RELO on the Cheap?

Earlier this year we were engaged to find a senior executive for a leading healthcare organization which would likely involve relocation. Relos have somewhat declined in our practice post-economic meltdown, largely due to the upside-down equity that many Americans have in their home values. That, in turn, forces a very geocentric talent search – starting out in the area the client is based and usually expanding state-wide, then regionally and eventually nationally. We’ve certainly done a number of relos in the past few years and employers, while interested in having a broad slate of candidates to choose from, still seem to be stuck in the fall of 2008 – afraid to make the relocation investment to find the perfect candidate.

I was asked earlier in the year to conduct a national search, but to make sure the candidate understood that the client was offering a relocation-lite. Less filling – got it! So exactly what does that mean? To some it’s a U-Haul and a Chick-Filet sandwich, while others put a cap on actual expenses incurred for moving expenses only. Both send a very clear message to the new recruit about the value they’re place on them – leaving the new hire to deal with the massive losses they’ll likely incur trying to unload the old address while hoping they’ll see upside on their new home. It’s a very delicate issue, but one that needs some careful thought and consideration to keep from sending out the wrong message.

One way to accomplish this is take a broader look at the hiring process of someone who will require relocation.

This includes:
A salary adjustment (if the cost of living is higher in the new location).
At least two trips to the new location so the family can visit the area and select the right neighborhood, find a home, schools, and make sure everyone (really) loves the new town.
Hiring and paying for a professional relocation to manage the many details of the new employee’s relocation on behalf of the company.
Reimbursement expenses like packing, materials, insurance and transportation to the new location.
Temporary housing, if required (I’ve commonly seen 3-6 months).
Some financial off-set to aid the employee in selling their old home. This may include making a fixed number of mortgage payments or paying a relocation flat bonus amount in an effort to help the new employee. Most organizations no longer buy homes as the risk to far too great in this (still) declining real estate market.
Some organizations offer low interest (recoverable) loans to help with down payments or if the new employee has to show up at the closing table with a check in order to sell their underwater home.

It’s still a bit dicey out there, and employers have to be creative and compassionate when it comes to dealing with relocation issues. While the offer of the U-Haul and Chick-Filet are appreciated – Relo-lite tastes bad in so many other ways.