Organizations may consider company relocation for a number of reasons: to reduce costs, to create efficiencies by bringing teams together, or to access more qualified talent.
But while making this change can advance business goals, a relocating company takes on risks that can bring long-term damage to its brand. Moving is a stressful endeavor for companies and their employees, and can involve reductions-in-force, restructuring, and relocating positions and/or employees. In order to minimize this stress—and preserve brand reputation—it’s important to communicate clearly and transparently and provide benefits to both those who are offered relocation opportunities and to those whose positions are eliminated.
Considerations for your workforce
Whether moving a department, regional office, or headquarters, the employees at the closing location may be faced with difficult choices. The decision of whether to accept relocation benefits and move with a company must take into consideration a multitude of factors, including proximity to family, spouse/partner employment, children’s schools, and more. And for some in less senior positions, those benefits may not be offered at all; instead, those employees may face layoffs should the company choose to fill those roles with local talent.
Even for those being offered relocation, such an offer can feel equivalent to a layoff if moving is undesirable or impossible for them or their families. The 2020 Atlas corporate relocation survey reported that more and more employees have declined relocation since 2018, with the primary reasons being family ties and spouse/partner employment.
Another option to consider is the potential for a remote workforce. The pandemic has proven to many employers that remote work is not only possible, but also can be beneficial in some circumstances. In fact, if you are relocating purely for cost-savings benefits, you may wish to consider whether a partial or totally remote workforce would serve your organization, as you may save even more by reducing or eliminating overhead costs such as real estate.
If yours is an organization that must have at least part of its workforce onsite and layoffs will be necessary, controlling the message about your move is vital to reducing rumors, misinformation and stress among your employees, just as you would about any other major change, such as reorganization. This is true whether or not an announcement about relocation would come as a surprise to your workforce.
Once you’ve determined who will get offers and when the relocation will take place, consider these three ways you can support your employees and protect your brand as you implement your company relocation plans.
Three ways to protect your employer brand during company relocation
Control your messaging
You want your employees to feel respected throughout the relocation process. That starts with the announcement and continues through follow-up communications that provide details about the move and how employment may be impacted.
The messaging about the relocation must be controlled internally by providing timely, clear, and transparent communication to your workforce, optimally before the news reaches the press. Be ready to explain the reason for the move, and to answer a multitude of questions that are likely to be posed by your workforce about the new location, their jobs, the advantages of moving, and what will happen if they are not offered relocation. In a recent CareerArc + Intoo study on employer brand, 64% of respondents switched brands or stopped purchasing products from companies tarnished by news of poor employee treatment. As transparency concerning all matters related to the move is key to building and retaining trust and loyalty among your employees, it can also benefit your bottom line.
Help your relocating employees
Depending on the size of your relocating workforce, dedicating an employee or even hiring a company relocation specialist to tackle employee concerns may make a significant difference in how these employees experience the move. Knowing that an expert is available to guide them through the decision-making process can take an enormous load off their shoulders, which will help them more easily transition and productively continue their work once they reach the new destination.
Generous benefits can also encourage your employees to accept the relocation offer. Such benefits can include financial support not only for moving costs but also for an exploratory trip in advance of the relocation to look for housing. You should also consider partnering with local realtors to assist employees with selling and buying a home, and facilitating introductions to representatives from local schools for families with children. In some cases, it may also make sense to offer salary increases. The Interior Department made the choice to do so when it announced earlier this year that the headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management would be moving from DC to Grand Junction, Colorado. The Department offered a 25% salary incentive in addition to other relocation benefits.
No matter which benefits you choose to include in your relocation package, ensure that they are administered based on defined criteria, so that you are able to easily justify who is offered relocation opportunities and benefits. This way, you can prevent any misconception of discrimination among employees who do not receive them.
Provide assistance to your exiting employees
There are many considerations to take into account when deciding which employees will be offered relocation. For example, you may wish to offer to relocate only those employees who are most difficult to replace due to the complexity and specificity of their responsibilities and knowledge, such as those in senior level and management roles. Meanwhile, you may opt to rehire for junior staff positions at your new location.
In January, photography product and image sharing company Shutterfly announced plans to relocate its marketing positions from California to the Minneapolis area to consolidate teams. But instead of relocating its workforce, Shutterfly decided to take advantage of the talent local to Minneapolis and reduced its headquarters staff by 25%.
Whatever the reason for the eliminated positions, ensuring your exiting employees are treated fairly and with the same respect as those who are remaining is vital to protecting your employer brand. Offering outplacement services to exiting employees—such as career development coaching, job search assistance and resume writing—as both Shutterfly and the Interior Department did for theirs, is an important step in this effort, as both those exiting and their remaining colleagues will know that care was taken to ease their transition by giving them an accelerated path forward to new employment. Just as a relocation specialist can help your moving employees feel guided in their process, so can outplacement coaches help guide exiting employees toward their next fulfilling roles.
Moving locations; moving forward
Having a positive company culture will make your employees more likely to accept a relocation offer. The same factor can affect how your exiting employees respond to the news of their job eliminations.
While company relocation is never easy, yours can be a successful one that respectfully considers the concerns of your entire workforce. And conducting a relocation in that manner will help your organization retain its brand reputation, with the public, your relocating employees, and those moving on to new endeavors.
Intoo helps employers protect their employer brand and do right by their workforce by transitioning employees to land their next job nearly 2.5 times faster than the national average time it takes to find employment—all without leaving their homes. Designed for employees of all levels, industries, and backgrounds, Intoo’s coaching-first, award-winning online platform accelerates career transition by connecting candidates with career coaches faster and by providing personalized guidance for each individual.