Improving Executive Relocation

June 16, 2016

Improving Executive Relocation

By Sara Boehm

In today’s tight talent market, successful employee relocation is imperative.

Finding the right talent to fill open roles, especially executive level roles, is an ongoing challenge faced by many HR departments across the country as well as across the globe. And oftentimes this challenge necessitates relocating the right talent to wherever that role may be. Companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars recruiting and relocating the optimal talent; however, the lump sum or dedicated resources they provide for relocation, housing, and moving assistance often isn’t enough. With upwards of $25 billion spent annually on relocating employees, how do companies balance the ever-challenging task of limiting expenditures while also protecting the human capital they fight so hard to attract?

Top Relocation Pain Points

What makes moving painful? We can all likely agree that packing, house hunting, unpacking, and orchestrating a move are huge headaches. Most employers recognize and seek to alleviate much of this pain through offering money or resources to help employees get from point A to point B as seamlessly as possible. While excellent logistical and house hunting services and support services exist, it is the more emotional challenges of moving that can keep an employee unsettled for months after the move.

The emotional stress of relocation is real, and for employees who are accompanied by their families (as is often the case for C-suite executives), it is further compounded by the fact that other’s lives are being impacted as well. In fact, family resistance ranks as the #1 reason employees are hesitant to relocate, highlighting the significant impact that one’s family’s happiness (and one’s own comfort) can have throughout the entire process, even after the relocation has taken place. In many cases, a move is less about the employee him/herself but rather about each individual in the family unit—a wife or husband, a son or daughter—and how they are adapting. At Essential Engagement Services we see it everyday. The emotional impact that relocating can have on every person involved is real and can be lasting if not approached in a healthy and open manner.

Successful Settling In = Increased Productivity and Stronger Employee Engagement

Once physically settled, employees and their families face these emotional and mental challenges that can accompany relocating to a new community. Whether across the country or across the globe, having their lives and routines uprooted while rebuilding new ones elsewhere is exciting, but also tiring and—at times—discouraging. It can take up to one year to fully adjust and acclimate. The settling in process therefore lasts much longer than the physical move, and can be the difference between a loyal and long-term employee and one who is less engaged or even eventually quits. If the employee or one member of his/her family is struggling in the new environment, this greatly decreases that employee’s engagement and the distractions hinder his/her ability to effectively lead. SHRM highlights that the first 90 days on the job are the most critical for all employees to be engaged and to prove themselves and their worth to their team and to the company. And this is especially true as you move higher up the corporate ladder. Company leaders need to be able to focus and acclimate themselves during this critical transition time.

What You Can Do to Help Guide Successful Settling In

How do you set newly relocated employees up for success in those first 90 days (and throughout that critical first year after the relocation)? By considering each element of the onboarding experience. After a physical relocation is complete, it becomes important to provide employees with the right information, resources, and guidance to enable them to prepare and create a smooth transition emotionally and mentally. Equally as important is recognizing the family’s impact and providing them with the information and support they need to do the same. The first step is to acknowledge the impact that uprooting lives can have on an employee and their family and to provide resources for those who would like additional guidance and advice to ease the process. International assignees often receive more support and resources to help them adjust to new cultural challenges they are likely to face; however, for all moves—especially for domestic ones—the emotional impact seems to often end up forgotten while other immediate tangible issues (logistical or geographic) are dealt with.

As a complement to the great help already provided to many employees during the move, from packing to loading and shipping to house hunting and unpacking, consider ways to provide them with the acknowledgment, guidance, and encouragement they need during this transitional time. From customized care packages like those we have created at Essential Engagement Services, to designing your own resource kit, to connecting new employees with others who have recently moved, helping newly relocated employees and their families through the most challenging part of the relocation benefits the employee as well as the company.  For minimal resources and effort, your company can be an employer who truly helps its leaders and their families happily settle in.

The Authors: 

Sara Boehm is founder and CEO of Essential Engagement Services, which provides resources to help employees and their families successfully adjust to the mental and emotional challenges of relocation. Author of The Essential Moving Guide For Families and other books, Boehm offers practical advice and encouragement regarding all aspects of the process of relocation, especially focusing on those moving their children. She can be reached at Twitter: