Benefits and Compensation, Talent

Core-Flex Basics: The Relocation Policies That Will Make Your Life Easier

by Lisa Johnson, Global Practice Leader for Consulting Services at Crown World Mobility

Domestic and global mobility grow increasingly complex as economic, geographic, and individual employee factors are all weighed together when it comes to making policy decisions. Traditional relocation programs can struggle to meet the challenges of this complexity, pushing firms to look for flexibility.

Core-flex is a combination of essential policy elements (the policy’s “core”) along with various optional choices that provide flexibility in a structured manner. Within a more traditional framework, a request for flexibility often needs to be a treated as an exception, which leads to inconsistency in policy and possible resentment by new employees.

Core-flex is intended to be a more sophisticated policy that is structured around the actual needs of the business and employee, where flexibility is part of the framework. The flexible options of core-flex policies depend on the specific business and the original reasons for first implementing such a policy. Examples of flex options are temporary living assistance, spouse and family support, and home sale assistance. The “flex” can come in the ways the benefits are provided and how many benefits can be chosen by an employee.

Detailing the Benefits

With a well-designed core-flex policy, a company offers more benefits than a tiered policy that puts assignment goals and assignees into different tiers, but the benefits they receive are still set in advance.

Tiers are usually delineated by the employee’s compensation or their actual position level, so some companies adjust the approach by altering it for new hire homeowners, renters, or executives. However, this adds multiple layers of complexity by producing too many tiers. Relocation managers that are burdened by the tiered approach are embracing the core-flex model, which uses a different structure for determining the exact types of assistance to offer staff. This changing approach is driven by a range of reasons including changing economics and shifts in culture and company expansion, among others.

Ideally, a core-flex program will create a balanced relationship between the business’ needs and budgetary constraints and the employee’s needs for support and the flexibility to select options that are most valuable to them.

Important Caveats

There are several key caveats of the core-flex approach that should be properly understood and considered before implementing it throughout the business. Flex compensation and work schedules can result in unintended consequences if they aren’t properly designed and refined. Core-flex also does not automatically simplify policy administration, as it can be more complex at roll-out than a tiered policy.

Relocation managers should involve multiple stakeholders before instituting core-flex policies.

For example, consider home sale assistance—an offering with many different options including home marketing, home sale incentives, direct reimbursement, and other elements. Policies are often tiered per assignee when it comes to home sales. With core-flex, the policy might include marketing and perhaps broker registration, but then offer other benefits as a flex package under the manager’s informed decision which is influenced by available data.

That said, for a well-rounded core-flex plan, access to data is not sufficient. Multiple stakeholders should be involved, including members of HR, finance, and recruiting, along with an executive driving the initiative to ensure visibility and buy-in. Inviting a multitude of viewpoints will increase the time to implement, but with core-flex there will be a longer-term payoff for developing an approach that considers the broader needs of multiple business units.

Another common pitfall of core-flex is some managers and employees might see it as an approach that does not require guidance or diligent oversight. Core-flex options should be plainly visible, so there’s much less need to consider exceptions, but this does not mean HR and mobility should not review the program. Managers might detrimentally utilize the benefits within core-flex, by adding or removing benefits, without considering how their actions can contradict policy and the business’ reasons for adopting core-flex.

Implementation Best Practices

Core-flex policies vary from company to company, but they should be built to harmonize business needs with the needs of employees. Finding that balance requires a measured and thoughtful approach. Companies should begin by considering what the core objectives are of a core-flex program? Is it to eliminate some of the roadblocks of transfer acceptance, increase business unit autonomy, and reduce the headaches of exceptions? Establishing the “why” of the program creates a framework that guides the HR and mobility teams on which options should be “flex” and how to account for business needs.

You should also understand what your mobile population looks like and how that description will alter the components of the core-flex program. Someone on the team also needs to have ownership for choosing the flex options available to employees and deciding who will handle any exceptions. It can be managers dictating the options in the core-flex plan, or the employees choose the benefits they need. The former provides managers with wider discretion while the latter method empowers employees to choose options that are their highest priority.

As the policy is developed, there should be a tandem effort to craft a communication plan. To ensure buy-in across multiple departments, HR and the mobility team should develop content before launching the program that outlines the benefits of the flex approach to proactively answer questions and address concerns.

In either case, a predeparture needs assessment is essential for core-flex, so the employee doesn’t make unwise choices that do not fit with their particular needs or their new geographic location. A formal process proactively addresses needs and concerns of both the manager and the relocating employee, allowing both sides to fully leverage the benefits of core-flex.

Lisa Johnson Lisa Johnson is the global practice leader for Crown World Mobility’s consulting services.