Weichert Survey: Mergers and Acquisitions, Cost Control Forcing New Strategic Approaches to Workforce Mobility

2015 was a banner year for global deal making, with over $5 trillion in mergers and acquisitions recorded. Yet, many acquiring companies risk losing new talent and growth opportunities by underestimating the impact mergers can have on their mobile workforce. This is according to the results of Weichert Workforce Mobility’s 10th annual state-of-the-industry survey, Game Changers in Your Future.

Collecting the insight of approximately 200 HR and corporate mobility managers from leading multinational companies, Weichert’s 10th annual survey represents a shift in focus from previous years.

“Our survey’s first decade was all about how workforce mobility was responding to challenging real estate markets across the U.S.,” said Jennifer Connell, practice leader for Weichert Workforce Mobility’s Consulting group. “Our 2016 edition has expanded to a global survey, identifying the top ‘game changers’ that will require mobility professionals to re-examine how they administer their programs, while offering critical benchmarking data for managing mobility more effectively.”

Mergers, acquisitions and divestitures represent the most prominent workforce mobility game changer, experienced by 55 percent of responding companies in 2015 and anticipated by 42 percent in 2016. But while such disruptive events have become key drivers of mobility, the demands that they place on mobility managers and mobile employees are rarely considered.

“Unfortunately, while mergers and acquisitions are designed to build scale, expand markets and acquire talent, few organizations anticipate the impact on workforce mobility,” said Connell. “Mobility managers typically have little guidance as to which organization’s policy will rule in the new organization, creating confusion. Mobile employees—especially those on assignment—become unsure of their place in the new world order, causing attrition at a time when the company needs their skills the most. Meanwhile, the acquiring entity’s leadership just wants to leverage the value of its newly expanded workforce and start deployments. Together, these factors require mobility managers to be more flexible, strategic and adaptable to sudden change.”

Among other mobility game changers uncovered in this survey:

  • Tracking and analyzing exceptions remains a great resource for identifying cost-saving policy adjustments, yet 38 percent of companies still don’t do it.
  • An increasingly diverse mobile workforce coupled with unrelenting pressure to control costs will likely give rise to a “policy of one”—mobility benefits packages tailored to individual needs and goals. This is evident in the growing popularity of core/flex programs through which companies offer standard “core” benefits alongside flexible benefits that match unique employee situations. Twenty-two percent of respondents are using core/flex programs, and 56 percent think these programs will grow this year.
  • Only 2 percent of respondents claim to successfully measure mobility ROI, despite the fact that this data can help them illustrate how mobility is helping to drive recruitment, engagement, retention and leadership development across their organizations.
  • Practically all respondents (98 percent) reported that their programs are managed centrally, but 76 percent said costs are decentralized. This gives mobility professionals the dual challenge of having to manage the function efficiently while meeting the budget constraints and objectives of wildly divergent business units. The continued inability of HR and business units to find a common perspective on workforce mobility can bring serious risks.
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