Top 5 Employee Relocation Missteps to avoid

In today’s mobile and global society, there are more international relocations than ever before, but less time and often fewer resources to make them happen. If your company does not have much experience relocating employees, you may find the challenge overwhelming – but it doesn’t have to be!

Relocations can happen fast. In many cases, employees are expected to report to their new job as little as six weeks after they agree to move, so it’s important that you don’t leave planning until the last minute. Here are our top five missteps to avoid when relocating your employees.

Employee relocation missteps #1: not clearly defining and negotiating the terms

Before you even speak to your employee about relocation, make sure that you have clearly defined relocation policy, and that you are ready to negotiate. If you leave the terms of the relocation to good faith, without creating a proper written relocation agreement, you could be setting yourself  up to do more work, spend more money, and encounter more resistance than you bargained for.

When developing an overseas relocation policy, make sure to include details about expatriate expenses covered and benefits your transferee will receive. This can include cultural training, a home-finding trip, home sale and home buying services, temporary housing, and a reimbursement package. Include information about the length of the relocation, the currency that will be used for the transferee’s salary,  tax deductions, family and spousal assistance, workplace rules the transferee will be bound to,  and the level of security the transferee will have if he/she decides to return to the original location.

Employee relocation missteps #2: slacking on the research or leaving out important information

If you are spearheading the relocations for your company, you will be the transferees’ first source of information. So it’s important to understand everything, from the terms of the relocation policy and workplace culture at the new office, to the culture of the new city, local registration, schools, utilities and housing options. The more confident your transferees are that you are able to provide accurate and helpful information, the more comfortable they will feel (and the easier your job will be!)

You’re not likely to omit resources for the big elements (and big expenses) like the physical move and housing, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to relocation. What about utilities, internet, furniture, healthcare and transportation options? Is your transferee relocating with pets? Will they benefit from understanding their options for language classes, local expatriate groups and hobbies and fitness venues? Of course they will! Make sure to include all these elements and more. Provide plenty of resources to help your transferees achieve a smooth landing and integration. The best way to get help with this task is to take advantage of a relocation company that provides comprehensive and specialized services.

Employee relocation missteps #3: restricting communication or ending it too early

employee relocation missteps

Many relocations fail because the transferee feels isolated during relocation and integration.  That’s why it’s so important that you initiate and maintain lines of communication. In order to help your transferee, the best thing you can do is try to think like him or her – this relocation is the most important thing going on in his/her life right now!

Let your employee know that your door is open. Send check-in emails and plan periodic meetings.  Keep on top of your transferee’s process and offer guidance when sought (or when you feel it will be helpful). Feedback, encouragement and information are crucial to keeping your employer feeling supported and safe.

Understand, too, that the physical move is only the beginning of the relocation process. After that, your transferees face the challenges of  workplace and cultural integration (making friends, learning languages, understanding customs), local registration,  understanding transportation options and much, much more. It’s common for HRs to make the mistake of cutting communication ties too soon and failing to support transferees during the first few crucial months of the move. That’s why it’s so important that you take the time to provide information, assistance and guidance on a more long-term basis.

Employee relocation missteps #4: failing to support families

Employee relocation missteps

As important as a job is to your transferees, their families are even more important. Relocations are just as difficult, if not more so, for spouses and children. Relocating families are leaving schools, jobs, and friends behind.

Include families in the relocation process right from the beginning. Encourage them to participate in tasks and invite them to meetings. Don’t forget to provide resources  and assistance for visa applications, passport fees, local schools, daycares, and job opportunities. Consider the expenses involved with moving whole families, and add them to your budget. It’s been reported that up to 75 per cent of failed relocations end because spouses and children are lonely, homesick and dissatisfied with their new lives, so failing to include them is a recipe for disaster!

Employee relocation missteps #5: repeating past mistakes

It may take more than one relocation to hammer out all the bumps of process, and that’s okay so long as you keep a positive attitude and remember to stay calm (your anxieties will become your transferee’s anxieties.)

The other piece of the puzzle is keeping records of where the process didn’t go so smoothly, and then addressing these problem areas during your next relocation. Establish best practices. For example, if it didn’t go smoothly the first time,  learn form your mistakes when choosing a moving company. Avoid the impulse to go with the cheapest options, or the first company you find. When hiring professional movers, make sure to get estimates for at least three companies and understand all the services they provide.

You should get feedback from your transferees and take it into account moving forward. Learning from experience is the best way to improve the relocation process for everyone involved.

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(Photos: Skyseeker, Goelshivi, Hernán Piñera)

About Christopher

I am an Human Resources professional who specializes in helping transferees and their families successfully relocate to international countries. My years of experience have helped me gain an excellent understanding of the individual needs of each unique relocation. I'm here at to share my knowledge with other HR professionals. // Je suis un expert des Ressources Humaines qui est spécialisé pour aider les relocalisés et leur famille à s’expatrier avec succès vers des pays étrangers. Mes années d’expérience m’ont aidées à acquérir une excellente compréhension des besoins individuels de chaque relocalisation. Je suis ici à afin de partager mes connaissances avec d’autres professionnels des RH.