Locking It Down

Relocation is expensive, and it doesn’t pay if the employee doesn’t stay

Back Article Mar 4, 2015 By Suzanne Lucas

Last year, I paid someone to relocate for a position with our company. I had the person sign a contract requiring repayment if she left before one year. At one year and two weeks, she quit. Now I need to find someone else, and it’s looking like I need to recruit from out of the area again. Are there any tips you can give me for making sure that the person doesn’t run out the door? I need someone stable in this position.

Relocation can be very tricky. People choose where they live for a variety of reasons. Some people flit around the globe with no problem adjusting to new people and cultures, and others freak out when they move five miles away from Mom. You’d think the people taking a relocation package would belong to the first group, but sometimes people don’t know what group they are in until they pack up and move.

So here are some tips for making sure the person you’re hiring is going to be OK with relocating.

Related: Reader Poll – What would it take for you to relocate? 

Don’t just bring out the candidate, bring out the spouse. Once you’ve made the decision to make an offer to a candidate, invite them to come visit (on your dime) with their spouse or significant other. Arrange for a real estate agent to show them houses, and talk about schools, neighborhoods, restaurants and other regional amenities. The spouse is often the most important factor in wanting to quit and move back home. After all, your employee has a new job to go to every day and can make friends at the office, but the spouse is often plopped into a new town with no job, friends or family. They are tasked with setting up everything from electricity to registering kids in school. The spouse needs to be on board, or the relocation will fail.

Be extremely honest. Companies often play up the good parts and neglect to mention the bad. While you should be honest in every job interview, this is more critical in relocation cases because you’re spending a tremendous amount of money up front, and you’re asking someone to uproot their entire life. Say straight out, “Here are the trials you’ll face,” and then list everything from repeated revisions requested from senior management and fire drills at 5 p.m. on Fridays to petty arguing between two departments. Don’t whitewash anything. Yes, your preferred candidate might run screaming after you explain that the senior VP is often irrational, but you’d lose that person shortly anyway.

Offer support on arrival. Your new employee will need lots of time off at the beginning, because moving requires time at the house. The new employee can’t even work from home until the internet is set up, and she’ll need to be at home to meet the installer. Cars have to be registered, new doctors found and so on. If there is a firm in your town that specializes in relocation, hire them to help guide your new employee through all of that. If you can, put together a welcome basket from the current staff with local foods, lists of trusted doctors, dentists and day cares, a list of good local stores, the best nonchain restaurants and anything else that makes your area unique.

Target your job search for people you think might want to live in your area. For instance, you can advertise jobs on Facebook to people who list your town as their hometown but currently live elsewhere. If you have a college or university nearby, try their alumni network — these people have already lived in your city and may be happy to return. Look for candidates in cities of similar size with similar amenities. A native of New York City will probably have more trouble adjusting to Sacramento than someone from Milwaukee or Colorado Springs.

Lastly, why did your previous employee quit at the one year mark? Was it really the relocation, or was it the company? Or (gulp) do you stink as a manager? If the last person quit and moved directly back to where she came from, you can probably chalk it up to a failed relocation. If she’s sticking around or moving to a third location, you probably need to evaluate if it was the job that failed, rather than the relocation. Now is the time to evaluate all of those things — before you attempt to recruit again.

Remember, the No. 1 reason people quit is they don’t like their manager, so make sure the problem isn’t you. Don’t give up hope. Sometimes new hires just don’t work out. Be extra careful the next time around, and you’ll have a good chance for a successful match.


Stew (not verified)March 5, 2015 - 10:42am

I very much doubt the person is leaving at 1 year 2 weeks because if the left earlier than 1 year they had to pay back. They are leaving because they don't like the company. Address the problem, not what you can see. You don't put out fire by throwing water at smoke.

grannybunny (not verified)March 6, 2015 - 10:41am

Some Federal agencies require a 2-year commitment for paid relocation. That being said, the important thing is finding why this employee left, if at all possible. It could be mere coincidence -- that right around the 1-year mark, an offer was received that was simply "too good to refuse" -- but it could also be something about your company that needs addressing. Good luck!

Laura Matrisciano (not verified)March 9, 2015 - 7:58am

We are seeing more 2+ year payback agreements in the relocation industry for many reasons. I agree with some of the comments made here. What did your exit interview disclose as to whey the employee gave notice and left?

Mike Canning (not verified)March 9, 2015 - 9:05am

Along the honesty line noted in the blog, recruiting firms are often used in the candidate sourcing process. Their motivation typically focuses on merely filling the seat, rather than on a long term fit. Be sure to have that conversation on the realities of the move, such as cost of living, lifestyle, infrastructure, public transportation, education, and specific family concerns.

Longer term agreements, such as two year, or one year after final expenses are processed, are becoming more commonplace, especially for homeowners, as their move can take most of a year or longer to complete.

Kinga (not verified)March 19, 2015 - 8:01am

Many times an unsuccessful relocation for an employee transfers to their work and can lead them to have a tough time settling in. There are a number of factors that influence an unsuccessful relocation, but employee engagement is one of the most significant. At UrbanBound we focus on all things when it comes to employee relocations, and we have many blogs and ebooks that you might find useful:
Budgeting for Success: Educate Relocating Employees on Cost of Living - http://www.urbanbound.com/blog...
5 Things Your Relocating Employee Needs to Know http://www.urbanbound.com/blog...
How to Prepare Your Employee for Relocation - http://www.urbanbound.com/blog...

UrbanBound is a Relocation Management Software that prepares your relocating employee for the first day in your new office. Stocked with hyperlocal content on the area and information about their new work environment – from directions to the office to the dress code – UrbanBound’s platform equips them with the information they need to start your job off on the right foot. http://www.urbanbound.com

Visitor (not verified)April 13, 2015 - 10:43am

In exit interviews, young workers leaving a company often mention being disillusioned with their company’s philosophy and culture, and it’s most often blamed on their immediate supervisor. The quality of the relationship of a millennial worker with a supervisor is critical to job satisfaction and retention, and it should be a key area of focus for HR team members.


Charlotte (not verified)November 21, 2016 - 11:54pm

My daughter was in the sac fashion week feb 2015 and I was told a picture of her was in your magazine. I am trying to find and buy a copy of this. Thanks!

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