How to Successfully Relocate Employees

How much does a failed assignment cost? A lot. According to Mobility Magazine, companies lose approximately $76,000 whenever a relocation is unsuccessful, after factoring in loss of productivity, cost of the move and recruiting expenses.

This can happen for any number of reasons, but a successful relocation can go a long way toward ensuring they get off on the right foot. There are quite a few things HR managers can do to help prepare employees for a relocation such as selecting the right candidates for an assignment, offering the right relocation benefits and making sure their first few months on the job meets their expectations.

Identifying the right candidates

Before you start preparing an employee for a relocation, it’s important to make sure they are a good candidate for the assignment. Some individuals simply have no desire to move – no matter the expertise they might bring to the position. Forcing them to relocate often leads to a resignation. Here are a few considerations to make when reviewing potential candidates.

  • Discuss family priorities: Does the employee have any family members they’ll be leaving behind? How important is it to find the best school in their new home for their children that are moving with them? It’s important to know what things the new city will need to provide to make sure the transferee and his or her family can be happy.
  • Is the new city drastically bigger or smaller from the current one? Moving from a metropolitan area to a small town – or vice versa – can be more of a shock than some people might expect. If it is, make sure it’s a change they could be happy with.
  • Other factors: Commute time, recreation, climate – these are all things that might not be immediately noticeable, but they can chip away at a person’s overall wellbeing.

Once these questions have been answered, it’s important to ask if he or she is a good candidate for relocation. Any red flags could spell costly trouble down the road.

Should everything check out, there’s one additional step that can help ensure the success of his or her relocation – a pre-move trip. This gives employees a chance to visit their potential new city and get a better feel for the area. This trip should also include time to find a suitable home and a general orientation so they don’t feel lost, especially if it’s a city that’s significantly bigger than their current one. Relocation support should continue up to six months after the move so you can help address any concerns before they become a serious problem.

Consider a destination services package

It’s important for companies to re-evaluate their hiring offers to make sure they are, at the least, in line with the rest of their industry, if not slightly better to remain competitive, notes Mike Berry, Director of Hilldrup Relocation Services.

“Even if you provide a lump sum in place of a formal relocation package, you can still advise relocating employees on the benefits of a destination services provider,” adds Berry.

A destination services package should provide assistance specifically for finding a home and the settling-in period that follows the move. Some common benefits destination services providers offer include:

  • Mortgage product counseling
  • Tax and legal counseling
  • Contract negotiations
  • Rental assistance programs

It can’t be said enough – companies need to do more than simply give new hires or transferees a lump sum payment and say they’ll see them on their first day. A little guidance on services like destination services can go a long way in making sure your employees’ transition is a positive one.

Helping employees relocate during the winter months

While most individuals and families move during the summer, it’s not to say that no one moves during the winter, which can mean inclement weather. Understandably so, moving during a snowstorm is a chilly scenario few want to tackle.

So, how should you advise employees who are slated to relocate during wintery weather?

Change the move date

The easiest solution is to reschedule the move until the weather improves. However, it’s not always that simple, as there are often other logistics that are scheduled around the relocation (renting a truck if doing it DIY, access to storage containers, start date for the new job, etc.).

Lay a path

If the date can’t change, keeping your employees, their home and their belongings safe is critical. What we do, and recommend those attempting a DIY move do as well, is lay down floor protection, such as cardboard or carpet, inside to keep the snow and ice they might carry in from damaging any hardwood or carpet. It’s also a good practice to lay down a path outside as well to help protect them from any icy spots.

Let things thaw

If it’s especially cold, there’s a good chance some of their belongings sat in freezing temperatures on a moving truck. Immediately plugging in and turning on electronics, like a TV for example, can cause it to short because of the condensation that collects as it warms up. Allow for electronics to acclimate to room temperature – up to 24 hours – before using.

How to help relocated employees feel at home

The move is just the first step of the relocation process. Once your employee has made it to their new home and started work, it’s important to continue helping them have a smooth transition.

The first next few months following a relocation are bound to be filled with ups and downs for those new employees. Kids starting a new school, getting acclimated to the office culture and expectations, building a new social circle – these are just some of the emotional stressors that can cast regret on an employee’s exciting new opportunity if they get too overwhelming.

That said, here’s a startling number: 86 percent of executives and staffing managers believe that an employee decides within the first six months of a new job if he or she intends to stay there. What you do to show these new employees that you care and understand what they are going through will surely be noticed by them.

Here are some ideas of how you can expand your onboarding process to make relocated employees feel at home.

Broaden your mentor criteria

If you don’t offer some type of mentor/buddy program, you should note it’s something more than half of new hires would like in their first week of work. But even if you do, is it limited to those with similar job functions? Try to find overlap in other non-work areas such as children, neighborhood or similar cultural background. This gives new hires a resource for many of the pressing questions they might not feel comfortable asking in the workplace.

Be flexible with work schedules

This obviously isn’t entirely up to HR, but relocated employees tend to have appointments and other needs (meeting with movers, visiting teachers, etc.) that might require them to be out of the office more than usual. The more flexible you can be toward these needs, the less stress they’ll feel trying to get everything done and making a good first impression.

