Employee Relocation Retention

Lost Employees: How To Retain Employees on Relocation

Lost relocation employee

During the employee’s relocation abroad he is gaining knowledge and skills of great value for the company that sent him, but upon his return to Israel – integration difficulties could make him leave after a short period of time. Proper planning and investment of resources in employee retention will help retain him at the company.

 Many organizations, especially high-tech ones, invest considerable energy and managerial resources in order to retain the “key” employees of the organization – those employees who are considered significant to the success of the organization and its development in the future. Therefore, it is surprising that most Israeli companies have no structured process for retaining employees who went on relocation abroad (expatriates), so at the end of the period of relocation they will fit back in the company.

In a survey conducted by O.R.I. in 2010, less than 20% of companies reported having processes in place for retaining workers on relocation. Furthermore, over 70% of companies do not monitor the resignation of these employees from the company, and were not able to report on the rate of resignation during relocation and 1-2 years later.

Lack of investment in maintaining the expatriates contradict the following organizational facts:

1. In most cases, employees selected for relocation belong to the group of key employees of the company. This usually means managers in key positions or outstanding employees in technical positions, in whose recruitment and training the company has invested many resources.

2. During the relocation period workers usually accumulate knowledge and skills of great importance to the company, such as immediate familiarity with the local market or the destination area market, direct acquaintance with customers and experience working with employees in the destination country.

Lack of investment in retaining expatriates does not cause a high percentage of resignation during the relocation. The reason for this lies in the fact that the worker actually doesn’t have a real option to resign from the company at this time (usually the work visa does not allow him to work in another company overseas and the personal and family price of going back to Israel before the end of relocation is too high).

But the picture changes significantly during the first two years after the return from relocation. Global data from surveys conducted by global human resources companies GMAC, NFTC, and SHRM indicate resignation rates of up to 40% (!) of the population of expatriates during the two years following relocation. Since most companies in Israel do not keep track of that data, there is no organized information on this subject. However, accumulated experience and evidence regarding human resource managers indicate a similar trend in Israel.

What can be done to reduce the resignation rate of expatriates? There is no need to reinvent the wheel here. Regular employee retention practices customary in organizations apply here as well, with necessary adjustments for the situation of relocation:

Keeping in touch with employees during relocation

No need for studies and public opinion surveys to understand that employees who don’t receive adequate management attention are more exposed to job offers and opportunities from other companies. Keeping in touch with the expatriate is surely more difficult and challenging, but for that very reason it is recommended not adopt an “out of sight – out of mind” mentality and to use structured mechanisms for maintaining contact:

  • Appointment of an “executive escort” by the Israeli organization throughout the relocation.
  • Maintaining contact between the Israeli HR organization and the employee during the relocation period (periodic interviews and conversations, greetings at holidays, etc.).
  • Active participation of the Israeli company in the employee evaluation process abroad.
  • Requiring a worker to be present for several days at the company offices in Israel during his home leave.

Making the relocation period relevant to the employee’s career development

A relocation period that is not significant for the employee’s career “invites” his resignation from the company (just like any worker who does not see a promotion in his future in the company will look for a career development opportunity outside the company). The career development process of an expatriate sent for a relocation period should start before relocation, maintained during relocation and continue to be maintained after relocation:

  • before relocation it is recommended to maintain a career development process with the following participants: the employee, the Israeli executive escort, manager in the destination country, accompanied by the director of human resources in the home and destination countries. The process will define the relocation objectives, their relevance to the career development of the employee and the fields or jobs that can be relevant at the time of his return to the organization in Israel.
  • during relocation It is recommended to examine the career development goals of the worker periodically and their suitability to changes in the organization abroad and in Israel and the employee’s aspirations and plans.
  • before return of Israel – it is recommended to start the preparations for the integration of the employee in the Israeli organization about six months before the date of his return. Preparations should include assessment of the possible options and the relevant positions upon his return and his future development path in the Israeli organization.


Close monitoring after relocation

Just as the first year of a new employee in the organization is critical to his success and retention – the same is true for an employee returning from relocation. The returning employee feels, in many cases, like a stranger to the organization in Israel since many do not know him in person or at all, whereas he acquired experience and many skills during relocation that the organization should recognize. His old / new workplace, however, requires the “burden of proof” and is not willing to credit him for his experience abroad without supportive evidence. To overcome this structured gap there is a need for close support on the part of all relevant levels of management and the director of human resources.

Retention Incentives (Retention Incentive / Bonus)

Many companies provide the expatriate on relocation with a loan that turns into a grant at the end of the relocation period, but very few companies provide any material incentive to maintain employment with the company after his return to Israel. It is recommended to examine the possibility of using retention incentives (a standing loan, repatriation grant conditional to staying in the company for a few years, shares / stock options, etc.).