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Southern California Job Market : A Special Report On Employment Trends : Finding A Job : Companies Make Sure That Moves Will Go Smoothly

September 20, 1987|ALAN GOLDSTEIN | Alan Goldstein is a former Times' staff writer.

Congratulations. Your boss has just offered you a promotion. Or maybe you just got an offer from another company. The trouble is, the firm wants you to move halfway across the country. And, if you're like an increasing number of professionals, you're reluctant to accept.

For the brie-and-Chardonnay generation, higher salaries and more prestigious jobs are taking a back seat to personal life, home and family. So employers increasingly are finding that they have to cater to their workers' outside needs to persuade them to accept relocations.

Some employers are hiring high-priced consultants to help transferees do everything from finding favorite department stores and doctors to filling out change-of-address forms. Other firms are bringing in psychologists, even interior decorators, to ease employees' moves to new locales.

"Companies want people to hit the ground running, not waste their time running around town," said Gregg Silverman, vice president of Personalized Relocation Management in Glendale.

For a flat fee of $145, generally billed to the employer, PRM's "Smooth Moves" program initiates gas, electricity and telephone service and switches magazine subscriptions for people moving to Southern California.

It also provides forms for checking accounts and automobile registrations. Additional assistance, such as apartment hunting, comes at $55 an hour.

"Moving is traumatic, and if it's done badly, it can scar someone, give him a bad attitude about the city, about the company," Silverman said. "Besides, it costs too much to move someone to have it not work out."

So companies end up spending more to make sure relocations succeed. When International Paper began transferring 450 of its Manhattan headquarters staffers to Memphis, Tenn., the company feared losing its best executives and thus began educating its personnel on Southern life.

International Paper flew to Memphis the families of all the workers considering the move. They were given bus tours of the city. Community leaders, including Memphis' mayor, priests, rabbis and representatives from black organizations, came to New York to meet workers.

For three months, a "relocation psychologist" was in the office full time, discussing such issues as how to say goodby to old friends and relatives and how to prepare children for the changes they face in new schools.

The company, like many others, also offered help for spouses. Nevertheless, Kent Nance left his job as a financial analyst for International Paper because his wife, Lynn Costa, a sales manager for Architectural Digest magazine, did not want to leave New York.

In fact, about half of those offered the Memphis move declined. Nance was able to find a similar job with better pay at United Fruit Co. in New York. Although Nance gave up 10 years' seniority for the new position, he and his wife express no regrets.

"We go regularly to Lincoln Center for concerts, to SoHo for the art galleries, so it was hard to consider Memphis," said Costa, a lifelong New Yorker.

Nationally, one in four executives refuses a request to move, according to Catalyst, a New York consulting group that specializes in relocations. It said that such a high rate of refusals was virtually unimagineable a decade ago.

At the same time, more people are being asked to move. Relocation consultants say the age of mergers and acquisitions boosted the number of corporate transfers about 60% from 1980 to 400,000 last year.

Traditionally, companies have enticed executives to move with fat bonuses and salary increases.

But financial incentives now often fail. According to a survey by Organization Resources Counselors, a New York firm, 30% of transferred executives said they consented to move primarily because of locale. Only 2% cited bonuses or salary increases as the primary factor.

Schools and housing remain crucial considerations. But relocation services have started taking many other variables into account.

For example, Michael Guld of Raleigh, N.C.-based Guld & Associates, a relocation firm, specializes in helping Jewish families find communities with synagogues and kosher butchers.

Guld says that his service has helped persuade some people to go ahead with relocations. A case in point is Richard Palmer, 38, who was chief financial officer for a New Jersey cable television company that eliminated his position after a change of ownership.

Palmer, a certified public accountant, wanted to stay in the cable business, but finding a job like the one that he lost was difficult. And he wasn't excited about leaving the Northeast. But opportunity knocked in San Antonio.

"I didn't think there were any Jews in San Antonio, and I was a little uncomfortable with that," Palmer said. "But Guld sent us brochures from several temples and a book on how Jews got to Texas. That made it easier."

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