Stay in touch

Yes, do all the things you’re supposed to do the first couple days – go over company policies and the like – but also continue reaching out to new hires throughout their first year. Not only does it help clue you into any problems they might be having, but it also shows that the company cares about them beyond their productivity.

It’s important to empathize with those new employees who’ve moved and are starting a new life in your city. Any effort you make to show you understand how big of a life event moving can be will go a long way with how they view your company these first few months.

Additional challenges for international employees

International transferees face some obvious additional challenges by virtue of relocating to another country. Most HR managers can attest that being a therapist is part of the job. Here are some tips to keep your international employees excited about their international assignment.

Learn the language

For some transferees, this is a requirement, but certain positions don’t necessarily mandate that the employee learn the language. While they may be able to get the job done, the language gap is a tremendous obstacle in how they connect with the local culture. It may seem like a costly expense, but providing language training for them (and any family members) could go a long way toward the success of the assignment.

Help them connect

One of the biggest causes of homesickness is longing for their old community. Especially if you have multiple assignments in the same location, develop a city guide with different annual events, groups and organizations for a variety of interests. The whole “You can lead a horse to water” adage holds true here. Forced participation is never fun, but you can make sure they have the information.

Be wary of (too much) video chatting

Yes, new technologies like FaceTime and Skype help those abroad stay connected with everyone back home. (That’s a good thing!) But part of getting acclimated to a new country involves exploration and making it your own. It’s difficult for anyone to do this if they are blocking off 1-2 hours each evening to talk to friends and family. If you get the sense this is part of their daily ritual, maybe suggest they space out the video chats to every couple of days.

Repatriating an expat

But what happens when expatriates return home? According to one study, some expatriates can experience challenges rebuilding their network and readjusting to different management styles and methods after years abroad in a different culture. The study also found that 68 percent of expatriates no longer feel “like the same person” when they return.

HR managers must be sensitive to the issues these individuals are bound to experience as part of the repatriating process. Dealing with the fact that life has continued on in the U.S. can be hard to come to terms with, known as “reverse culture shock.” Additionally, the transition is even more difficult if it involves moving your family – again. The Worldwide ERC suggests pre-return trips and training months prior to repatriation as a means to help assignees address personal and professional issues, as well as acclimate to cultural changes.

If you have an employee returning home from an extended period of time overseas, be aware that there will be some amount of disorientation as he or she (and their family) readjusts to American life. Hilldrup Relocation offers a variety of relocation services that can help take the stress off this process, such as home-finding assistance, settling-in services and family-transition assistance.

Retaining employees for the long haul

Relocation often is more aligned with talent acquisition – having a strong relocation package, helping have a smooth transition – but talent retention is equally important. You want to keep your good employees while also brining on new ones.

Ongoing employee retention is critical, and it isn’t always about making sure their pay meets their expectations. Business Insider outlines the main reasons an employee resigns from their position, with the top three listed below:

  1. They feel overworked.
  2. They aren’t recognized for their hard work.
  3. They don’t feel cared for.

The common thread between these – a negative work experience. Orienting your business’ culture and objectives around caring for your employees and their respective careers can yield significant cost savings, not to mention more passionate, committed workers. Deloitte’s 2017 Human Capital Trends Report outlines its “Simply Irresistible Organization™ Model” – five key areas that make up a positive employee experience.

  1. Meaningful work– It’s important for employees to feel that their work has a purpose. That starts with helping them feel empowered and giving them a sense of trust and autonomy regarding their work.
  2. Supportive management– Employees who believe their managers are invested in their career and outline clear and transparent goals tend to thrive in their position.
  3. Positive work environment– Not surprisingly, people like to be recognized for their work, as well as see a diverse and inclusive workplace.
  4. Growth opportunities– If people don’t have a clear and plausible vision for how they can advance within your organization, they likely will find another that can answer that important question.
  5. Trust in leadership– Starting at the top, employees need to believe that those in charge are truthful and transparent about the company, its mission and purpose.

Taking the time to focus on these five areas could make a big impact on your organization’s culture and employee retention!

Getting reimbursed for relocation expenses if a new employee leaves

Nobody expects a new hire to quit, but unfortunately, it’s a reality all HR managers face at some point in their career. Whether you offer a full relocation package or a lump sum, your organization should include some kind of reimbursement clause to help avoid situations where a recent new hire or transferee has cause to leave unexpectedly, before he or she can have a meaningful impact to merit the relocation assistance that you provided.

There are several ways to structure this part of the acceptance offer or employee contract. You could simply require employees to pay back their entire allowance should they leave in the first year. Another way, similar to vesting periods, could be to require employees pay back a percentage of their relocation package based on how long they’ve been with the company. For example, you could stipulate that if they leave in the first three months, they must pay back 100 percent, four to six months, 75 percent, etc.

Relocation is a growth opportunity for both employees and organizations when talent is appropriately matched with a specific need, and a smooth transition can help immensely toward this goal. Hopefully, these tips have given you the right insight to prepare your employees for a successful relocation!

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