Employee relocation rates have increased significantly over the last few years, and they’re likely to continue rising.
HR professionals must take special care to support and guide employees through their relocations, no matter how near or far they’ll be from the main office.
Employee relocation can be stressful, particularly from an HR standpoint. With some careful planning and preparation, though, you make the process much more manageable.
Below, you’ll learn some best practices to help you manage employee relocation, especially in the current remote work environment.
When moving from one city to another, employees have a lot to consider. And their reasons for moving span a wide range of possibilities. To understand why someone would move from New York City to Philadelphia, for example, you need to find out what is important to them in their daily life.
The following are some of the most significant issues your employees may have to navigate during the transition:
Naturally, employees need a place to live when they relocate to a new area. Housing issues become especially important if they’re moving to a place with a higher cost of living or higher property tax rates.
Will the employee’s spouse be able to do their job remotely from a new location? Will they need to quit and find a new job? If so, they may expect your company to offer spousal support to make up for their lost salary or help them find a new position.
If the employee has children, they’ll need to find new schools for them to attend. They may also need to find other resources for children with special needs or other challenges.
What kinds of tax-related issues will the employee face if they relocate? Will they have a higher state tax rate, for example? How will the sale of their house (if applicable) affect their tax situation?
You will likely need to help your employee navigate these challenges and connect them with a tax expert.
Relocating to a new city, state, or country can be emotionally challenging for everyone involved.
As an HR professional, you’re likely aware of mental and emotional health resources that can help the employee and their family adjust. Share these resources and offer ongoing support and guidance throughout the transition.
Proper communication and coordination can make all aspects of the employee relocation process less stressful. Here are some specific strategies you can utilize to stay connected:
• Reach out early: Give employees plenty of notice regarding their proposed relocation so they have time to consider various factors and decide if it’s the right choice for them and their families. • Reach out often: Stay in touch throughout the transition, letting them know what information you need, what you’ve learned about their new location, etc. • Leave a paper trail: Stick to email and other forms of written communication so you have a paper trail and something to point employees back to if they get confused or seem to misunderstand you. • Set clear deadlines: Always let employees know when you need answers to specific questions, need to receive particular documents, etc. This helps to prevent confusion and saves you from constantly having to chase down information. • Be open to feedback: Let the employee know that you’re open to feedback and want to see what you can help them (within reason) to help them through the move.
Depending on the size of your HR department, you may also want to appoint a specific team member to help oversee the relocation (or at least certain aspects of it). They can help to lighten your load and ensure you have time to handle other parts of your job.
Use technology and digital resources to your advantage throughout the relocation, from planning to helping employees settle in their new place. For example, tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams allow for asynchronous communication and will enable you to overcome potential timezone-related hurdles.
Make sure employees have access to all the tools and technologies needed to do their job remotely in a new location, too. For example, they might need help setting up a high-speed internet connection along with a reliable computer and essential software logins to ensure clear and consistent communication.
Financial and benefits-related issues are some of the most common -- and also most critical -- ones to address when helping an employee relocate. Here are a few topics that will likely arise when organizing an employee relocation.
Will you need to adjust their salary to accommodate a higher cost of living? Are they willing to take a slight pay cut in exchange for being able to work remotely in a new place? Will you need to look into different insurance and benefits options?
Be transparent about what the company can do financially, and avoid making promises you can’t keep. If you don’t know the answer to the question, let the employee know that you’ll find it and get back to them.
You’ll need to consider moving expenses, too. Does your company offer a lump sum to help employees relocate? Will you reimburse them for moving-related costs?
Always review company policies and speak to higher-ups if necessary before making any promises.
Some organizations offer to help employees sell their homes or break leases when relocating. They may even purchase the house if it doesn’t sell by a specific date.
If your company offers incentives like this, share them with your employees and tell them what you can and can’t do.
You may also need to help your employee find a new place to live. This task might involve researching average housing or rental prices in the new area, looking into the best school districts, etc.
Employee relocations -- especially with so many people working remotely these days -- can be tricky, especially when you include factors like buying a new home, choosing an area with good schools, etc.
Luckily, these tried and true best practices can make the process easier for everyone, including you. Keep them in mind as you communicate with your employee and help them plan their next moves.
Nancy Zafrani is the general manager of Oz Moving & Storage. A day-one employee of Oz, she has 30 years of experience in the moving industry. As a lifetime New Yorker, Nancy also has lots of experience dealing with small apartments and organizing. Nancy has many interests. Her hobbies include painting, hiking, and baking.