There is an old joke that the initials IBM (which actually signifies International Business Machines) stand for “I’ve Been Moved”—a reference to the company’s former practice of asking up-and-coming executives to move frequently. The relocation of employees by large U.S. corporations is not as prevalent today as it was in the past, and as remote work enjoys a resurgence, it may be less so in the future. In general, Americans move less now than in the past. But there are plenty of careers that still move workers around for various reasons. Most companies support the employees it asks to move for work, but some expect the employee and their family to shoulder the burden.
The U.S. government and military sponsor moves for their employees regularly, with military families relocating every two or three years on average. A relocation in military-speak is called a PCS (permanent change of station), and members of the armed service who get PCS orders also receive support and allowances to ease the move process. The support includes:
Similarly, the U.S. Department of State posts its Foreign Service workers and their families worldwide. State offers support to enable those workers and families to live comfortably while continually moving from one country to another at the government’s behest, often while maintaining a permanent home somewhere in the U.S.
Almost 20% of interstate moves are related to work, either for a new job or a current employer transfer. The higher level the position, the more likely the company will provide some assistance to the moving worker. The level and type of assistance varies considerably but may include the following:
Often, these moving assistance packages have reimbursement limits, and someone in the company human resources department administers the program, keeping track of the details, rules, vendor invoices, and payments. Sometimes, companies find it is easier to provide a lump-sum amount of money that the new hire or transferring employee can use as they see fit, instead. If the employee wants to be thrifty with their move, they can pocket the difference. If they prefer to have all services covered, they may have to pay the difference. They get to have control over the process, and that is valuable. It gives the discretion and the decision-making ability to the person who is being affected by it. One person might prefer to use more of the allowance on higher-quality temporary housing. In contrast, for another person spending more on extra house-hunting trips to get a spouse or child excited about the move is a priority.
Besides the legendary IBM, some industries and careers are known to require frequent moves as a way up the ladder. Ministers seem to be continually moving to a new home to tend a new flock of parishioners. For many, the church comes with housing attached, which simplifies the move somewhat. Retail and hospitality management often offer advancement to those willing to move to get it, as openings up the ladder may come in places around the corporate map. If you work for a large chain restaurant or retail organization, you may need to hopscotch through several locations to reach your management goals.
In more office-based corporations, moving for promotions and jobs is decreasing. Companies that move their headquarters or build new corporate locations find that most applicants come from the local area. The applicants who are willing to relocate are younger and more likely to be male than the applicant pool overall, which has implications for the organization’s diversity goals if they try to fill critical roles with applicants from outside the metro area.
With many tech and other companies allowing and encouraging remote working arrangements, relocation may be an obsolete concept in some industries. Still, in manufacturing and other hands-on environments, virtual work is not possible.
For people with the freedom to live and work anywhere or who are lured by the financial incentives offered, several locations are hoping to attract new residents to their area: