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A Brief History of Relocation Management

Relocating employees is hardly a new concept. Since the early 20th century, companies have moved employees to new locations to support business needs, expand operations, and take advantage of new opportunities.

Today, employee relocation is a well-established practice, with many companies offering comprehensive relocation packages to support their employees during the transition to a new location.

Let’s look at the history of corporate relocation and understand how global relocation services have evolved to meet modern needs.

Relocation Program Roots

The practice of relocating employees can be traced back to ancient times when merchants and traders would send their agents to distant lands to establish new markets and trade routes. Similarly, militaries have relocated soldiers to new locations and territories to gain a strategic advantage in conflicts.

The first industries requiring employee relocation were geographically dispersed or operated in multiple locations, such as manufacturing, construction, mining, and oil and gas exploration.

Many of these industries were expanding rapidly and seeking new markets and resources. This often required the construction of new facilities in different locations and the recruitment of skilled workers to staff these facilities. As a result, employee relocation became a necessary part of doing business.

For example, in the manufacturing industry, companies needed to establish production facilities in different regions to take advantage of local resources and markets to fuel their supply chains. This often required relocating employees with specialized skills and knowledge to these new locations to ensure the new facilities could operate effectively.

Going Global: A Growing Business Need

Corporate relocation management had its roots in the 20th century when companies began to expand their operations across different regions and countries. As a result, the need to move employees and their families to new locations arose.

One of the main drivers was the growth of multinational corporations and the expansion of their operations across different regions and countries. As companies sought to establish new markets and seize emerging opportunities, they increasingly relocated employees to support these efforts.

Another factor that increased the need for international relocation was the growth of specialized knowledge and expertise in certain fields, such as technology and finance. Companies often needed to recruit talent from different parts of the world to access these specialized skills, which meant relocating employees to new locations.

In addition, political and economic changes in different regions of the world also contributed to the need for employee relocation. For example, the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s opened up new markets in Eastern Europe, which led to a surge in employee relocations to these regions.

The Birth of Relocation Management Companies

In the early days, relocation management was largely ad-hoc, with companies relying on local moving companies and real estate agents to help employees relocate. However, as the volume and complexity of relocations increased, companies realized how complicated managing relocation logistics could be. The need for a more structured approach was apparent — and a full-service relocation industry was born.

The first relocation management companies (RMCs) emerged in the 1960s and 70s, offering various services to help companies manage employee relocations more efficiently and help companies save on relocation costs. These services went beyond finding suitable housing and providing move management to include any other support employees and families needed during the relocation process.

As the global economy continued to grow and businesses became more international, the demand for relocation management services increased. In the 1990s and early 2000s, many RMCs expanded their offerings to include global mobility solutions, helping companies manage the relocation of employees across multiple countries.

The Relocation Management Industry Today

Today, relocation management is a mature industry. It’s estimated that about 60 percent of companies utilise relocation specialists. A wide range of RMCs offer various services to companies of all sizes. These services include:

  • Relocation program management
  • Relocation policy and contract development
  • Cost-of-living estimations
  • Visa and immigration assistance
  • Temporary housing and permanent home-finding
  • Relocation expense management and reimbursement services
  • Duty of care compliance

To help employees and their families with settling in, RMCs may also provide support services such as airport transfers, rental of baby equipment, delivery of groceries or other household goods, or cultural training.

Relocation Management Challenges Today

Relocating employees can be complex and time-consuming, involving many stakeholders and processes. This can make it difficult for relocation services to find efficiencies, be agile, and remain responsive to changing needs and preferences.

Another challenge is that the needs and expectations of employees and their families have evolved. Today's employees may expect more personalized and customized services and greater transparency and flexibility during the entire relocation experience. Meeting these demands can require significant investments in technology and personnel, which can be difficult for some relocation services to provide and leads to outsourcing.

The Future of Global Talent Mobility

The relocation industry is evolving to meet clients' and employees' changing needs and expectations in a globalized and fast-paced business environment.

Some of the key trends and developments in the relocation industry today include:

  1. Technology-driven solutions: Many relocation providers are investing in technology to streamline and automate the relocation process, from virtual home finding to online expense management tools and real-time tracking of employee progress.
  2. Greater focus on employee experience: As the expectations of employees and their families evolve, many relocation providers are placing a greater emphasis on delivering a positive and personalized experience. After all, moving to a new home — and perhaps starting a new job — is a big commitment for an employee; for companies, every perk can help ensure the retention of top talent. Boutique amenities such as a fully stocked kitchen, premium toiletries, or high-speed WIFI show the company values employees.
  3. 24/7 support services: Emergencies can happen at any time during a relocation, such as a delay in the delivery of goods or a problem with accommodation. There may be unexpected issues that arise during the move, and having access to support at any time can alleviate any concerns and ensure transferees feel supported every step of the way.
  4. Sustainability: Relocation providers are increasingly focused on reducing the environmental impact of the relocation process by offering eco-friendly options for transportation, housing, and other relocation-related services.
  5. Remote work and virtual relocation: The global pandemic has forced many relocation providers to pivot to virtual relocation services, supporting employees and their families in managing a relocation process that may be done entirely online. This has opened up new opportunities for providers to offer flexible and customized relocation solutions that meet the needs of a more mobile and remote workforce.

Meeting the Needs of Today’s Digital Natives

Today’s travellers expect a seamless, quick, tech-driven experience in everything they do. Unfortunately, many service providers in the relocation industry struggle to meet clients' and employees' changing needs and expectations in a globalized and fast-paced business environment.

AltoVita is setting a new standard with a fresh, modern, and agile approach to corporate accommodation technology. All properties on the AltoVita platform are:

  • Fully vetted and verified to provide duty of care and compliance
  • Backed by its extensive 4-Tier Quality Control system
  • Supported by a dedicated customer success team

Employees love the independence of searching for and booking their own accommodations. And because companies control the budget and parameters, they can rest assured they are staying within policy.


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