The Best Way to Boost Healthcare Recruiting: Improve Your Relocation Program By John Leech

Recruiting in the healthcare industry has always been challenging, but today, hospitals need every possible hiring edge. As a talent acquisition professional for 25 years—and the last six at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital—I’ve found that hospitals often overlook the one move that will yield the greatest bang for their buck: updating weak relocation programs. 

While the relocation management industry has advanced lightyears in the last decade, the healthcare industry remains stuck in the past. Modern, tech-based relocation companies lift the burden off both employers and employees—yet many hospitals are still simply throwing money at new hires and hoping for the best.   

This is not what top healthcare candidates want to see from prospective employers. It’s not the way to build lasting relationships. Plus, it creates needless work and angst for the new employee and for the folks managing it on the backend.

About six years ago, I found a better approach. It was a game changer for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, one of the world’s top pediatric treatment and research facilities. And it’s easier, more affordable and more effective than you may think.

How NOT to Relocate Healthcare Professionals 

When I first took over as Director of Talent Acquisition at the hospital, new hires (largely clinical and research) were granted a lump sum moving allowance, paid as reimbursement. The travel department arranged a house-hunting trip and we’d recommend our preferred van line—period. There were several problems with this. 

For one thing, HR was pushing enormous amounts of paperwork, which led to errors and inconsistencies and left little time to connect with new hires. 

For another, it was impossible to stay within budget, because by the time we tallied expenses, it was already spent—and then some. Telling new hires that they owe you thousands of dollars is a bad beginning. Either we ate the excess cost or jeopardized new relationships.       

Finally, the process put enormous pressure on new hires. Switching jobs and moving are two of life’s greatest stressors—and we weren’t helping with either one. 

We realized we needed to outsource the management of our relocation program to the experts. In our case, we chose UrbanBound—and here’s what I learned along the way. 

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Treat Relocation as a Benefit, Not Compensation

By simply throwing lump sums of money at new hires, we were treating relocation as compensation—a losing proposition. You can’t win at recruiting by competing financially; another organization will always one-up you. 

This is especially true for nonprofits, which must be meticulous when spending donor dollars. By providing new hires with relocation services as well as dollars, we turned our program into a benefit that can’t be measured in mere financial terms. 

Take Care of New Hires by Easing Their Move

Surveys show that all employees crave appreciation. Show them love, and you’ll differentiate your organization from hospitals that don’t.

Before UrbanBound, we were asking new hires to dive into our lifesaving work—while they were still juggling a million moving-related details. By offloading those details to the experts, we freed our people to focus on our mission: Finding Cures, Saving Children.  

Partner with a Tech-Based Relocation Company

There are two types of relocation management companies: traditional ones and modern, tech-based ones. 

Many old-school providers are offshoots of moving companies that built their service models to boost their primary interests. They’re very expensive and not always employee-centric.

As a tech-savvy organization, we knew we wanted a tech-based provider that offered a digital platform. At the time, UrbanBound was one of the first software-based providers. Today, it’s also the largest.

Tech-based relo companies like UrbanBound, allow employees to plan and book their moves online, choosing from a vetted network of movers, realtors and a wide variety of suppliers who’ve agreed to discounted pricing and have service level agreements in place to ensure quality. In addition, employees are assigned dedicated relocation consultants to answer questions, offer guidance—or handle everything, if they choose. 

And because our relo partner processes the invoices, requests and reimbursements, it frees us to focus on talent acquisition. Because the system tracks key metrics and generates real-time reports, hospitals always know what they’re spending, how moves are proceeding, and how satisfied employees are with their relocation experience.

Help New Hires Get Acquainted with Your Area  

Relocating healthcare professionals don’t have much time to investigate their new location. One of the best services you can provide is to bring the key information to them.

For example, one popular aspect of the UrbanBound platform is that it offers curated hyper-local content about housing, neighborhoods, schools, etc., plus “coworker insights”—i.e., real-life tips and favorites from other employees. 

Not only does this help new hires acclimate faster, hospitals can make this information available to top candidates. That can help sell them on your area—which is especially important if you’re not in a major city.

Expect to Save, Not Spend

Surprise: a smart relocation program will reduce your spending. For example, with our relocation partner, UrbanBound, we saw a very positive return on our investment—and not all benefits are measurable. For example:

  •     · Vendor discounts and small shipment solutions reduced our moving costs
  •     · We saved time and labor by reducing paperwork and getting new hires settled faster
  •     · Employee retention increased, lowering turnover and improving patient satisfaction
  •     · By tracking expenses, we discovered additional savings opportunities

In our case, unspent relocation dollars are returned to the hospital, a huge plus. 

Don’t Wait to Make Changes 

The prospect of changing the status quo might seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be. 

We didn’t find it hard to put an RFP together—or for that matter, to implement the UrbanBound system.  

Frankly, every second you wait is an opportunity for a candidate to receive a better offer. Or for new hires to have a bad moving experience that impacts their performance or tenure. As long as you keep relocating employees the old way, you’re helping your competitors beat you in the battle for talent. 

In other words: if you don’t show employees some love during the relocation process, another hospital will.


John Leech has 25 years of experience in successful talent acquisition. The former Director of Talent Acquisition for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, he is currently a talent acquisition consultant for Pharmavite. He previously held HR leadership roles at FedEx and Comcast. He volunteers for Saving Lost Kids, a children’s 501c3, and is a certified world championship BBQ judge in Memphis.

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