For better or for worse, whenever a company asks an employee to relocate, they are effectively asking the entire family, particularly the spouse, to move to a brand-new life. A number of relocation surveys have found spousal resistance to be a critical challenge to an employee’s relocation while spousal dissatisfaction is a top cause of assignment failure.
The best employers are those who provide spousal assistance tailored to each situation
With the costs of relocation climbing steadily over the years, companies need to provide adequate services to relocating spouses to avoid an expensive and disruptive failed relocation. But are they doing enough? Experts agree that the best employers are those who provide spousal assistance tailored to each situation. However, corporate benefits aimed at helping a spouse's transition still have some way to go, according to our recent research.
Lump-Sum Days are Over
A large majority of companies we polled say they do offer spousal support within their long-term assignment policies and this is often built into the employees’ benefits. However, with escalating costs, many companies say that they no longer provide lump-sum allowances for spousal support or even if they do, the amount has been reduced.
Instead support is provided, often through the relocation service provider, in specific areas such as insurance, cultural counselling, training and development as well as networking services. This support is provided either through a specific number of hours or through a fixed budget from which the spouse can claim reimbursement.
There is a myriad of ways a company can offer spousal support
Top Support for Spouses
While there is a myriad of ways a company can offer spousal support, our research has shown that the most common services are: networking assistance; employment placement within the company or elsewhere; and career counselling and training, such as local language training, resume preparation or interview skills.
A reason why networking services rank highly as a spousal support is during a relocation is that the trailing spouse is often most concerned with family and community issues. Namely finding the right neighbourhoods, recreating social networks and making new friends.
Employment placement and career advice are critical in helping the spouse
On the other hand, spouses who work often feel the pressure to find new jobs while dealing with a temporary loss of income and status. This is why employment placement and career advice are critical in helping the spouse plug seamlessly into a new job and culture.
More Can Be Done
While more companies are offering spousal benefits to remain competitive in the market, not all relocating employees and their spouses will find help available. For instance, in many companies spousal benefits are tiered and only employees in senior management can access the most favourable support. As such, companies are well-advised to explore providing spousal assistance on a case-by-case basis to lower-tier employees, particularly as the talent pool gets younger.
Companies can do more in terms of communicating the spousal support that is available
We also find that companies can do more in terms of communicating the spousal support that is available. This can be done via the relocation service providers to quickly convey what is available to relocated employees and their families through pre-move briefings and in-country coaching sessions.