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10 Rules for Successfully Relocating Employees

Posted in Commercial Moves on Jan 21, 2019, tagged with employee relocation

As tough as it can be for a business to relocate an employee, it can be even harder for the employee undertaking the move. On top of the regular stress of packing up and moving their lives—and sometimes their family’s lives—they may be dealing with shorter moving timelines on top of the prospect of a new job with new people.

Despite the challenges relocation poses for your business and your employee, there are many reasons why a business may choose to to relocate one or more of their employees:

  • Your business is opening a new location and you want to relocate star employees to help with the opening.
  • You are relocating your entire business to another state.
  • Relocating to a different location is the best career development move for an existing employee.
  • You are filling an open position at one location with an employee who already works at another location.
  • You are recruiting the best new talent from out-of-state.
  • A star employee wants to relocate with their spouse, or for other personal reasons, and you don’t want to lose them to another employer.

Whatever your reason for relocating an employee, taking steps to streamline the process as much as possible will make it easier for your business to manage—and more importantly, showing that you support your employee during this challenging time can reduce their stress and help them settle in (and get back to business) as soon as possible.

Follow these rules for relocating employees:

1. Make a plan before you need one

Creating a relocation plan before you hire a new employee or decide to relocate an existing employee can help simplify the process and make it easier for everyone involved.

It's important that an employee relocation program is not reactive. Put a policy in place before you need one. The moving process is one of the first impressions a new employee has with your company. If you don't have a proper program in place, it can have a negative impact on the way a new hire views your company. 

- Michael Krasman, CEO of UrbanBound

2. Be honest

If an employee is willing to relocate for your business—especially if they are moving their family as well—it’s vitally important that you are honest about the job they’ll be taking on in the new location. They should feel confident that they are making such a huge change with their eyes open, so:

  • Don’t promise more or different responsibilities than the job actually entails.
  • Don’t downplay the negative aspects of the job.
  • Give an accurate understanding of expected work hours and schedules.

When an employee has all the details about their new position up front, they can be sure that the new job and the new town are a good fit for them, their families, and your business, which makes it more likely that they’ll want to stay—and less likely that your business will spend money on a relocation that doesn’t stick.

3. Consider outsourcing

Businesses have two options when it comes to relocating employees:

  1. Handle the relocation internally with your own accounting and human resources departments.
  2. Outsource the process to relocation specialists.

Handling the process internally ensures that your business retains control over the move. On the other hand, relocation specialists can significantly streamline the process by connecting employees to reputable and qualified service providers. The best relocation specialists also have deeper knowledge of relocation tax and legal requirements, which can be especially beneficial for international moves.

What works best will ultimately depend on the size and capability of your business, as well as your budget. “Internal HR and recruiting teams dedicate so much of their time to sourcing and hiring top talent, so it's surprising how little they focus on the relocation of that talent,” says Michael Karsman, CEO of UrbanBound. “Companies who have at least 10 relocations per year benefit from working with an outside partner to build a formal relocation policy. While it's not recommended, when you have under ten moves per year, an informal, ad-hoc program tends to be more manageable

4. Think about their spouse

If your employee’s spouse is dissatisfied at any point during the relocation process, there’s a much higher chance that your employee will back out, resign, or want to return home.

The more you demonstrate support for your employee’s spouse and dependents, the better they will feel about the change. Try these tactics:

  • Your employee’s spouse may not have another job lined up right away, which means they may not have the same structure and built-in social circle as your employee. Offering spousal support such as job-hunting help, school advice, and introductions to local groups can help build ties to the new community and make it easier for everyone to settle in.
  • Find out if the spouse has any misgivings, and see what you can do to allay their concerns.
  • Factor the spouse, and maybe even any dependents, into your relocation budget, including any house-hunting trips you are financing.

5. Provide support on both ends of the move

If you’re asking an employee to move for your business, be prepared to provide support services on both ends of the relocation to help them reduce stress, promote mental health, and manage the transition, such as:

  • Real estate services and home closing assistance
  • Help finding a place to live in their new town
  • Spousal support, such as job placement assistance
  • Assistance with finding and enrolling children in new schools or childcare programs
  • Connecting employees to other support systems in the area, such as medical services, sports leagues, or community associations

The more assistance you can offer throughout the process, the more your employee can concentrate on how exciting the change is and continue doing great work during their relocation.

