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Heather Darby

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Tips for Managing a Successful Relocation Process


The average cost of domestic employee relocation is over £60,000. Ramp this up to an international scale and you are looking at costs than can push towards £100,000. Relocation of employees is an expensive process. Nevertheless, it is a process that is routinely undertaken.

Two thirds of companies that operate on the global platform are committed to annual relocation projects. The excessive resource expenditure is outweighed by the benefits of plugging skill gaps with otherwise unattainable talent. Yet, despite the costs, relocation projects are regularly found to be ineffective or unsuccessful. 40% of international work assignments are judged to be failures.

Failure is not simply a part of the process, though. Success in relocation is derived from proper management. Most of the common elements that result in the collapse of working assignments can be avoided entirely, or at least have their effects negated, through proper move management techniques.

Identification of a need for good relocation management, however, is not a solution on its own. In order for projects to be handled properly, those at the helm must know how to formulate and execute a strong relocation campaign.

Set Your Relocation Goals

Pinpointing the exact reason behind your relocation process creates a foundation on which all other management tasks are built. Vague acknowledgements of improving sales will not allow for a focused process that puts the right person in the right place with the right skills.

Clearly identify what the outcome of the move should be and what needs to happen upon settlement for the relocation to be considered a success.

Approach Your Talent

Clear goals mean a clear understanding of who is right for the position. The importance of this cannot be emphasised enough.

The wrong person in the wrong role can derail the whole process. Picking the best and most successful candidate for relocation is about picking the right candidate; not necessarily the employee with greatest seniority or experience.

Based on goals and the location of the relocation, the demands of a position will be different. Carefully evaluate your potential candidates, looking for drawbacks that could result in failure. It’s vital you are critical at this stage, because failure to foresee issues is going to cost your company dearly.

It’s important to note that skills aren't the only factor that should be considered. Attitude and willingness to cooperate are also paramount to success. Less than half of workers would be willing to relocate for work — and while there are ways to negotiate employee relocation, those who aren't eager about the idea are far more likely to leave an assignment early.

Approaching your talent about relocation is about finding a balance between skills and attitude.

Identify Core Relocation Barriers

No matter the employee chosen, there will be barriers to successful relocation. What those barriers are depend on the personality traits, skills and domestic commitments of the assignee.  

Common barriers to success include:

  • Family commitments
  • Anxiety and moving stress
  • Workplace communication issues
  • Cultural barriers
  • Issues settling in and with social integration  

Not every barrier will have an impact. For example, an employee may have no family commitments that cause instability, or they may be well-versed in local culture and customs. However, the opposite may be true.

The key to successfully managing relocation barriers is preparation. Establish what may cause the project to falter and provide supportive actions to remedy said issues. In a previous blog, we discussed how to prepare employees for their relocation.

Construct a Relocation Strategy

No manager needs to be told that planning and forethought is essential to successful project management. Without a comprehensive moving strategy, you open yourself up to unknown variables and invite unforeseen move elements to wreak havoc with your process. A relocation strategy should include the following elements to ensure total control is maintained:

  • Policy — What is your responsibility as manager? What is the responsibility of the business? What are the employee’s responsibilities?
  • Timelines — What has to happen and when?
  • Task Lists — What tasks must be completed? Immigration acquisition and managing an employee’s settling in process are essential parts of this list, for example.
  • Domestic Infrastructure — What is available to the employee and the company in their new location? Is there anything that you’ll need to provide? Sources of education for children, transport to ensure employees can get to work, etc.
  • Resources — What resources, such as finances, do you have and what are your restrictions?
  • Personnel — Who is involved in the move? Not just yourself and the assignee, but third parties such as shipping agencies, as well as other colleagues and family members.
  • Pitfalls — What problems could occur during the move? How can you negate these? Examples include going over-budget and visa problems.

Be Reactive

Relocation projects are, by their nature, often fraught with changes. With so many people involved, so many moving parts and so many emotions flying high, things can and often do change at a moment’s notice. It is important, therefore, for management to be fully prepared for the possibility of change and accept their responsibility in providing the necessary reactive support to accommodate it.

Sticking to a regulated strategy helps negate disaster, but toeing the line too hard can actually create problems. Be adaptive and reactive, respond to change in a way that echoes your previous levels of control without trying to force alterations to fit your current path, and you’ll be set for a successful relocation process.


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