Moving your home is difficult enough. Moving your home and your job is slightly more difficult. A company which is moving its staff needs to make their transition as smooth as possible. Productivity and staff retention are at stake.
There are many organisations who specialise in assisting companies in relocation, but for those who wish to take personal control, this can be the biggest headache ever for a HR manager – especially if it’s your first time.
- Statement of intent
- Financial aspects
- Emotional aspects
- Physical aspects
Relocation needs to be undertaken with the precision of a military operation. Once people know they are being relocated, then there is the potential for panic – no-one initially will want to move, due to the upheaval and that tendency of not wanting to step outside of the comfort zone.
Because of this, HR departments have to out-think staff and make sure all their queries are covered. A ‘moving pack’, which can be taken home and discussed with loved ones, is essential. It’s a good idea also to arrange a staff presentation and offer counselling with the staff so their minds can be put at ease. Where possible this should really also include spouses and others involved.
Statement of intent
This may only be a brief paragraph, but it should explain why the company is looking to move. It should let the staff know the reasons for the move, the possibilities that it will open up and the future.
Make it perfectly clear as to who this scheme is intended for. This may break down to those above a certain level of staff, or those on a certain salary band. Make sure that it is definitive and people aren’t confused as to whether they qualify or not.
Moving a house is not cheap. There are some costs that will be incurred that wouldn’t have happened had the person not been relocating. ‘Because the company initiates the transfers,’ says James Miller, HR director, ‘it’s only reasonable that the company should provide financial support for these relocation moves. The payments are designed to encourage staff to accept these moves willingly.’ Things to consider include:
- What is the minimum distance of relocation to qualify for the financial assistance?
- What are the tax implications?
- Will you buy the present house from the member of staff?
- Will you give a loan to cover buying a new house before the present one is sold?
- Will you meet the expense of selling the house privately – real estate agents, lawyers, packing, removal and other costs incurred?
- Will you give a travel allowance should staff decide not to move and commute the distance?
- Who pays if they have to go into rented accommodation and for how long?
- Do staff have to take days out of their holiday allowance to cover house hunting and moving?
- What happens if they then leave the company?
A new home, new surroundings, you may have only recently moved into the last area or you may have been there all your life, but there is more to consider when moving to a new location apart from just the quickest route to work.
‘It was a complete nightmare,’ says Julie Green, a personnel manager for an insurance firm. ‘There were three senior managers who had teenage children studying for final exams. In the end we organised a three-day week in the new offices, staying in hotels and homeworking for the other two days until the exams were over.’
Things staff will require information about will include:
- Education – how many schools for each age group, what the standards are and community reputation
- House prices – year-on-year change, average price for various size houses and the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ areas to live
- Transport – getting there and away, travelling whilst they’re there, availability to highways, train stations and airports
- Crime rates
- Entertainment – restaurants, leisure centres, cinemas and clubs
- A demographic cross-section of the local population
- Unemployment statistics
‘Once we thought everything was all sorted, then came all the holiday request forms for moving houses,’ says James Miller. ‘It was then we thought that, as we were making them move, why should we make them take days off/vacation to look for a house? It is this sort of thing you don’t think of initially, but which makes all the difference.’
Provide a list of names, addresses and costs (and discounts if possible) for:
- Moving companies
- Storage companies
- Real estate agents – who will book up a special day to show your staff around
When planning company relocation, many HR personnel feel that they are just too busy to have an ‘open door’ policy for all their staff wondering whether they will be able to get “Timmy’s” at the new location. This doesn’t have to be the case, but there does have to be specific times when those with questions have the chance to ask them.
With any relocation, the first objective is to win over the staff. This is best done with a presentation. Take time out to tell everyone what is happening – this is probably best coming from the managing director, or most senior member of staff on site. Let them explain to everyone why the move is taking place, where they are moving to and what is happening to those who are left behind. It is now that the moving packs need to be distributed and everyone allowed time to absorb what has been said and what the implications are.
For some people, there may be the need for a more personal, one-to-one touch. Some companies provide access to a counsellor for staff to talk with if they feel everything is getting too much.
This could just be a specially appointed, sensitive member of the staff or a professional organisation who are used to providing this sort of support. This is a delicate area. Counselling must be undertaken by someone who can be trusted to be completely confidential. Irreparable damage can be done if staff secrets and worries seep out into the workplace.
Relocation is a testing time for all involved. The best way of surviving and emerging unscathed from the experience has to come down to one word. Preparation. If you know what to expect and prepare well for it, then you’ve got a good chance.