Effective Relo Programs Possible with Tight Job Market, Soft Real Estate Sales

September 19, 2006 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The labor market for skilled employees may be tightening as real estate in most areas of the US continue softening, but that does not mean employers have to give up hope about having an effective and cost-efficient relocation program.

A provider of corporate relo services, Prudential Relocation, said a relocation program that effectively helps attract skilled talent without suffering runaway costs is obtainable – if HR managers stay on top of the details to get the newest ideas available.

“Organizations can have it all and achieve their recruiting, relocation and retention objectives; however, standing still is not an option,” Prudential wrote in a report about its latest relocation survey. “The data in this survey indicates some organizations may be looking in the rearview mirror regarding the urgency of changing labor markets, real estate prices and recruiting strategies. Best practice organizations are implementing new and improved Programs…”

The optimism is well founded, Prudential said, despite the increasing difficulties around the country moving real estate, including many areas where housing inventory has skyrocketed. “Unlike past markets, employees today will likely experience a more difficult time selling their homes due to the higher number of competitive listings,” the company said.

“Recruiting and retaining top employees, some employees’ reluctance to move and companies’ financial constraints with relocation incentives all will be potential challenges with broad impacts on the economy and relocation,” Margery Marshall, Prudential Relocation president, said in a news release.

Building an effective relo program may be as hard as ever, but few companies appear to be fleeing from the whole idea. The majority of respondents (90%) reported that future relocation volume will stay the same or increase. Respondents had high goals: 77% of organizations strive to find an effective balance between premium customer service and cost containment, with neither taking priority.

“The question becomes how do you get it all for the employee, while protecting the organization and its investment,” Marshall said in the release. “Organizations must strike an effective balance between policy provisions that attract and retain the most sought after employees and cost containment procedures that keep budgets in check.”

Prudential said that best relo practices continue to involve offering perks that mirror those made available to current employees at a similar level. The most common exceptions: cost of living allowances (COLA) and Loss on Sale provisions.

The top shelf programs also build in enough flexibility so that the company can be consistent but still be able to react to the demands of individual job candidates.

“It may also be necessary to empower recruiters with the flexibility to apply “off-the-shelf” enhanced benefits to meet needs at an individual level, ” Prudential wrote. “Flexibility is the order of the day. The leading-edge relocation programs offer flexibility and choice and contain costs.”

One example, according to Prudential: offering a candidate a fixed lump sum rather than directly reimbursing certain expenses to the candidate can better direct how the money is used and the hiring employer can help hold down costs.

Prudential polled 150 corporate officials for the survey, which focused on four areas including: recruiting, retention and reluctance to relocate; policy and program parameters; outsourcing, program and supply chain management; and cross-border relocations.

The survey report is here .