Within any complex task, specializations are bound to arise. This is definitely true within the relocation industry, where services ranging from moving logistics to outplacement are contracted to providers designated to focus on a single aspect of the move.
These helping hands can be a boon to those changing locations. They can also result in gaps between areas of responsibility – and those gaps can become pretty large when the helping hands are being extended from afar.
The relocation model of the past
When executives and employees get a new job or change office locations, various services are often contracted to assist with recruiting (job placement), outplacement (resumes and spousal assistance), moving logistics (boxes, shipping and transportation), household goods (furniture), housing (real estate agents, extended stay properties and apartments) and financing (loans).
Many of the services are often rolled into one overall provider, usually referred to as a third-party relocation company. It’s this multi-billion dollar global mobility industry that transfers the majority of recruits around the country and around the world.
This industry is in many ways designed for those with an employee mindset, whose main interest was to find a job, paycheck and opportunity, irrespective of location. Put another way, our parents and grandparents certainly faced trials and inconveniences at the prospect of moving, but for them, the city in which the opportunity was found is nowhere near the deal breaker it can be for recruits today.
Compensation packages alone may not be enough to entice most sought-after talent to pick up and move. Instead, a new generation of talent can also prioritize lifestyle factors such as culture, community and personal connection – often way ahead of homebuying and selling considerations. Questions like “Can I sell my house in time?” or “Have I negotiated the best salary?” might also include “Will it be cool?” or “Will my spouse or family find the life they want?” or “Does the community share my interests and values?”
Sure, housing, compensation and management still matter to transferees and always will. But these days, they also want to talk about their interests, hobbies, health, politics, beliefs, connections and friends. Yes, the company can promise to be diverse and inclusive. But what about the city it calls home? Where can recruits safely talk about their values, hopes and dreams for the loved ones moving with them?
Recruits today are hungry for open, transparent discussions about sensitive topics like race, segregation, dating life and aging parents. They need an on-the-ground resource who knows the ethnic markets, clubs, nonprofit boards, hidden shopping gems, hair salons, and where to find an authentic New York slice.
The question of how a recruiter, remote relocation counselor or third-party relocation company talks about a region they have never visited is no longer rhetorical. Prospective employees want to be assisted by people who have their finger on the pulse.
The ENTIRE industry is really geared toward bringing people from the “Springfields” of the world to major cities like New York, Seattle, Dallas and San Francisco – first-tier markets that don’t need to be “sold.” But when folks begin leaving the coasts and coming to the middle, a different specialization is needed – and the industry is not currently set up for that.
Hiring the wrong person to open the wrong doors
Employers who recognize the gaps in the current relocation model may choose to forgo a third-party relocation company for the services of a Realtor, even before the candidate has decided whether they would like to relocate here.
That's unfair to the Realtor. They’re being asked to spend hours or days of work showing someone around when they might not even be living here. The incentives for Realtors to do this work are not sufficient, especially in the short term. They might get paid later, through commission sales – if and when candidates or new hires purchase a home using their services. But what if someone isn't yet sure about moving in the first place, let alone ready to decide on renting versus buying?
Not that a wonderful house isn't motivating – just like a wonderful salary, it does have its attraction for recruits. But the time and focus on the search for that perfect house is misaligned when done too early. Once the move is official, and the recruit knows they are definitely coming, then they can proceed with where they might live and meet with an agent.
Another reason the pre-decision stage isn’t the best time for a house tour is that the prospective hire may feel they have to pretend to be more interested than they are in order to get the full lay of the land from the Realtor. This is where specialization is actually a protective factor for real estate professionals.
Helping prospective buyers decide whether a community will be the right fit for them is part of the job for which they can't get paid … and which would be unethical or even illegal for them due to professional ethics codes and housing discrimination legislation. When prospects are trying to decide whether or not to move to a new place, they have a lot of personal, family, and lifestyle matters to explore that, by law, Realtors and employers can’t discuss.
Likewise, a company like Acclimate that is free to discuss these sensitive issues does not accept any commissions or fees on the eventual decision of whether to relocate or which housing choice to make. Our job is to showcase culture, community, and lifestyle options – and only that.
We're bifurcating the relocation process. Not only does this ensure that each of us continues to do the job we’re best at, it helps avoid gaps in knowledge that might be crucial to a candidate’s decision (and to their long-term satisfaction afterward).
A future-focused approach that benefits everyone
Acclimate provides a culture and community tour where you get to know the city itself. It’s not a house tour. Together, we drink the coffee, eat the food, meet the business owners, see the schools, walk the neighborhoods, and otherwise explore and a real day in the life of St. Louis. Certainly, we'll see various styles of homes and architecture along the way, but we don’t open those doors – we leave that to a service extended by a realtor and suited for a later time. Whether a candidate rents, buys or remains in an extended stay, it has no bearing on our measurement of success or compensation.
As St. Louis residents, we definitely have an interest in strengthening our region by helping you recruit the best and brightest. But we don’t want them to come here on false pretenses, without an accurate idea of what to expect, and then immediately start planning their exit strategy. That’s why we extend a local helping hand to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks during their decision-making process.
Anthony P. Bartlett is Founder of Acclimate. Acclimate helps companies attract, hire and retain top talent within the St. Louis region by connecting prospective candidates and new hires with the lifestyle, communities, preferences and affinity groups that maximize their quality of life.