7 Relocation Management Strategies

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Magnifying glass over real estate adIn an article for Harvard Business Review, Matt Ferguson, CEO of Careerbuilder, proposed that a chief reason for the U.S. market’s growing skills gap is the lack of willingness for employees to “move beyond their own backyards for a new job.” He supports this assertion with evidence, which shows that the percentage of Americans who changed residences between 2010 and 2011 was at an all-time low, having almost halved to 11.6 percent from 1985.

This would suggest that corporate relocation managers may be facing quiet times over the next year as companies struggle to attract employees from outside their locality, wouldn’t it? Not if the findings of a joint survey between Harris Interactive and CareerBuilder are anything to go by. The survey suggests that 44 percent of workers claim they would relocate for the right job opportunity in 2012, three times more than actually did relocate in 2011, which shows the extent of the pent-up demand for relocation opportunities.

Combine this with the findings that 52 percent of U.S. employers cannot find suitably skilled employees, and that 32 percent of employers would pay to relocate employees and 2012 could be the perfect storm for corporate relocation professionals  where demand for talent from anywhere meets an employee’s  willingness to relocate anywhere for the right opportunity.

To take advantage of this growing pipeline of out-of-state talent, relocation managers should be developing the most compelling relocation support programs to attract this ‘out of state’ talent. Below I have described several tips on how to do this:

1. Help employees rent or dispose of their current properties

According to data from CoreLogic, ‘nearly 30 percent of Americans were in negative equity or near negative equity situations with mortgages. Therefore, a very real problem for relocating employees will be that they may not be able to easily monetize their current property (by rental or selling) to help them fund the purchase or rent of a new home in the new location. This means they may be deterred from applying from out-of-area posts or simply pull out because it’s not feasible.

Therefore, where possible, employers should offer relocating employees financial support with renting their old property or selling their current property, for example, paying real estate fees. This will help to remove one of the key barriers to relocation and increase your chances of securing the services of the top talent that you need.

2. Provide financial support for removals/transfers of furniture

The costs of removals and transfer can be significant and be one of the many accumulating costs that deter relocating employees (in a downturn especially) for applying for out of area positions. Therefore, ensure to include support for this in part of your relocation allowance.

3. Provide temporary accommodation at the start of the assignment

The transition and moving period can be especially difficult for relocating employees. It is hard to find new long-term accommodation in the new location, while based in the old location. One way to help employees with this is to provide them with temporary accommodation at the start of the new role—typically for one to three months—which they can then use as a base to find a suitable long-term accommodation in the new area. It may also help if you provide them with a real estate agent.

4. Provide help with choosing a school for relocating children

Many relocating employees may be parents and will need to arrange new schools for their children. Employers should offer support to help relocating parents to place their children in schools prior to the start of the new role. This could include providing the parents with background information and recommendations on which schools to use in the area, or funding a reconnaissance and planning trip prior to the start of the new role so parents can visit and assess the schools.

5. Offer spousal support

You should consider providing spousal support to the relocating employee’s partner, which could include job search support, or providing links to local networks or relocating spouses.  This will mean the partner’s spouse may be more likely to support the move, which is an important consideration as the unwillingness of a spouse to relocate can be a key barrier to employee relocation.

6. Provide relocation allowance

Much of the support that has been mentioned above may be provided in the form of a relocation allowance. It is pretty much standard to provide employees with a relocation allowance and the point of this is to offset any additional costs the employee may incur as a result of the relocation.

7. Additional support for international relocation

If you are relocating employees internationally, then typically you will need to provide additional support. This can include things like visa and work permit application support for the employee and the spouse, help with setting up bank accounts, gaining access to local and state municipal services, setting up utilities, getting a new driver’s license, and ongoing support to help cultural adjustment in the new country.

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Kazim Ladimeji is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and has been a practicing HR professional for 14 years. Kazim is the Director of The Career Cafe: a resource for start-ups, small business and job seekers.