Employers need to change attitudes about executive relocation

Matt Healey is a Managing Director in our New York office. He is responsible for leading functional HR and CEO and leadership executive search engagements primarily within healthcare/life sciences, financial services, retail/packaged goods, and manufacturing sectors.

Adapting to Attitude Changes about Executive Relocation
Executives recruited over the last few years learned an important lesson: they could leverage the high demand for talent to create their ideal work arrangements. They learned they could avoid relocation.  

Though the job market is now shifting towards an “employers’ market,” companies and hiring managers will still face challenges when recruiting executives that do not reside within an easy commute. With many top candidates still uninterested in relocating for work, companies will need to adjust their recruitment and retention strategies to reflect these changes.  

Shifting Priorities
Not long ago, high-potential talent was willing to move every 24 to 30 months at the behest of their employer in order to climb the corporate ladder. However, even pre-pandemic, executives have become less willing to relocate to a different metro area. With relocation at a 70-year low, career aspirations are now being weighed against other lifestyle factors, and candidates are increasingly staying local, for several key reasons: 

 Quality of life: Once candidates secure a quality of life in a particular city, they are less willing to uproot a family or lifestyle. Proximity to family, schools, cost of living, and opportunities for spouses and partners all figure into relocation decisions.  

 Real estate: The steep rise in mortgage rates in the last 18 months and elevated real-estate prices make relocating without significant assistance a non-starter. 

 Job markets: Since 2020, candidates have had the upper hand in negotiating compensation and other job perks, including remote or hybrid arrangements. If one prospective employer isn’t willing to support remote work, other employers will. Therefore, candidates are less willing to settle for anything other than a satisfactory arrangement. 

 Travel is a necessary part of the role: With national and global businesses, high-level executives are frequently on the road as it is. It’s now more feasible than ever to commute long distances with the ability to stay connected at 30,000 feet in the sky, and living near HQ is no longer necessary. 

Workplace Engagement
Engagement, collaboration, and learning are the primary reasons CEOs cite for returning to the office, and many C-suite executives fear remote work reduces spontaneous collaboration and interaction.  

However, the evidence doesn’t support requiring employees to be in the office five days a week, and candidates are aware of that. Proper communication through chat or email may negate the need for regular meetings. And where “face-to-face” interaction is needed, virtual meeting software like Microsoft Teams and Zoom have proven to be effective.  

The data also shows that remote workers continue to collaborate effectively. There are more one-on-one, too: 17% of meetings were one-on-one in 2020, compared to 42% in 2022. Meetings are also spontaneous, thanks to features like Teams’ “Meet Now” function.  

New Talent Strategies
How do these new attitudes affect recruiting strategies? While hiring managers try to convince executive talent to relocate now, top candidates will still want flexibility.  

To see more in-office time from newly hired executives, consider the following: 

  • Recruiting local talent 
  • Being flexible with commuting arrangements, e.g., allowing time for flights from nearby cities 
  • Set minimum office appearances per month, e.g., executives spend nine days every month in the office and commute at their own expense 
  • Allow work at any office location, even if it’s not where the hiring manager or leadership sits 
  • Consider an allowable “happy medium” for the right candidate. Instead of insisting that a top hire move from Boston to Los Angeles, allow for a mid-range relocation to, say, Denver or Dallas to reduce travel while still allowing work-from-home accommodations. 

Candidates have had the upper hand for the last few years and one of their most frequent demands has been remote work flexibility. While technology certainly has its place, most employers argue that it does not completely obviate the need (and desire) for in-person presence.  

With a looming market shift, employers are regaining more control when it comes to recruiting. That said, we do not envision a world where candidates are packing up their bags to relocate for promotions every 2-3 years. Instead, we expect to see more creative arrangements, a= to strike a balance between employers’ and candidates’ needs, particularly at the C-suite level.  

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