November 2010 Archives
Who are you? Where are you from? In answering these questions, most people reply with an answer that includes where they were born or where they grew up. As Peter Kilborn points out in his book Next Stop, Reloville: Life Inside America's New Rootless Professional Class, “Places define people…and form our accents, values, preferences, references, learning, aspirations, diversions and sense of belonging and continuity.”
Growing up as a military brat, I always dreaded this question because really, where was I from? And what did the person asking really want to know? After all, I was born in Alaska, raised all over the country (plus two other countries), attended 12 schools before college, moved so many times as a kid that I felt rather than take summer family vacations, we just moved. I’m not alone, and it’s not just military families that experience this uncertainty when asked about where they came from. Among America’s top 25 Relovilles are Leesburg, VA, Gaithersburg, MD, Alpharetta, GA, Plano, TX and Parker, CO.
Relo employees are bounced around, place to place, oftentimes with their families in tow, sometimes not. Each new town means a new house, schools, doctors, friends and routines. Then in another two to three year time span, starting all over again. The toll this lifestyle can take on employees, especially in their personal lives, affects their health, work-life balance and productivity at work. One key question for organizational leaders who have employees that relocate often, or travel extensively is – What policies and practices does my organization have in place to support these employees?
Kilborn touches upon "hardiness" as a way that Relo employees deal with the stress of relocation. By moving around so much and dealing with the intricacies involved with relocation, employees become more adaptable. “Hardiness enhances performance, leadership, conduct, stamina, mood, and both physical and mental health by giving people the courage and capability to turn adversity to advantage” (American Psychological Association).
Drawing on my personal experiences, I agree with this observation and find its applications to the workplace interesting. For example, if you need to hire an employee who will be required to travel or relocate often and deal with high-stress situations, will you look for a candidate who has experience traveling and navigating new horizons rather than someone who has worked the same job in the same town for the past 10 years? Another key question for organizational leaders is – How can employees become more hardy without moving them every two years?
I would love to hear about any effective practices or policies for Relo employees, as well as ideas for how organizations can help employees become hardier and more adaptable. Thanks for sharing!