Starting a new job in a new town can be a daunting experience for anyone. However, for women, whether established professionals or recent graduates, the stresses can be even greater. Women are more likely to have dependant relatives, so may be disrupting much more than their own life in order to take up your job offer. Paying attention to the broader needs of a woman’s partner and, potentially, family will take thought, time, effort and sometimes money. But it will also make you a much more attractive employer and will help to ensure that you really do hire and retain the best talent.
A prospective employer can therefore usefully think more broadly about relocation for women:
- Understand graduate trends
- Start providing information early
- Offer relocation expenses
- Provide advice on where to live
- Allow time for settling in
- Be flexible, fair and transparent
Understand graduate trends
Despite the widespread assumption that young women don’t have the same family responsibilities as older women and are actively seeking the excitement of a move to a new city, the vast majority of graduates actually look close to home for a job.
In its Futuretrack study, The Higher Education Career Services Unit asked students what factors played into their decisions regarding where they would look for employment and found that students prefer to stay in the area they grew up or studied. Indeed, the entire list was dominated by personal rather than professional considerations, including the needs of other family members, and being able to live with parents.
Futuretrack also found that only one in eight graduates is motivated primarily by money, so simply offering higher salaries will not change attitudes. If businesses wish to attract the best candidates, they have to make a powerful and compelling case for why women should go through the hassle and stress of relocation.
Start providing information early
When you advertise a job, advertise your location too. Find out what your current staff feel about where they live, and write a profile of the lifestyles available locally. Would a future employee be living in an apartment in town, or might there be homes they could afford in the countryside nearby? Is your area good for hiking or sailing? How well rated are local schools? Would a car be essential, or is there good public transport nearby? Is there an LGBT+ community? What local industries could provide a job for a partner?
It’s useful to include local info in your interview pack, especially useful websites that might encourage applicants to explore. You can also provide a mentor or HR staff member who can discuss personal needs with a new employee, so that she does not have to ask questions of her new colleagues that might make her feel uncomfortable.
While some of these questions could be answered by an internet search, giving candidates the benefit of your staff’s direct experience is not just invaluable, it also shows them that you understand their needs. If you have shortlisted candidates from outside the local area, offer them overnight expenses and facilitate a tour of the area, either with a suggestion of places to visit that they can access via public transport, or have a member of staff show them round.
Offer relocation expenses
Moving home can be expensive, especially for someone who has a break in their employment. Candidates may be part-way through a tenancy agreement on which they need to give notice, or may need to pay for temporary accommodation as well as a mortgage while their former home sells. You may be able to help by adjusting the new employee’s start date, but there will inevitably be costs. If you can, check what your competitors offer. This may give you leverage to improve your own service to new employees.
If you have a relocation policy, make sure that the new employee has a copy. If you do not, think about developing a relocation package. It would be typical for an employer of highly qualified professionals to offer a package amounting to between 10 and 20% of the employee’s annual salary.
This amount should cover temporary accommodation, travel to the new location, as well as the packing, removal, transport and possibly storage of their belongings by a reputable company. It should also cover solicitors’, estate agents’ and other professionals’ fees. While you are likely to want to see receipts for these costs, consider providing some of the money in advance to make the process smoother.
Provide advice on where to live
It’s a simple matter to provide candidates with information about the different areas where they might want to live, and their pros and cons. You could offer advice about house prices, schools, restaurants and pubs, cinemas and theatres, sports facilities, parks, childcare, transport, religious communities, medical services, support for older people, markets, community groups and hobby clubs.
Encourage the new employee to talk to a colleague about their housing plans. There may be aspects of an area that were not apparent when they visited, but that may affect their decision. Remember as well that women may feel vulnerable in a new town. Are there areas that are safer at night than others? Which are the reliable taxi companies? Are there clubs, networks or events to help women make new connections? It can be valuable to create an ‘insider’s guide’ about your location from the experiences of your current women staff.
Allow time for settling in
During the initial weeks, perhaps even months, of a woman’s contract, she will also be dealing with the impact of the relocation. Women with partners and/or family will need time to help them to settle in too. Even a single woman without children will need time for appointments with her new GP, her estate agent, and her service providers at home, and some freedom to meet people and keep up with her hobbies. A good employer can consider the time spent in establishing a new pattern of life as a good investment in the future happiness, and therefore productivity, of the employee.
Be flexible, fair and transparent
Each employee’s relocation needs will be unique. They may not want to tell you about the reasons for all their decisions, so your advice will need to be freely given, and for the employee to follow or reject as they choose.
The advantage of a written policy is that it sets out the parameters that apply equally to every employee. This gives you a baseline for treating everyone fairly. However, in supporting staff it is fair to recognise difference, and to acknowledge that everyone has different needs. A written policy can also provide transparency, but it is important to remember that setting up home and developing a personal life is the employee’s private business. By broadening the scope of your advice and support, you can support a new employee whatever their lifestyle.