Assignee Experience

We recently came across a very interesting article on Linked In written by Jon Harman, Global Account Manager at CORT Destination Services, about what goes on in the brain of a relocating assignee and how by understanding better the unconscious cause of their behaviour, we can improve the service we offer them as relocation, global mobility and HR professionals. You can read his full article here, but we thought it would also be helpful to summarise the key points:

  • Jon refers to Dr Rock’s ‘SCARF’ model, the five domains of social interaction which the brain responds to and which ultimately dominate behaviour: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness. These five domains can either offer potential reward or be threatened.
  • Jon goes on to highlight examples of threats to the model that an assignee is likely to encounter during the relocation process:

Will I get along with my new team? A threat to status and certainty.

Why do I have to move anyway? A threat to someone’s autonomy and sense of fairness.

Why does the company get to decide my rental allowance and why is it less than my colleagues? A further threat to autonomy and sense of fairness.

  • It is also important to note that it is not just the assignee who experiences these threats, but the following spouse and children too.
  • Dr Rock’s model shows us that when an assignee becomes frustrated at us down the phone because the company will not increase his budget, there is more going on than meets the eye. We need to look at the bigger picture as it is unlikely to just be an issue with the budget. The combination of all of these threats is overwhelming and so when we have to be the bearer of even more bad news, it is often not us they are cross with, but instead the frustration of the situation and sense of a lack of control. For all we know the call before could have been from their daughter saying they did not want to go. Our call with more bad news can sometimes be the final straw and all the pent up stress can suddenly be unleashed.
  • When this happens, we need to understand and appreciate just how arduous the experience of relocation can be and so a certain level of empathy is a must for all relocation professionals. Without this, companies will lose countless hours of productive work as assignees switch off, unable to concentrate because of all their worries and distractions. We must not just accept that this is how it is, that relocation is stressful and there is nothing we can do about it.
  • Jon concludes his article by asking, given all of the above, can we do better? Can we adjust our policies and procedures to reduce the social threats during the relocation process? What small changes can we make to increase an assignee’s sense that they are being treated fairly? What practical steps can we take to reduce an assignee’s sense of uncertainty? And the same goes for their family as they try to settle in to their new way of life.

Jon’s article really made us step back and think about what our clients go through during the relocation process. We have so much experience in relocation, that sometimes we can forget just how stressful it is or take for granted that an assignee will just sit back and let us take over. They need that reassurance that everything is going to plan. We realise the need to make a conscious effort to recognise and respond to their behaviour. There is often a lot more going on behind the scenes which we need to recognise and be sensitive towards.

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