Relocation considerations Featured

1:03pm EDT September 20, 2006
What does it take to successfully recruit top executives from outside the area? More than the promise of a plush office, a great salary and an impressive job title, according to a recent survey by Robert Half International, a staffing service specializing in accounting, finance and information technology fields. The survey, which polled 1,400 chief financial officers (CFOs) across the country, found that quality of life was the most-cited reason to take a job, followed closely by compensation.

“Taking a new job in a new area is not a decision based solely on money,” says Tom Young, vice president of the Houston Region for Robert Half International. “We have found that the quality of life of a location is even more important than salary.”

Smart Business spoke with Young about how companies can use the best qualities in their city, town or region to “sell” a position to top executives.

What does this mean for employers looking to attract executives or offer current executives a position in another location?
Employers may assume that the single most important factor is compensation. While this is obviously still very important, employers need to highlight what makes the new area advantageous over the current location. Many already know this but need to articulate it to the candidate. Some of the qualities that distinguish an area include cultural attractions, safety of the environment, quality of schools, diversity of the city, the commuting time, and recreation opportunities. The selling point cannot be solely that it is a good financial opportunity.

How can firms highlight the quality of life in their city and make sure they have an attractive package to offer relocating employees?
Get a team together of marketing, human resources or other staff to put together a marketing package for employees who are looking to relocate. Partner with other members in your community, such as the Chamber of Commerce or a visitors/relocation agency to put together brochures, statistics and other information that highlight the quality-of-life aspects of a particular area. Make sure all those who are involved in the recruiting effort have quality-of-life speaking points they can discuss about the city or area.

The distance of the move is often less important than factors such as the new city’s cost of living. Employers need to make sure that the relocating individual (and family) will make a smooth transition; this includes a relocation package with all of these details spelled out.

What elements are typically included in a relocation package?
All companies are different, but some typical expenses included are temporary housing assistance, assistance in selling current home, travel and lodging costs, as well as assistance in finding work for the person’s spouse.

Some generous packages even include all housing costs, realtor’s fees, closing costs, and even financial support for the family to go back and visit family and friends in the former location.

Do you have any tips for a relocating executive?
Professionals already know what they are looking for in a new area, whether it be good schools, a safe environment or whatever. But they also need to be keenly aware of the cost-of-living differences, since these numbers can easily be manipulated to make things look very good, when in fact they may not be.

For example, if a company says that the cost-of-living difference from one city to another is 5 percent, and therefore that will be the increase of the compensation, executives should take that number and do their own research. What did the company include in factoring that cost of living increase? For example, did it fail to include car insurance, which is higher in the new city, or utilities? If the cost of living is 17 percent higher, for example, and the executive can prove it, he or she has a good reason to use that to negotiate a higher salary.

Good places to look for accurate cost-of-living comparisons are Web sites such as www.Salary.com, which includes all those factors. As professionals negotiate salary, they need to do their homework and make sure they are comparing apples to apples.

The bottom line is that professionals need to determine what elements of an employment package are most important to them so they can ensure a move won’t compromise their quality of life.

TOM YOUNG is vice president of the Houston Region for Robert Half International (www.rhi.com), a staffing service specializing in accounting, finance and information technology professionals with more than 330 locations throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Reach Young at (713) 623-4700, or thomas.young@rhi.com.