How to create a successful relocation plan for transferring employees
by Tracy Carbasho
In an age where business is conducted on an international scale and employees are anxious to spread their wings, more companies are adopting comprehensive relocation policies.
"If a company is intent on building its business in any location around the world, a mobile workforce is essential to that strategy," said Peggy Smith, president and CEO of the Arlington, Va.-based Worldwide Employee Relocation Council.
Smith said having a policy to address domestic and international relocation issues can positively impact the company's bottom line by acting as a talent recruitment and retention tool, which can make the employer more competitive. The policy should be flexible enough to change with the economy, new business needs, the real estate market and the skill level of employees.
Many companies now have different tiers of policies to permit customization. For example, there may be a policy for executives, one for mid-level managers and another for newer employees.
"A policy enables employers to clearly state what is and what is not covered and how the coverage will occur. It serves as the primary communication with regard to specific procedures, requirements and limitations," Smith said. "It also provides a baseline to consider when the company needs to review the assistance it offers."
No matter what type of policy is implemented, relocation experts agree that education for dependent children and housing are among the most important items that should be addressed.
A company's policy also should include specifics about helping the transferred employee find proper medical care, if necessary, said Steve Miranda, managing director of Cornell University's Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies in Ithaca, N.Y.
In addition, he said he believes companies should provide sufficient financial compensation to make the move comfortable for employees and should assist the spouse in finding a job or becoming involved in community organizations.
"Having a good policy gives companies a leg up; it's an employment value proposition differentiator," Miranda said. "It also helps to put the best talent where it is needed."
Miranda has both professional and personal knowledge of how a company's policy can affect employees and their families. While serving as vice president of human resources for Lucent Technologies in 1998, he was assigned to a position in Hong Kong. The move required him to uproot his three children and his wife.
"A relocation policy is important so that employees can focus on their work rather than being distracted by 101 details, such as finding suitable housing, knowing which schools are good or even just knowing where to find certain grocery items, cleaning supplies or clothes for children," said Miranda, a member of the Alexandria, Va.-based Society for Human Resource Management . "It's essential for a policy to consider the needs of an employee's family because international assignments often end early or failas a direct result of family or spousal issues."
Miranda said most companies work with relocation specialists to make the move as stress-free as possible for employees.
Carol Olsby, a member of the Global HR Expertise Panel for the SHRM, said relocation policies should be aligned with a company's business strategy.
She recommends reviewing best practices to determine what should be included in the policy.
"It's disruptive to move even under the best circumstances. Knowing there is a policy in place gives the employee a sense of security," Olsby said.
- Remember that an employee may be taking his or her spouse and family members. Be sure to include provisions that will make the transition easier for the spouse or significant other by putting them in touch with an individual who can offer input about the local schools, community groups and potential job opportunities.
- Provide adequate financial compensation to pay for housing, utilities and other expenses. Compensation must be fair and provide an incentive for moving. If the cost of living is higher in the new location, adjust the employee's salary accordingly.
- Match the company's relocation policy to its talent development strategy by moving employees to areas where their skills are needed.
Source: Steve Miranda, managing director of Cornell University's Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies
Tracy Carbasho is a freelance writer.