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Relocating Employees HR Managers Must Take Charge of the Process

March 1, 1996
Related Topics: Downsizing, Relocation Services, Featured Article
If large numbers of employees are going to be relocated to other company sites when one site closes, the company should anticipate certain issues. Employees will want to communicate with a central person—someone who'll be attentive to their concerns and fears about moving.

They'll want to be briefed on the new environment into which they're moving and be allowed to take their families to investigate the new area.

Some employees will have special family needs or personal interests that need to be addressed. There also will be a need to distinguish between the considerations the employee will be responsible for and those the company will be responsible for. Lastly, employees and their families will have general anxiety about relocating, and this may become a serious issue—depending on how it's handled and the strength of the support systems.

A company would be wise to appoint a relocation coordinator who'll be a central contact for employees and ensure consistency in how relocations are managed. This central person can also give feedback on how others are doing and suggest resources that may address the specific needs of families. At the suggestion of our coordinator, we initiated seminars on moving for the whole family. They provided useful information about what a family might expect, along with tips for making the move a more positive experience.

The relocating employees themselves can form a powerful support system to help facilitate the relocation process. Encouraging relocating families to get together informally can help establish invaluable contacts that will greatly foster a sense of community within the group. An informal relocation newsletter, sponsored either by the company or the relocatees, can provide useful information and tips and offer suggestions to employees on what works well and what doesn't. Sometimes this information is more valuable to relocating employees than any the company might provide.

Depending on the new location and availability of housing, families may have problems finding adequate temporary living arrangements. If feasible, the company can intervene and negotiate with realtors to secure temporary arrangements as a block, with a specified number of units and a time commitment. This approach necessitates prior awareness of employees' housing needs through data-gathering. In the long run, families have one less headache to contend with, and the arrangements can prove cost effective for both employees and the company.

One process that could have been implemented more smoothly during our closure process was the relocation of transferring employees to our New Mexico site. Before the actual relocation period, only a cursory relocation policy and procedures handbook was produced. This did nothing but foster questions and attempts by individual employees to negotiate with both the corporate and plant human resources departments. Complicating matters further was the inconsistency in the answers from each of the relocation representatives at the three sites. Had issues and potential problems been more carefully evaluated and dealt with earlier, there would have been less need for individual counseling and problem-solving throughout the relocation process.

Personnel Journal, March 1996, Vol. 75, No. 3, p. 97.

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