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HR Interview: Shelley Giles on In-House Relocation Programs

HR Interview on In-House Relocation ProgramsToday’s post is pretty exciting for me. Shelley Giles, a long-time friend and relocation expert, kindly agreed to share with me (and all of you) her thoughts on relocation based on her vast experience in the industry and the current relocation program that she manages for Tenet Healthcare, one of the largest investor-owned health care delivery systems in the nation. In my opinion, Shelley has been able to do the seemingly impossible. She runs a very successful in-house relocation program that manages all aspects of every relocation, for every Tenet transferee.

Now, most companies outsource all or part of relocation services – and for good reason. To run a successful in-house program, you need to have a department big enough to allocate resources specific to relocation, including actual real estate experts and brokers who understand the housing markets in various parts of the country and can handle transactions to secure referral fees. Further, there will need to be enough staff to handle the administrative burden of relocation (expense report auditing, anyone?), as well as the psychological aspects of counseling transferees who are stressed out. Finally, to run a successful in-house program, you will need to ensure you have the support from other areas of the business (IT, payroll, etc.) when you need it, regardless of other corporate priorities and initiatives.

All that said, if you do have substantial internal resources, corporate buy-in and good relocation leadership, there are benefits to an in-house program. Without further ado, below please find Shelley’s thoughts on Tenet’s in-house program and how she has made it work for her company, her team and, most importantly, her transferees.

1.      Can you please tell us a little about your background and your role at Tenet Healthcare?

I have been with Tenet for almost 10 years. Prior to joining Tenet, I had more than 20 years of experience working in real estate and relocation for both relocation management companies and other corporate programs. This experience gave me excellent perspective for my in-house role at Tenet because I really got to see the industry from all angles.

2.      You run Tenet’s relocation program in-house. Can you discuss the pros and cons of an in-house program?

When I joined the company we used a 3rd party relocation company and had an excellent relationship with them. In 2005, however, Hurricane Katrina hit and the financial toll that it had on our company was substantial. Consequently, we were tasked with finding a way to reduce costs.

Eighty-five percent of our relocation program is comprised of lump sum moves (we move nurses, hospital personnel, physicians, etc.) and, because of this volume,  it turned out that we were able to save dollars by processing the lump sum payments, and the associated tax reporting, in-house. From there, it was an easy step to take care of the other 15 percent of moves (high-level executives) in-house as well.

While some in-house programs struggle with service delivery, I’m proud of my team. We pride ourselves on our high-touch program and the employee feedback – even with policy reductions in recent years – has been positive. From a cost standpoint, the impact to the company’s bottom line is significant. We have a real estate Broker on staff so we are able to collect referral fees on real estate transactions. It’s been almost six years since we launched our in-house program and I can’t think of any ‘cons’ to our decision.

3.      How do you stay current on the relocation trends and issues that are likely to impact your transferees?

We are active members of Worldwide ERC and try to attend at least one of their conferences each year. We are also active in the two local regional relocation groups that provide excellent opportunities for benchmarking and networking. Our partners (real estate, household goods, mortgage, title, etc.) also keep us up to date on the latest developments in their respective industries.

4.      Do you think that relocation programs vary drastically by industry? For example, are there any benefits that are better suited towards healthcare than other industries? What are they?

Before coming to Tenet I would probably have said that the industry didn’t matter and one program would suit most companies. In one of my previous roles, we had a very successful lump sum program where we calculated a payment for house hunting, temporary housing, COLA (if applicable), etc. The employees received the payment up front and then they were ‘on their own’ to find their services. (We paid airfare, household goods and closing costs based on actual invoices). It was a great program for those employees who were mostly in sales. When I came to Tenet, however, I quickly realized that despite our large ‘lump sum’ population, our executives would never go for a lump sum program. In addition, the relocation of physicians is highly regulated, so their relocation benefits are unique to the healthcare industry. Today, it’s clear to me that relocation benefits, and even program delivery, should be tailored to industry competitive norms and regulations.

5.      Which relocation benefits do you see as becoming more popular? Less popular?

While many of our home-owning employees continue to purchase homes at destination, we are seeing a swing toward more rentals (at least initially, for the first year). This has made home finding assistance for rentals a necessity which, in some markets, can be costly. If the trend to rent continues to rise, I think we will see more real estate companies looking for revenue from this service. On the other hand, for those who do purchase, discount points and mortgage interest discounts are almost unheard of these days!

6.      Where do you think relocation is headed in 2013?

Well, my crystal ball has a crack in it so it’s hard to read but I’d guess that the fiscal cliff and other administrative policy issues will impact relocation activity one way or the other. Despite some concerns, we are always hoping for a positive business outlook.

Shelley Giles, SCRP, GMS is Director of Relocation Services for Tenet Healthcare in Dallas, TX.  She has also been an active member of ERC throughout her career, serving on various committees and as an author for MOBILITY magazine.   She has also served on the ERC Board of Directors  and on the Industry Advisory Council. She recently served as Chairman of the Worldwide ERC Certification Review Board which is responsible for writing the CRP exam and, in 2004, Shelley was inducted into Worldwide ERC’s Hall of Leaders.

Do you run relocation in-house? Why or why not? Please share your thoughts below.

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