Top 3 Relocation Pitfalls - And How to Avoid Them
With unemployment rates at historic lows, many companies are finding it difficult to fill open jobs. The challenge is especially acute for positions that require specialized skills. Finding the right person for an open job may be further complicated by geographical factors — the candidate pool for data scientists and app developers is deeper in Silicon Valley than in Pittsburgh, for example.
If finding the right people is a challenge in your organization, you may want to look at moving people with the right background knowledge from one business unit to the other. In some cases, that may require a change in geographic location (as in the case of data scientists). On the other hand, you may be preparing to move your operations and need ways to entice employees to move with the company.
Whatever your talent challenges, offering robust relocation assistance can be a great way to attract skilled workers or retain institutional knowledge, but it’s important to be aware of the pitfalls.
To keep you on track, here are 3 relocation pitfalls to avoid:
#1: Relocation pitfall: Poor planning
“Relocation package” means different things to different people. What will be included in yours? What’s the budget? Who will be eligible to receive relocation benefits — everyone or only select job titles? Is there a distance limit? If a move doesn’t work out, is the employee obligated to repay the moving costs? What are the tax implications?
All of these are important questions, and it’s critical to get answers before you mention relocation assistance to jobseekers. Lack of detail when prospective candidates ask questions could mean losing someone with highly desirable skills to a competitor. A relocation specialist can provide a framework for offering relocation benefits and help you define eligibility and the budget.
#2 Relocation pitfall: Lack of clarity about benefits
Moving is complicated, so it pays to address every contingency up front. Does the benefit cover direct moving expenses like physical transport of furnishings, first and last month’s rent for an apartment in a new city, or a down payment on a house? What if relocated employees have trouble selling their old home after they’ve moved?
Make sure you define exactly what is covered up front so there are no surprises, such as questions about whether moving a boat is covered under a benefit intended to move vehicles. It can get complicated, so partnering with a relocation expert may be the best way to ensure that you address every contingency — and get access to services that can facilitate home sales, etc.
#3 Relocation pitfall: Insufficient family support
Employees with partners and/or families not only have to transition themselves to a new location and job, they have to make sure their partner and children make the move successfully as well. As an employer, you have a stake in ensuring a smooth transition for family members, since they directly affect employee success at the new location.
According to Pew Research, nearly half of families with children are headed by two parents who work full time, up from 31 percent in 1970. In dual-income families, more than 60 percent say that both partners are equally focused on their careers. That could explain why employees are reluctant to accept relocation offers that focus on the employee only — there are two careers at stake.
Companies that offer support to partners can address the needs of dual-income families. A family support structure might include a house-hunting trip for the employee and spouse so they’ll have a clearer picture of the new environment. Consider job placement services for the partner and providing a central location for information about schools and the area. Outplacement services for relocating employees’ spouses not only helps better support the family, but succeeds in retaining and attracting top talent for your organization.
The bottom-line advice before offering a relocation benefit? Make sure you have a solid plan that addresses every angle. Create a budget and define the terms of your relocation package, deciding whether or not you’ll offer a lump-sum benefit in the form of a bonus or cover actual moving costs. If the latter, make sure you define exactly which expenses are eligible so there are no misunderstandings.
Take a holistic approach and consider the whole employee — not just the worker and skills but also partners and family members who will be affected by the move. Think about what services family members might need and how you can address them. Check with your outplacement services provider to see if they offer a formalized program for partner relocation support. An investment in the financial security and emotional wellbeing of the whole family is an investment in a successful relocation. If spouses and partners have trouble adjusting and finding work, your employee may become distracted in the job and end up leaving it in the end.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to go it alone. Relocation specialists and outplacement providers have seen it all and can help you put together the right package and provide access to networks that can assist employees with all aspects of the move.