Maybe we knew this anyway, but a new study of attitudes about job relocation confirms that American employees in 1990 are more likely to be unmoved by an employer's request that they change their address than they were 10 years ago.
The survey, sponsored by the District-based Employee Relocation Council and conducted by professors from Northwestern University's J.L. Kellogg School of Management and Loyola University of Chicago's Institute of Industrial Relations and School of Business Administration, is a follow-up to a decade-old study that found Americans generally to be pliant and willing when it came to relocation for business reasons, and easily adaptive to the mobile lifestyle. Many of the respondents in the 1980 study even had expressed a willingness to move frequently.
But times change. Demographics change. So do loyalties and the economy. The findings of the new survey reflect a decade of dramatic shifts in the work force and in workplace attitudes. Any job-related relocation today axiomatically involves more dual-income families and more single women. And loyalties that once made transfers just another part of the job have been undermined by turbulence and uncertainties in the workplace environment. All of this has affected how employees view corporate transfers.
Among the findings of the survey of 20 Fortune-500 companies and more than 1,000 of their employees:
Although employees in the latest study had moved more frequently than their 1980 counterparts, they were "significantly more negative" about moving and its benefits. For instance, today's employees disagreed more with such statements as: "Wives should be willing to move in order to further their husbands' careers" and "If you turn down a transfer, it hurts your career." And they were more likely to agree that "a job which requires frequent transfers is hard on a marriage."
Dual-earner males and females relocate less often and are less willing to do so than employees in a traditional one-breadwinner family.
Reflecting what the study authors speculate is "a general population trend which shows an increasing concern for quality of life," the only reason to reject a transfer that gained in importance since the previous survey was "satisfaction with current location." The increase in the number of corporate programs that help working spouses find new jobs apparently have de-emphasized such considerations as "spouse reluctance" and "economic hardship."
How a transfer affects the children has gained in importance. Employees with children are far more reluctant to move and were more likely to withdraw themselves from consideration for a transfer than those with none. And while parents were as willing to move domestically as colleagues without children, they were far less willing to leave the country.
Although single employees were the most willing to move, they were also the most selective about making "just the right move."
Employees of corporations that had experienced "turbulence" -- reorganizations, reductions in force, acquisitions, mergers, takeovers, among others -- expressed less satisfaction with their job security and fringe benefits in general, and were more active in managing their careers than those in stable situations. The survey found those employees turned down transfers more often than ones in stable situations. "There is often a different feeling in terms of loyalty ... and it will be difficult to convince employees to move and make the change," said one respondent whose company had gone through a shake-up. "When you see consolidation and observe others being let go, it spooks you."
But, most clearly, the new survey puts family matters at the forefront of corporate transfers. "The family needs to be involved in any decision to move," says Anita Brienza, communication director at the Employee Relocation Council, an association whose member corporations transfer some 270,000 employees annually -- about half the total corporate transfers for U.S. companies. "Everyone's involvement in the move needs to be taken into account."
Brienza says the biggest impact of the survey on corporations will be to help them plan their relocation assistance for the '90s. "In the last five years companies have moved from only 30 percent offering some kind of assistance to 75 percent," she says. The report, she adds, indicates there are factors not being addressed by most companies when transfering employees: among them, day-care assistance, support in cases of tuition differences, job flexibility and family counseling.
Corporations continually "need to make sure their policies address the needs of employees -- both their financial and emotional concerns," says Brienza. "Everyone's involvement in a move -- including the children -- needs to be taken into account."
Moved to Tears? One of the nation's most mobile communities, the D.C. area ranks high in move-related stress. On Saturday, The Women's Center in Vienna will sponsor a three-hour workshop with social worker Judith Halpern for women trying to adjust to the "loss and opportunity, pain and challenge" of moving here. Fee: $15. Call (703) 281-2657.
Calendar Note Thinking about going to graduate school? Law school? Get the lowdown on how to apply, how to finance, and how to plan related careers at the 13th annual Graduate and Professional School Fair, sponsored by 11 area colleges and universities. More than 200 admissions reps from grad and law schools nationwide will be at George Washington University's Marvin Center, Oct. 29 and 31, to discuss your plans and procedures. No fee. Call (202) 994-6455.