Relocation – A Key Hiring Issue

By Bill & Chris Sitter

Relocation is a common occurrence in today’s highly mobile marketplace. Managers often move their families, across the state or the country, to accept a promotion or to join a new employer in a key role. Years ago, most equipment dealers could rely on promoting from within, or hiring from the area, to fill vital slots. However, as many job requirements get more specific, recruitment of new leadership talent often entails a major relocation. Moving a family from Florida to Iowa, or California to Maryland, entails a major financial investment and has the potential to be either a very positive or a negative experience for the manager, for his or her family and for the dealership.

Our firm has been helping dealers, manufacturers, rental companies and industry managers work through relocations, for nearly 30 years. So, let’s explore key issues and how to overcome related challenges. We’ll start by assuming you have determined that your potential new hire (or internal candidate for promotion and relocation) meets your position spec, “fits” your culture, and wants to join your dealership. Be sure you’ve “counted the cost” before even considering long distance recruiting. Placing Ms. or Mr. Right in a critical role should yield returns many times over the cost of the move but relocations are costly: packing & moving, Realtor fees and closing costs, temporary lodging, commuting and house hunting trips, income tax offsets and miscellaneous expenses can easily add-up to $30K to $50K. So, plan for this in advance to remove related tension at hiring time.

Relocation Tips

  • Clarify the location in the job spec, so all applicants understand, right up-front, the need to promptly move to a designated area.
  • Insist that serious candidates respond, in writing, regarding their commitment to promptly relocate the family. They should address delayed timing issues due to schooling, spouse’s job, etc.
  • Sell your area, as well as your company and the new opportunity. Our experience proves that every location, from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, to central Nebraska, to Cajun country, has appealing features. Realtors, your Chamber of Commerce and helpful websites are great resources. Promote the pluses: schools, cost of living, seasons or weather, recreation, entertainment, family environment, the excitement of a city or the quiet of the country.
  • Get the spouse involved early. Determine his or her “hot buttons” to see if a family move is really doable and to avoid wasting time.
    • How attached is she/he to present home or community?
    • Family ties or aging parent issues?
    • Spouse’s job, if employed outside the home, and how important is it?
    • Special education needs?
    • What do they seek in a new location: schools, church, type of home, activities?
    • What info would she/he like to have about your locale? How much do they already know?
    • Any friends or relatives here?
  • Determine relocation assistance expectations and costs:
    • Home sales/purchase assistance – Realtor fees, etc.
    • Packing and moving.
    • Travel for house hunting or commuting.
    • Temporary lodging and anything else that costs money.

For a managerial hire you’ll want to meet, face-to-face, two or maybe three times. By the second visit we suggest inviting the spouse. This accomplishes many good things. It affords an opportunity to see how she/he will likely fit into your company culture and the community, and it gives them quality Realtor time to investigate neighborhoods, schools, clubs, etc. We recommend a very nice hotel arrangement and a schedule that’s not too rushed but does include a nice dinner with the hiring authority and spouse. Even a short visit to your home will make a big hospitality impact on candidates and spouses.

Once you have checked all the hiring boxes you are ready to discuss the offer of employment. There should be no surprises and your winner ought to be ready to sign and start planning to relocate.

One final thought. Because relocation represents a sizable investment, we recommend that the offer letter include a repayment obligation clause. If the new hire leaves, on their own, in 12 to 24 months, they agree to a pro-rated repayment of specified relocation expenses.

We hope these comments will help you effectively deal with future hiring-relocation issues, so a potential nightmare is turned into a positive experience that allows your new leader to hit the ground running, just as soon as possible. Happy hunting and happy hiring.