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Relocation key to global success.

The business world continues to set the pace for today's increasingly globalised and flexible society, but experts in Birmingham say the need for a mobile workforce, willing and capable of relocating to further their career - and help their employer - is becoming more acute.

However, many companies are either failing to help employees to break through many of the barriers to relocation, or they simply ignore the problems and expect people to make the move without any regard for the implications.

Dr Jane Matthiesen, of Aston Business School in Birmingham, part of Aston University, has conducted a detailed study into the barriers to relocation and ways in which employers can help smooth the way.

She has found that although there is an assumption that unmarried workers without children would be more flexible and adaptable, they face similar concerns, stresses and barriers to those married workers with families. Equally, there can often be greater benefits for families to relocate than single workers.

"Although relocation is a bigger deal for families, relocation is not necessarily a worse deal," explains Dr Matthiesen. "It can be problematic for everyone.

"For example, married people talk about more personal issues and tasks involved in relocating, whilst single people had a similar amount of problems but they tended to be more work-related.

"There was also a significant difference in how the two groups talked about the actual physical move. Single people repeatedly criticised the lack of physical relocation support they receive.

"Married people are more likely to talk about the emotionally overwhelming effect of relocation and the subconscious adaptive coping mechanisms. Single people, on the other hand, tend to focus more on competency-based factors, frequently mentioning having to start again and lacking confidence after relocation."

The concept of relocation does not just refer to moving overseas, similar issues and problems occur when people are asked to move to a new town or city.

Relocation within a country can often cause more stresses as moving to a new country and culture is often regarded as more of a challenge and adventure and people prepare themselves accordingly.

Dr Matthiesen based her research on the experiences of 29 unmarried RAF personnel and 33 married RAF personnel.

She also has first-hand experience of such relocation, having lived in eight different countries with her family when growing up.

"For me it was very much a good experience," she adds, "but I come from a large family and not everyone adapted so well to moving about so much.

"When relocation works well it can be a very good experience, but when it goes wrong it can be very bad."

Dr Matthiesen believes employers of all types need to be a lot more aware of the implications of relocating employees and the different impact it can have on different people.

She says employers can also do a lot to help make the relocation a good and largely painless experience.

"There are practical implications," she said. "Employers can do a lot more to optimise relocation for families and they can effectively reduce or even eliminate completely the negative consequences of moving for both married and single people. Employers also have a role to play to make sure they enhance the positive effects of relocation."

The research findings suggest that employees, particularly those with a family, can impact significantly on organisations whether relocation has gone well or badly.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Oct 18, 2007
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