, cultural descriptions, maps, demographic information, transportation options and opportunities for language training. Some portals even provide virtual reality (VR) experiences that showcase attractions that are designed specifically to interest family members.
  • Itineraries for the flights, hotels, and logistics necessary for groundwork in their new global locale.
  • Moving advice and vendor connections—the ability to track movers, utility companies, and delivery services in one place—working through an integrated ecosystem of vendors communicating across one platform.
  • Immigration and government paperwork—depending on the country, this can be hugely challenging. Technology portals can provide quality support through this process.
  • Checklists—beneficial lists that cover every stage of an assignee’s transition.
  • Communications—virtual assistants and chatbots can be invaluable if a major problem pops up with global assignees. Some portals even allow employees to communicate with current or former transferees via voice, text, or chat.

How Can Technology Help Employers?

Apps and portals can be of enormous help to employers as well, assisting in everything from identifying potential international assignees to monitoring and managing logistics. Companies can look to these solutions for:

  • Cognitive talent assessments based on AI/machine learning—systems that evaluate candidates – within their companies and externally – according to their experience, capabilities, and performance, then shortlist those best suited for international assignments.
  • Specific personnel management tasks—internal systems that coordinate payroll, benefits, IT onboarding/offboarding and more.
  • Relocation management—integrated platforms coordinate the plethora of details associated with international assignments, giving HR and global mobility specialists an easy way to answer questions and automate processes.

What Kind of Technology Should an Employer Look For?

There are a number of web services, applications, and high-tech options available to assist with international assignments. As an employer, it’s important to focus on solutions that can help reduce stress and improve the employee experience, like Deloitte’s ConnectMe, which connects the workforce to what they need, when and where they need it.

Look for solutions that key in on the moments that matter: helping a potential international assignee research the most important challenges they may be facing, from investigating the new position and responsibilities to successfully managing the transition and time overseas. The best digital solutions deliver at these key moments.

Decades ago, employees had less control over global mobility—it was considered part of a career trajectory. In today’s competitive employment environment, however, international assignments—whether long-term or more flexible international opportunities like extended business travel—are often perceived as a job benefit, and employees have a much bigger say in where and when they will accept an opportunity.

It’s important for employers to demonstrate empathy for the employee’s role and to encourage a happy experience. Fortunately, technology has evolved and can greatly assist in making an international assignment more human-centered, personalized, and predictable. With the right digital tools in place, companies can foster transformative, exciting, and profitable experiences that add value for everyone involved.

Jonathan Pearce is a principal and leads Deloitte Tax LLP’s Digital Workforce | Mobility offering. His experience covers a range of global HR consulting, including functional transformation; international HR start-ups; and global mobility strategy, program design, and implementation, including harmonizing mobility programs following mergers and spin-offs. He regularly speaks and writes about the role of talent mobility in supporting business objectives.
Marc Solow is a managing director in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Human Capital practice. Marc has a deep background and extensive experience consulting with clients to transform their Human Resources functions. Recently he has focused on helping clients design and build consumer-grade employee experiences utilizing digital technologies.