Managing Employee Relocation to an ‘Unpopular’ Destination

Moving to a new city generally is seen as an exciting life event; however, this isn’t always the case. Not all cities

Two travelers walk in an airport

Moving to a new city generally is seen as an exciting life event; however, this isn’t always the case. Not all cities are created equally. It isn’t that certain ones are definitively better than others – some are simply more suited for a particular person’s needs. This can be a challenge when an organization needs to relocate staff to a city that the particular employee views as “less than ideal.” 

The reasons for this can vary greatly. It could be far from family and friends, have fewer amenities, or be substantially colder or hotter than their current city. Whatever the reason(s), don’t ignore or dismiss their hesitation. Happy employees are productive employees – not to mention ones that won’t leave at the first available offer. You may not be able to call off the relocation, but there are several steps you can take to improve their outlook toward the move.

Find out why they’re concerned

It’s important to speak with employees – individually, if possible – about the upcoming relocation to see how they are feeling about it. If they express hesitation, ask questions to try and ascertain why that may be the case. Depending on their response, there could be some relatively easy solutions to help address their concerns. For example, are they worried about finding a home or school that’s on par with the one they currently have? If that’s the case, you could help them find a real estate agent who specializes in the type of home and/or neighborhood they are hoping to find.  

Even if there isn’t an immediate way to alleviate their concerns, giving your employees the opportunity to openly share their thoughts can go a long way in making them feel better. It shows your organization cares about how they’re feeling and how the relocation is being positioned to them. 

Offer additional perks

The best way to get acclimated to a new city is to get out and enjoy it. For some employees, this won’t be a problem. Others may need a “nudge,” so to speak. Your organization can help with this by offering perks beyond their normal benefits package, such as: 

  • Give them a monthly “acclimation” stipend: Some people may be hesitant to spend their own money to try new restaurants, visit local attractions or take a class, but these are all great ways to get employees excited about their new home. You can remove this hurdle by offering them a monthly stipend specifically to use on getting out of the house. It’s probably best budget-wise to limit this to the first few months, but the ROI could be high considering how much it costs to replace an employee alternatively.
  • Host a city tour: If you’re relocating a group of employees, consider planning a tour (expenses paid) of the new city with stops at local hotspots. Not only does this help the group get a taste for what the city has to offer, but it can also help boost camaraderie among the transferees. 
  • Reimburse them for return trips: It’s not necessarily good to have employees linger over their former home, but some may have legitimate reason to do so, such as friends or family still living there or hobbies unique to the area. Whether it’s a one-time or ongoing reimbursement, offering to cover expenses for these trips can have a big impact on how they view the move.  
  • Augment your standard employee relocation policy: If they already aren’t excited about the move, burdening them with some of the more stressful aspects of moving is only going to make things worse. There are a number of employee relocation benefits you can add such as home-finding services, home-marketing assistance, and temporary housing. These extra benefits can show them that your organization understands the sacrifice they are making and that they are valued for it. 

Reclassify the assignment as a temporary one

This certainly won’t work for every transferee, but if it’s feasible for them to return at some point, consider giving them the option of classifying the relocation as a temporary assignment. This makes it clear that this move isn’t forever, allowing them to focus on what they gain from it rather than what they may be giving up. Obviously, there will need to be some long-term planning regarding how their position will be staffed after the assignment is completed; but if this is an employee your organization can’t afford to give up, this strategy could help keep them from starting to wonder what else is out there.

While most relocations are cause for celebration, there can be bittersweet moments – more so for some individuals than others. A little bit of empathy and consolation can go a long way toward alleviating the dismay employees may be feeling about their upcoming relocation. If you need help with an upcoming employee relocation – particularly one that may be met with some resistance – we’d love to help!