Investigating Critical Factors Predicting Employee Willingness To Relocate Within Organisation

Project and Seminar Material for Psychology

Project and Seminar Material for Psychology


Willingness to relocate is just one factor that companies use to profile the ideal employment candidate. While most of the relocation literature focuses on the relocation of current employees, this study investigates the issue through the eyes of paramilitary officers. These officers were surveyed relative to their attitudes toward relocation.

Findings from the study indicates that dual earner couples demonstrates higher willingness to relocate for their organisation than their counterparts with spouses who are not working [t(345) = 2.39) P< .05]. Also, the study found that employees do consider salary level (β = -.182, t = -3.455, P<.05) and their involvement with the job (β = .124, t = 2.348, P<.05) before accepting relocation duties for their organisation.

This study concludes on the following points employees in single-earner marriages having spouses who do not work are less willingness to move than those in dual-earner marriages having spouses who work.

Finally, the study has shown that willingness to relocate is determined by a number of factors and one factor alone cannot be used to predict an employee’s willingness to relocate for his or her organisation.

Keywords: Willingness to relocate, job involvement, salary level.

Chapter One


1.1: Background

Rapid globalization and boundary less business ventures is increasingly contributing to a growing number of employees relocating for their organisation. As a result of this, it is increasingly important that organisations sending their employees for relocation assignments consider how the employees feel about the transfer. For organisations, the task of relocating to new premises is exacting and time consuming as this involves job mobility. Job mobility refers to patterns of intra- and inter-organizational transitions over the course of a person’s work life (Hall, 1996; Sullivan, 1999). As organizational lay-offs and restructuring are now common (Littler, Wiesner, & Dunford, 2003), it is not surprising that employees today realize that lifelong job security may not be a realistic employment goal and many are ready to become more mobile (Arthur & Rousseau, 1996). Additionally, individuals have become more self-directed about obtaining a variety of work experiences and knowledge across jobs and organizations (Bird, 1996). Thus, many workers are willing to relocate to build their skill sets.

Employees’ attitudes toward relocation to other geographic areas are important for at least three reasons: (1) employers use employee transfers as a strategy for staffing organizations and developing rnanagers (Carruthers & Pinder, 1983]; (2) relocation may be a useful strategy for personal career enhancement (Hall, 1976); (3) there is some evidence indicating that workers are becoming less willing to geographically relocate for career reasons (Magnus & Dodd, 1981). As the length of time an individual has lived in an area increases, the area’s attractiveness may increase. Over time, a person is likely to become increasingly integrated into the social structure of a community (Swanson, Luloff, & Warland, 1979). Hence, willingness to relocate should decline as the length of time an individual has lived in an area increases (Gould & Penley, 1985).

Employee’s attitude to relocate may be determined by some factors which includes background and situational factors. The demographic makeup of the Nigerian workforce is cause for concern among human resource managers who are responsible for recruiting, selecting, and hiring employees. First off, a vast majority of business students enter the workforce as salespeople (Stevens & Kinni 2007). One time-based factor is age. Veiga (1983) reports that propensity to change jobs within the same geographical area lessens with increased age. Therefore it is expected that willingness to relocate to another geographical area will decline in later career stages. Another time-based factor, length of time in the job, has been linked with low upward mobility (Ferrence, Stoner, & Warren, 1977). Veiga (1983) reports that average length of time in a job has a small but significant negative correlation with the propensity to change jobs within the same geographical area. Hence, it is likely to be negatively associated with the willingness to relocate as well.

Situational factors include job-related factors and family-related factors. Two job-related factors that may be related to willingness to relocate are salary level and job involvement. Salary may be positively related to the willingness to relocate for two reasons: (1) individuals with high salaries may be in a better position to receive relocation opportunities than are employees with low salaries, as the first group has higher exposure and visibility (Hall, 1976); (2) relocation involves some degree of financial risk (Magnus & Dodd, 1981), including unrecoverable moving expenses. Clearly, persons with higher salaries are more likely to have the surplus financial reserves needed to cover the financial risks of relocation than are those with lower salaries. Hence, it is expected that a high salary level may be positively related to willingness to relocate. Job involvement on the other hand, is another factor that is likely to be related to willingness to relocate. Job involvement, as defined by Lodahl and Kejner (1965), entails a strong attachment to a job, which should be reflected in a low willingness to relocate.

Two family-related factors are: (1) spouse’s work status, and (2) family status. Several researchers (e.g., Maynard & Zawacki, 1979) argue that individuals in families having two wage earners are less likely to relocate since a relocation would jeopardize the spouse’s income-earning potential. Hence, it is expected that persons in such families will be less willing to relocate than those who are sole wage earners for a family. Family status may also be related to willingness to relocate. Gould and Werbel (1983) have shown that the presence of children in families having two wage earners is related to increased involvement in a job and identification with an organization. Additionally, parents of teenage children may hesitate to relocate because their children may be hurt socially by a move (Veiga, 1983). Hence, it is anticipated that willingness to relocate will be lower when there are children in the home.

