Relocating staff is often a good move for firms

When a staffer at tech PR firm SheaHedges Group decided to move from Washington, DC, to Atlanta for personal reasons, executives at the agency feared the loss of a model worker.

When a staffer at tech PR firm SheaHedges Group decided to move from Washington, DC, to Atlanta for personal reasons, executives at the agency feared the loss of a model worker.

"She'd been a really fantastic employee, so we didn't want to lose her," says Lisa Throckmorton, an SVP at SheaHedges. "We decided to help relocate her."

In an industry increasingly focused on global expansion, it's not just the firms spreading far and wide. PR pros are making the decision, whether for personal or professional reasons, to move as well.

SheaHedges spent about $2,000 on helping the staffer move. In contrast, the price tag on a new hire can reach $10,000.

"The cost [for] recruiting and training made it worth investing in relocation," Throckmorton says.

Cost isn't the sole factor for many firms facing relocation dilemmas.

"To find good talent, you need to expand the pool of areas where you source as candidates," notes Throckmorton. "Because we're a niche [agency], it makes sense that we'd recruit from places like San Francisco and Boston. If we find someone who meshes with our firm, it's worth the investment."

Thanks to tools like webcams, videoconferencing, and IM, the distance between a firm and its employees has shrunk.

In the case of multinational firms, relocating isn't just about moving across the country, but around the world. Fleishman-Hillard, with over 80 global offices, has put its relocation policy on the company Intranet. Fleishman will cover all the basic moving costs, which include temporary housing and travel expenses.

Even though the cost in dollars of moving staff to far-flung locales can vary greatly, it's outweighed in other value.

"You automatically see an increase in the working relationship," says Agnes Giaconda, Fleishman's St. Louis-based chief talent officer. "You see more sharing between those two offices going forward. We also see it as a great way to share cultures."

While the firm supports a staffer's right to move, it sets parameters. Often, it won't move a staffer to a small market, not all staff requests for a move are accepted, and certain items, like "a boat or priceless artwork," will not be included.

Manning Selvage & Lee takes a gradual approach to its relocation policy. Those moving domestically can do so for three to nine months; internationally, the move can range from six months to a year. Or, employees can sign on for an assignment that takes place over a fixed period of time.

"[Employees] can stay longer, but this gives them the option to return without being out of the loop too long," says Tara Lilien, the firm's New York-based director of HR.

Global moves aren't that common for MS&L, but when there has been one, the firm has benefited greatly. In fact, according to Lilien, one of MS&L's new co-practice directors was stationed in Paris and London before coming back to New York to assume the promotion. From the firm's perspective, Lilien says, MS&L was able to move "a true star" up the ladder. But the benefits should run both ways, she adds.

"It's important to make sure that the transition for the employee is really smooth," Lilien says. "Make sure that the employee has the best possible experience."

Key points:

Relocating employees can ultimately cost less than bringing in new hires

Both agency and employee should benefit from the relocation experience

Firms can profit from the exchange of cultures and ideas a relocation will bring

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