Relocation in four easy steps

Jan 18, 2017

Building a relocation program to recruit and retain talent in the design industry should be a primary focus of any sound HR program.

You’ve been there before. You’ve spent time sourcing, researching, and recruiting the best candidates for a variety of roles within your company. Several are local, but the best candidate for the job may require relocation. What do you do? How do you do it? What should you be willing to pay to relocate great talent?

All of these are great questions to ask.

According to Zweig Group’s 2016 Recruitment & Retention Survey, almost two-thirds of all design firms now pay for relocation, and 97 percent of those firms pay for the relocation of new employees.

The design industry may not be equipped to relocate and transfer talent like a Fortune 500 company can. But not having deep pockets doesn’t mean that firms can’t come up with relocation plans that will simultaneously attract new talent while helping current employees transfer internally from one location to another.

Here are four steps to building a good relocation program:

  1. Determine your spending parameters in advance for candidates you recruit who need to relocate to work with your firm. You need to consider all travel expenses involved in the process. These expenses could include the initial trip to interview, possibly a scouting trip for renting or buying a home, and depending on the level of the candidate, you may need to cover the travel costs of the candidate’s fiancé/spouse and family members. When it comes to travel and expenses relating to a particular hire, we certainly encourage firms to look at the overall cost per hire in addition to lost revenue realized when you don’t have a critical need filled. Don’t cut corners in this area of relocation expenses. Spend the money!
  2. You need to factor the need for temporary housing and corporate housing when and where necessary. You may be able to use an extended stay hotel or corporate rental housing program with new employees who are relocating to join forces with your firm. These arrangements can either be set up internally and paid for by the company, or you agree to cover those costs for a specified period and have the amount reflected in the lump-sum relocation payment extended to a candidate. A firm can control some costs by negotiating special rates with reputable extended-stay hotels like Residence Inn, or Candlewood Suites. Obviously, there are many others, and you need to identify one that has the greatest amount of coverage in the areas where your firm has locations.
  3. You need to make sure you provide enough money for the candidate to move their household items. Household goods, shipping, and storage, are one of the largest expenses related to a relocation. Packing up and moving can be easy for one person in a one or two bedroom apartment. Moving a family of five from a 3,000-square-foot home to another similarly sized home entails a ton of costs. There are many relocation calculators out there that will give you a good estimate of costs associated with moving a household from one place to another. These should be used as often as possible to help you determine your budget. Two sites that come to mind are and Every factor enters into play when determining moving costs including location, distance to travel, the size of the household, whether movers are involved or if the employee will move, etc.
  4. You need to get a good realtor involved. Whether your candidate is renting or buying, a realtor that’s a relocation specialist should be instrumental in helping you make the transition easier. The realtor can be a part of your recruitment team and even alert you early in the process if relocation will be a problem due to affordability or the candidate not finding what they like in a home or neighborhood.

I wish relocation costs and plans were an exact science, but they are not. You almost always have to operate on a case-by-case basis with each candidate that you wish to relocate. It’s always best to strive for relative uniformity when granting relocation benefits to applicants or employees. The lump-sum payment model is one way to keep your relocation costs in line.

Obviously, we could go in a multitude of directions with this information, but I wanted to share what we believe is a solid foundation for building a relocation program for your firm.

Please reach out to me at Zweig Group for further clarification and help with your relocation process. Our team has been in the business of recruitment consulting for almost three decades, and we feel like we’ve seen just about everything. Find out more here:


Randy Wilburn is director of executive search at Zweig Group. Contact him at

This article is from issue 1181 of The Zweig Letter. Interested in more management advice every week from Mark Zweig, the Zweig Group team, and a talented list of other guest writers? Click here to subscribe or get a free trial of The Zweig Letter.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.