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The collective impact of the looming retirement tsunami, the “Great Resignation” and Workplace 2030 is making for a perfect storm that could fundamentally reimagine the role of relocation benefits in a modern federal workforce.
The looming retirement tsunami, dubbed the “Silver Tsunami” by the Pew Research Center to describe the anticipated retirement of large numbers of Baby Boomers, is projected to account for as much as a 20% loss of employees from the U.S. federal workforce within the next few years. As Mike Causey reported here in June of this year, the increase in federal retirements began as reductions in telework took effect, employees who postponed their retirements in 2020 opted to retire this year and the number of retirement-eligible employees continued to rise. As an aside, the Office of Personnel Management expects this number to jump to 30% of the federal workforce by 2023.
The “Great Resignation”
Higher pay, COVID-19 burnout, a lack of career development opportunities and the unwillingness of some employers to consider alternative work arrangements have contributed to a wave of resignations in the private sector in 2021. Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCOs) are saying the situation inside the federal government is different and, as Nicole Ogrysko wrote here in November, view the “Great Resignation” as an opportunity for the federal government to be more flexible, attract private sector talent and retain its current federal workforce.
The success of widespread telework during the pandemic prompted the federal government to reassess its view of the traditional workplace, giving rise to the GSA’s “Workplace 2030” strategy for the future of work. Included among the guiding principles of this strategy is one on the importance of remote work in recruiting and retaining the best talent. Remote work is a win-win – allowing agencies to recruit the most qualified talent irrespective of where they reside and empowering employees to live where they want, potentially extending their careers in public service.
What, then, does all this mean for the future of global mobility programs?
At a high level, these three factors point toward the need for an improved employee experience as a critical success factor in attracting and retaining talent in the federal workforce. Employee relocation services, and the role they play in shaping employee experience, are a tool in the talent management process.
In a 2021 report, “Rising to the Globally-Mobile Workforce Needs in the New Normal,” Metropolitan Life detailed the findings of a 2020 study on global mobility. Among its findings – nearly 45% of U.S. domestic workers expressed interest in expatriate assignments, with Millennials (57%) and Gen Z (59%) leading the way. The report also noted that globally-mobile employees are the most likely cohort to hold executive leadership and mid-managerial roles, underscoring the important role of expat programs in the development of emerging or high-potential talent and in supporting senior executives.
In most government agencies, relocation is typically a function of finance and procurement, where it is viewed as a subset of the larger travel function. Relocation services like the transportation and storage of household goods, commercial travel arrangements, employee benefits counseling and home sale assistance are considered logistics services in this model.
By aligning relocation programs with talent management, employee relocations become an opportunity to attract new talent demographics (e.g., Millennials, Gen Z) that desire global relocation experience, retain senior-level managerial employees looking for a career growth opportunity and develop employees who exhibit potential for leadership advancement.
Reimagining relocation in this way would help achieve the following talent management objectives in a modern federal workforce:
Employer branding or differentiation – Relocation services can be used as a tool to attract new or key talent from the private sector.
Diverse workplace experience – the world is becoming more connected and an expat experience improves talent retention by broadening an employee’s worldview and helping him or her to assimilate into the global community.
Professional and career development – international experience, an understanding of global processes and expanded business relationships can greatly accelerate an employee’s career progression.
In this new paradigm, it’s easy to see how relocation services programs would fall under the purview of the CHCO – helping federal agencies to align their workforce development programs and policies with each organization’s mission, strategic goals and performance outcomes.
As Bob Dylan once sang, “the times they are a-changin’.” Changing the lens from which relocation is typically viewed within the federal government may be the best way to address its workforce needs of the future.
Duane Bailey is senior director of marketing and business development at Interstate Moving / Relocation / Logistics and Ruth Moritz is vice president & general manager of international and relocation services at Interstate Moving / Relocation / Logistics.