Measuring & Maximizing Transferee Return on Engagement

Ellie Sullivan, SCRP, SGMS-T - Nov 01 2017
Published in: Ask the Experts

Most of us have been asked to participate in a corporate engagement survey. While this touch point is essential, it may not be crafted to gain insight into the unique perspective transferees have. To be effective, Matthew Varava, vice president, employee engagement practice leader, at BlessingWhite, Inc., suggests measuring and managing engagement should “move from annual and awkward to everyday and energizing.” People don’t measure their job satisfaction or contribution once a year. As they progress through an assignment or relocation, they are constantly assessing their decision to move and their level of contribution and satisfaction. 

Best Practices

Great organizations use engagement surveys and listening strategies to improve communication. They focus on linking their strategy to the employee and realize that engagement isn’t the end … it’s the beginning. They make engagement a shared responsibility among leaders, managers, and employees and infuse consistency around frequent and energizing conversations about career progression. 

Senior leadership should provide an inspiring vision for the future and increase communication and clarity to provide alignment to business strategy. To align long-term employee aspirations with the organization’s talent needs of tomorrow, great organizations focus on career and growth. 

For assignees, leaders need to remove obstacles to empowering employees to do their best work. Specific to relocation, this means policies and how they are administered should enhance communication, ease the transition, and ensure a speedy and successful settling-in to the new location. 

For example, the true intent of home leave is to facilitate opportunities to conduct engagement discussions, performance reviews, and other career-oriented activities, yet too many organizations miss the opportunity to leverage this built-in chance to communicate with assignees about their experience in real time. Another, more positive example is ATB Financial, an award-winning “best company to work for” that is reinventing the “mobile experience” by connecting transferees and their families with colleagues in the new location before the move. These resources serve as ombudsmen—establishing and strengthening relationships in the new location to ensure a successful landing. They are increasing their ROE with timely, personalized networking. 

What Can Mobility Managers Do?

Voice-of-the-customer surveys reveal that most transferees or assignees share one common belief—that mobility is a positive experience for the individual, family, business, and company. Through this lens we also gather insight into what they value most. When employees are relocated with competitive benefits that relieve financial burdens and unshackle them from tactical aspects such as packing, arranging temporary living, etc., they focus on:

  • having enough information about the destination (especially schools and housing), 
  • having an advocate to help navigate the situation when they get there, 
  • devoting more time to accommodate family issues and school schedules, and 
  • knowing how the move will impact their career. 

These are the attributes of a relocation program that will drive higher engagement. But we can, and should, do more. Mobility has long aspired to play a more strategic role in the organization, and what sets the most effective functions apart from the rest is the ability to contribute on a more strategic level in areas such as engagement. Even without a direct reporting arrangement—less than 10 percent report in to talent—these functions need to be aligned in efforts to drive ROE, and measuring and impacting engagement provides a distinctive opening to become more strategic. 

Adapting these tenets for the mobile workforce starts with measuring engagement levels. Professor and author W. Edwards Deming is often quoted as saying that “without data you’re just another person with an opinion.” This will provide informed insight into how to favorably impact the mobility experience before engagement dips, and how to better drive engagement over the life of the assignment and beyond.

Mobility can also equip home and host managers with tools to facilitate communication, provide authentic feedback, and plan for repatriating employees. These tools could be something as simple as a checklist or automatic triggers to alert managers of impending assignment end dates.

A Vital Role

There is a strong correlation among highly engaged employees, retention, and performance, and because the mobile population is especially vulnerable to dips in engagement, it becomes vital to support transferees and assignees with the right tools, policies, and strategies to sustain engagement levels. With significant investments already being made in the mobile workforce, the risks are much greater, but so, too, are the rewards and the opportunity to demonstrate a favorable return on engagement. We know that “engagement scores” are not the prize, but savvy organizations realize having the right data to inform your engagement efforts is critical to improving ROE. 

Mobility managers can play a vital role in sustaining a highly engaged—and, yes, happy—mobile workforce. It begins by acknowledging the vital role you can play in helping leaders, managers, and relocating employees measure engagement—lest you be perceived as just another person with an opinion. Fueled by these insights, you can ensure the support, communication, and commitment required at each stage of the employee’s journey to enhance and sustain a highly engaged mobile workforce.

The above information is excerpted from a November 2017 Mobility magazine article.