How to Help Employees Make a Successful Relocation

There are stellar relocations and those that are the stuff of nightmares, and still others that that fall in-between. Of course, you want to give your relocating employees the first kind, so they can start their new assignments off on the right foot.

After all, the last thing your organization needs is for an important new hire—whether a physician, tech whiz or senior manager—to show up worried, distracted and/or resentful because their move went off the rails somewhere between Points A and B.

Fortunately, ensuring a positive relocation experience isn’t about how much you spend, but about how your program is structured and executed. Helping employees make successful moves comes down to embracing the right philosophy—and following a few tried-and-true rules.

Rule #1: Your Winning Relocation Philosophy: Treat It as a Benefit

Planning a relocation is complicated. And stressful. Expecting employees to do it alone, which is what happens with lump sum, compensation-only plans, increases the odds of a spectacular fail.

The more expertly you help employees plan their relocation—and the more flexibility you give them to do it their way—the more successful their relocations will be. That’s what most of our rules are about.

In other words, treat relocation as a benefit, not compensation, and everything else will follow. Including happy employees.

Rule #2: Give Them Access to Relocation Specialists, Goldilocks Style

Under the old relocation model, relocation specialists did all the legwork manually for employees—which resulted in a very laborious, expensive, back-and-forth process. Lump sum plans were developed to get away from this approach, but it turns out that leaving employees high-and-dry doesn’t work, either.

The right approach is to give relocating employees the freedom to rely on relocation specialists as much or as little as they choose. Think Goldilocks: everyone has their own definition of what’s “just right”—so, let them do it their way.

Rule #3: Provide Tools and Tech to Keep Them on Point 

Let’s face it: the professionals you relocate are tech-savvy. While some relocation programs are still manually-driven, tech-based relocation solutions put everything they need at their fingertips digitally, including:

  • A clear, concise summary of their benefits, plus guidance for how to use them
  • Checklists and guidelines to ensure everything happens on schedule
  • A real-time tally of expenses as they’re spent

In other words, technology take the mystery out of moving, so there’s no unpleasant surprises blowing up the process.


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Rule #4: Introduce Them to Their Soon-to-be City

The more pertinent information you can provide to employees before they move, the more confident and enthusiastic they’ll be. Providing fact-based data about the local real estate market, neighborhoods, schools, etc. will help them make better decisions from the get-go.

Plus, showcasing area highlights and amenities is a great way to get them engaged with their new area—as are paid house-hunting trips led by knowledgeable real estate pros. Throw in some insider tips from their new coworkers, and they’ll not only be more comfortable pre-move, but more likely to settle in faster.

Rule #5: Cover Your Employees’ Relocation Expenses (Duh!)

Employees who relocate for business expect employers to foot the bill. Nothing sours a new relationship faster than when it unexpectedly becomes clear that’s not the case.

The problem is, most employers can’t afford to provide every employee with the no-holds-bound, fully-covered relocation policies typically reserved for C-level executives.

The good news is: you don’t need to—not when you structure your benefits shrewdly.

For starters, switch to a managed budget plan, if you haven’t already. These limit how much employees can spend, while giving them the flexibility to use their funds as they see fit. (Bonus: anything that isn’t spent stays with the employer.)

In addition, verify that your relocation provider that has negotiated discounted fees with movers and other vendors, instead of padding those fees with commissions, which some providers unfortunately still do.

These strategies help relocation funds go further, so you can achieve the effect of a “fully covered” plan without blowing up your budget.

Rule #6: Pay Tax Gross-ups

As you undoubtedly know, most employees are horrified when they first learn that their relocation benefits are taxable. That’s why most employers cover the cost of these taxes via relocation tax gross-ups.

Yes, it’s an additional expense, but it’s also key to a positive relocation experience. And if you structure your program wisely (see managed budget plans, above), you’ll recoup the savings elsewhere.

And that’s what it’s really all about right now, isn’t it—helping your employees make successful relocations, while ensuring your program is as lean and efficient as possible? You don’t need to settle for one or the other—and we can help.


Human Resources Today