6. Help them find somewhere to live

Regardless of why someone is moving, there’s a lot to consider when relocating to a new state, from learning about the local real estate market to house hunting with limited knowledge about traffic patterns or which neighborhoods are safe or easily accessible to their new workplace.

If your employee is focused on finding a new home in an unfamiliar city, it will be hard for them to focus on their job. There are a couple of things you can do to make it easier for your employee find a new place to live:

  • Create an orientation package containing important information about their new town, as well as recommendations for local retailers or service providers. Include insider tips from your current employees for an added personal touch.
  • Cover the cost of a hotel or temporary lodging while your employee settles in so they can sort out permanent housing once they know their new city a little better.
  • Work with a professional relocation service that will help your employee find an affordable home in a good neighborhood that offers an easy commute to work, as well as decide whether to rent or buy, and determine how much everything will cost in their new hometown.

7. Sponsor an orientation trip

Before the move, fly your employee out to their new town so they can get to know it a little better and decide if it’s a good fit. If you can, include their spouse and children in the visit—if everyone is on board and excited for the change, there’s a higher chance the relocation will stick.

Scheduling a visit to their new office so they can meet their new colleagues and start making connections before they permanently relocate is also a great way to help them get comfortable with the move.

8. Don’t rush it

From finding a new house and packing up their goods to selecting a qualified moving partner and settling into their new digs, moving is immensely time consuming, no matter how much help your employee might have.

If you can, give your employee ample time to close the sale of their house before moving, or even wait till the end of the school term to avoid uprooting their kids too much. If it can’t wait, be prepared to pay for early termination fees for leases and private schools.

9. Give them time to settle in

Settling in after a long distance move can be tough when someone is getting used to a new town as well as a new job. Give them a few days off to settle in to their new town before starting work so they can start unpacking and taking care of any tasks that can only take place during business hours. Expect their productivity to drop a little while they’re settling in—too much pressure from the start can discourage a newly relocated employee, and may even push them to move back home.

According to Michael, the “average, domestic relocation takes approximately 3 weeks to plan, book and execute.” He recommends that employers allow “at least 4-5 weeks before an employee's start date to relocate and get settled in. After all, your employees will be ready to start their first day if they've had a week or two to settle into their new city."

10. Cover their moving expenses

One of the most effective ways to ease the stress of moving for work is to cover all or part of the cost of your employee’s relocation, particularly if you are relocating an existing employee.

It’s generally recommended that you reimburse moving expenses such as the cost of moving household goods and travelling to the new home. Regardless of what expenses your business will cover, clearly explain to your employee what costs will be covered and how they will be reimbursed in their official relocation package. You may need to coordinate with your business’s accounting or human resources departments to find the best method for your business and your employee.

There are three common ways to help cover your employees’ moving expenses:

  1. Lump sum: Pay your employee a single lump sum, to be spent however they deem necessary. Contractors are paid directly by the employee.
  2. Capped allowance: Set a limit for how much your employee can spend. Contractors are typically paid by directly billing you, not your employee.
  3. Combination: Your business covers some of the expenses, as outlined in your employee’s relocation package, and the employee is reimbursed for other expenses in the form of a lump sum.

A lump sum may be easier for your business, but it’s rarely easier for your employee, who still has to manage the entire moving process on their own.

Conclusion

Moving is always stressful, and it can be even more so when you are moving for work. As an employer, there are a number of things you can do to make the relocation process easier for your employees:

  1. Be honest
  2. Consider outsourcing
  3. Think about their spouse
  4. Provide support on both ends of the move
  5. Help them find somewhere to live
  6. Sponsor an orientation trip
  7. Don’t rush it
  8. Give them time to settle in
  9. Cover their moving expenses

If you’re undertaking your employee’s relocation without the help of a relocation specialist, we can help you move your employee’s household goods to their new home. Call us or submit a quote request online.