The federal government must improve its employee relocation program in order to recruit and retain the best workers, according to a federal managers advocacy group.
The Senior Executives Association released a white paper Monday saying the government currently treats employee relocation as a procurement and travel issue, rather than a human capital one. Currently, managers lack proper training on relocation services available, so they have failed to attract top talent through relocation incentives, SEA said. Additionally, agencies have posted vacancy announcements without including the potential for relocation benefits.
SEA pointed to 2005 recommendations from the Government Relocation Advisory Board as a starting point for the necessary changes to federal relocation policy.
The General Services Administration implemented some of GRAB’s recommendations in 2011, but SEA said many issues have not been addressed because they require congressional legislation and the changes “have not yet found a sponsor in Congress.” GRAB found agencies were analyzing relocation programs as a budget item and with insufficient data, which SEA said has persisted in preventing government from taking a comprehensive look at how relocation affects employees.
The 2008 economic recession highlighted the shortfalls of current relocation policy, SEA said, as many private sector relocation services pulled out of the federal market because they could not obtain adequate lines of credit. The white paper recommended agencies work with the private sector to anticipate market fluctuation and better prepare for the effects on employee relocation.
Agencies should also better use the advice from the relocation industry it already receives, according to SEA, as private sector experts can fill the voids left by the shrinking number of federal specialists. Government should give contractors monetary rewards for “making the moving experience a seamless and swift one for a federal employee,” the group suggested.
In 2009, the government provided relocation services for 4,605 employees, totaling $55.2 million, according to SEA. Ninety-one percent of relocated employees came from the Justice, Defense or Veteran Affairs departments. Employees are only offered relocation services “at the convenience of the government,” when officials believe it would be otherwise difficult to fill a position.
SEA said now is the perfect time to address relocation issues.
“Although the timing on bringing up this issue may seem odd given the budget challenges facing agencies, this is actually the best time to discuss relocation issues,” SEA General Counsel Bill Bransford said in a statement. “Relocation is a recruitment, retention and employee satisfaction issue -- something agencies should keep in their HR toolkits especially during this time of low employee morale. Furthermore, strong relocation programs can save agencies money while making such a major life event easier on employees.”