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Lump Sums & Flowers

It’s not an attractive term, let’s be honest. Lumps are generally something we try to get rid of. But lump sums are increasingly popular in global mobility. My personal experiences of these cash allowances as an expat and a trailing spouse, tell a story and perhaps a lesson or two.

I do not remember any specific amounts or values from the various lump sums I received; this is not surprising given the time that has elapsed. However, I do recall that the cost of curtains to fit a family home in Montreal exceeded our whole allowance, which according to the policy was intended to cover all kinds of incidental costs. Similarly, my cousin blew her entire allowance on relocating her dog to New Zealand (Pet allowance blog to follow). Whilst the amounts have faded with time, the emotions and feelings are still remarkably vivid.

These often well-rounded and mysterious figures sound attractive and generous at the outset and in the excitement of the move they are rarely challenged. At this point, you are also consumed by an out of control ‘to-do’ list and have no time. The funds instantly disappear into your current (checking) account whilst unimaginable hidden costs continue to pop up like a bad rash; each one feeling like a blow. Although I hold no grudges, the feelings associated with these experiences, stubbornly remain and are inextricably linked to my ex-employer's brand.

On the other hand, decades later I remember the flowers left on the kitchen table by our relocation agent; I remember the wonderful moving crew who engaged with my 5-year-old daughter and packed her favourite toys in a box marked ‘Sophie - special’ to be offloaded first; I also remember my father’s assistant who welcomed us to the new office/country and showed my 6-year-old self around the office holding my hand. These moments are priceless, cost little yet get little or no attention in policies or RFP’s. There are many wonderful global mobility providers who offer this level of detail. My wish for 2021 is that clients shift their focus to ensure these personal touches are delivered, whether by the employer or the sub-contractor. The shift from short term cost to long term value is long overdue in our industry. In other words, pay as much or more attention to talent retention as to recruitment. After all, a lifelong brand Ambassador has to be worth something.

If you do use lump sums, my advice is to know exactly what they are meant to cover or supplement and communicate it clearly. If something is not covered but commonly requested, state this explicitly upfront. Most employees get over it and appreciate the transparency. Oh, and another thing, how about rebranding to a more palatable name. Any ideas?

P.S. I am playing devil’s advocate; lump sums do have a place in talent mobility 😉

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