Given this background, we can begin to understand the factors that may be considered when predicting one’s willingness to relocate. Understanding such factors can be a powerful recruitment and selection tool for employers. Unfortunately, there are few, if any relocation studies that focus on a combination of factors as its subject and their attitudes toward relocation.

1.2: Statement of the problem

With companies relocating about half a million employees annually (Fusco, 1990), job-related relocation is an important human resource planning and development activity in many organizations (Ahlburg & Kimmel, 1986; Sell, 1983). Notwithstanding this high rate of employee mobility, recent trends suggest that companies will face increasing difficulty in their efforts to maintain a mobile workforce. Between 1986 and 1989 employee refusal of transfers requiring relocation almost doubled, growing from a 36% refusal rate to a 70% refusal rate (Ricklin, 1991). Similarly, the Employee Relocation Council (ERC) found that around 65% of the companies surveyed reported employee resistance to geographic moves (ERC, 1993). With increasing resistance to job-related moves, research is needed to understand the predictors of employee willingness to relocate. Willingness to relocate is just one factor that companies use to profile the ideal employment candidate (Buehrer, Mallin & Jones 2007). While most of the relocation literature focuses on the relocation of current employees, there is still a dearth of literature investigating the critical factors that determine employee willingness to relocate especially in a Nigerian population.

To address the problem, this research will explores the relationship between family related factors and job related factors attitudes toward relocation and their stated willingness to relocate. A vast amount of research can be found in the social science literature regarding issues, problems and concerns expressed by HR professionals regarding the willingness of their current work force to relocate. However, there is little empirical data regarding the willingness of workers to relocate. Findings of relocation studies conducted on employers’ existing work force (Frank 2000; Hendershott 1995; Reimer 2000; Stroh 1999; & Wong 1990) reveal that responsibility for children, number of previous moves, attitude toward the destination, involvement in the community, career motivation, and perceived stress associated with a move are all attitudinal factors impacting a worker’s willingness to relocate (Buehrer, et., al. 2007). Demographic factor research in the relocation literature exists but provides mixed findings. In many organizations employees move repeatedly, sometimes as often as every 2 or 3 years (Cooper & Makin, 1985) and, on average, every 5 to 7 years (Brett et al., 1990). Mobile employees also have past experiences to draw upon which may influence their attitudes about moving again (Barrett & Noble, 1973; DeJong & Fawcett, 1981). This suggests that some of the predictors of employee willingness to relocate may be unique among the Nigerian population, warranting closer study. Employee willingness to relocate is an individual’s intention to perform a specific type of behavior (i.e., relocate for the organization), not the actual decision of whether to move. While many predictors of willingness to relocate have been examined (Brett, Stroh, & Reilly, 1992), it is neither feasible nor prudent to include all these variables in the current study. Rather, a subset of predictors are selected based on both theoretical and empirical support. These variables can be grouped into three categories: Background Factors, job related factors and family related factors.

1.3: Purpose of the study

This study is highly relevant to understanding the factors that will make an officer to be willing to relocate. This will make their various commands to understand how to arrange transfers and relocation processes so that the most suited employees for various types of jobs involving relocation can be sent to such areas.

The findings of the present study will be relevant to Nigeria employees’ and most especially employees of para-military departments in understanding the employee’s willingness to relocate.

1.4: Significance of the study

This research is important to recruiters since gaining an understanding of this relationship may aid in identifying, interviewing, and selecting the right recruits to meet firms’ long-term employment needs. For business faculty and career services professionals, such knowledge can enhance the process of identifying employees with specific job location needs. For all involved in the placement, recruitment, and selection process, this may be a needed step in the matching of employees to satisfying and long-term careers.

1.5: Scope of Study

This study encompasses employees from various para-military arms of Nigerian workforce. This is because the predictors of willingness to relocate, though not discipline specific may be most common to such jobs. Employees from across several organisations may indicate different levels of wiliness to relocate for their organisation. In this regard, the main objective of this study is to investigate the critical factors predicting employee willingness to relocate for the firm. Other objectives includes to examine the critical background, job related and family related factors that can influence an officer’s willingness to relocate for his or her organisation. Specifically, this study intend to achieve the following objectives

  1. To examine the influence of family related factors such as single earner marriages vs dual earner marriages and number of children on officer’s officer’s willingness to relocate for their organisation.
  2. To investigate if background factors such as marital status, age and can predict an officer’s willingness to relocate.
  3. To determine the measured relationship between job related factors such as salary level and job involvement and employees willingness to relocate

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