What can neuroscience teach us about relocation?


What can neuroscience teach us about relocation?

Moving is one of life’s most stressful events, but you can help your relocating employees if you understand their mental states. Jon Harman, global account manager at CORT Destination Services, looks at the brain science in this Relo Tip Tuesday


Complete transcript: “Hi, my name is Jon Harman, and I’m a Global Account Manager with CORT, and I’m here today to talk about what neuroscience can teach us about relocation. So, because of advances in brain imaging, we know a lot more about how the brain works now than ever before. Obviously, there’s much more to learn, but as studies are published and we learn more and more about the way the brain works and what parts of the brain are activated by different stimuli, there are starting to be more and more applications to this research to the business world. People are trying to take the research and turn around and say, ok, can we apply this to our client’s experiences or how can we apply this to our employee’s experience?

So, one of the models from neuroscience that applies particularly well to relocation comes from David Rock. David Rock is an executive coach. He’s the founder of the Neuro Leadership Institute. He’s the author of a number of books including, Your Brain at Work, and in Your Brain at Work he introduces a model called the SCARF model. So SCARF stands for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness and David Rock has identified those five domains of social interaction as areas where people can experience a really strong threat response or threatening response on one end of the scale or a really strong reward response on the other end of the scale of the brain in relation to those five areas.

So for status, the underlying question from Mr. Rock is what is my general place or what’s my status relative to the people around me? For certainty, the question is, can I predict what’s coming next? For autonomy, the question is how much agency or how much decision-making ability or influence do I have on my current circumstances? Relatedness, am I with friends or foes? And fairness is really simple, am I being treated fairly? And so if you look at those five domains you can start to see how for an assignee, going through a move, which is one of life’s most stressful events, there are really strong potential, to a certain degree, rewards, but a lot of potential threats, especially in the areas of certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness.

So, when you think of relocation there are a couple of different ways that you can consider the SCARF model. On the individual level, this model is, from our view, a scientific pathway to empathy. It’s a chance to understand better why relocation is so stressful and to be a better support for an assignee who’s actually going through that experience. And then, as organizations, there’s an opportunity to step back and look at the whole relocation process and how it is managed and how our policies are structured and decide how can we make this experience less threatening and more rewarding for our assignees.

I do believe that there is a real opportunity for companies to have a better mobility program and have better individual assignee experiences and more productive assignments if they stop and examine relocation from the perspective of neuroscience. I hope you’ll enjoy learning more about neuroscience and how it can apply to relocation.”

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