The core-flex model has become one of today’s most talked-about employee relocation programs. As the name suggests, core-flex incorporates a defined, core relocation benefit and a flexible selection of optional benefits to supplement this core. Along with lump sum packages, core-flex programs are an increasingly popular way to add flexibility and align mobility benefits with employee needs.
Two major factors are driving the need for more agile mobility programs: the keen battle for talent in a full-employment labor market and the growing population of millennial transferees. Recruiters and hiring managers who are eager to sign the best talent need every tool at their disposal, including mobility benefits that make relocation more attractive. For their part, millennials are accustomed to an array of choices in almost every aspect of their lives. They value personal control and dislike corporate mandates.
Core-flex relocation programs do not give transferees the unfettered freedom associated with non-managed lump sums. Nevertheless, they eliminate some of the pitfalls of a completely free hand: the hassle of sourcing suppliers, service quality and performance issues, expense overruns and work distraction. When structured thoughtfully, core-flex can be a successful hybrid of choice and company control.
Employee Talent is in the Driver’s Seat
Today’s thriving economy and evolving workplaces have created different relocation considerations than even ten years ago. Employees do not necessarily feel like they have to relocate to enjoy a successful career. Technological leaps have made virtual work widely accepted and even the norm in some industries. Business travel and extreme commuting sometimes substitute for permanent moves.
For those employees who are open to relocating, post-recession home values have increased rapidly in many popular relocation destinations, making them unaffordable for many newcomers. Of course, traditional concerns, such as accommodating spouse/partner needs (career issues, schools, etc.), continue to be obstacles to relocation.
For companies, these realities require a great deal of creativity. Today’s employees—millennials, in particular—are skeptical of one-size-fits-all solutions. They expect their employer to appreciate their unique circumstances and to offer solutions that address their needs. Without this accommodation, many relocations simply will not get off the ground, and the talent you seek might go to a competitor instead.
Evolution of Flexible Relocation Programs
If you’re a relocation veteran, this talk of flexibility might remind you of the cafeteria benefit programs that appeared the 1990s. Today’s core-flex programs, though, are generally variations of the popular tiered relocation programs. The trend has been for companies to increase their number of policy tiers, to better align policy with job or salary level, homeowner/renter status and other criteria.
Yet even the most carefully considered tiered policies will not necessarily meet the needs of today’s highly diverse workforce. For example, a single policy tier based on job level might include a younger, single employee who rents an apartment; an employee with a working spouse, young children and an “upside down” home; a single mother; and an empty-nest, middle-aged employee with elder care responsibilities.
If a company holds rigidly to the benefits as defined in the tiers, it will better control costs, but it runs the risk of alienating its existing talent pool and scaring off new talent, effectively stymieing its overall business strategy. Conversely, if a company is too flexible in its tiered policy administration, exceptions become the rule rather than the “exception”, benefits become inequitable and costs can spiral.
Enter the Core-Flex Model
As the name suggests, a core-flex model typically includes a core relocation benefit for which all of the employees within the tier are eligible and a menu of flexible, a la carte options to round out the benefit and meet the specific needs of the employee and hiring manager. Like pure tiered policies, a core-flex program allows companies to segment overall benefit levels and expenses by job description, salary range, homeowner/renter status or other internal factors.
However, by allowing some element of choice and personalization within those tiers, the core-flex program builds in flexibility and minimizes costly exceptions. This model can increase employee satisfaction and acceptance rates for both international relocations and domestic relocations, while giving the company a leg up in recruiting and retaining talent.