Many companies are completely overhauling their organizations by relocating their headquarters to popular, urban locations in an attempt to attract and retain millennials. In addition to financial benefits and considerations, taking such a drastic step can be good for an organization that wants to infuse a fresh approach and image into the business. However, it can also be an alienating and disruptive experience for existing employees who have established roots in other locations.
Through careful consideration, companies can develop a strategic plan regarding the location of their business and keep their employees happy.
Why Companies Are Moving to Urban Headquarters
The reasons companies move to urban headquarters are as diverse as the companies themselves. Common reasons for this shift include:
- Appealing to Millennials – More companies require employees with digital skills who can develop software and manage digital transactions as online shopping increases. Many companies actively look for tech-savvy employees to fulfill these roles, and millennials – also included in the group known as digital natives – often meet this description.
Statistically, urban locations are often where millennials are. As Human Resource Executive reported, major corporations like McDonald’s, General Electric, ADM and Aetna have all relocated to more urban environments within the last few years to compete for tech-savvy millennial workers.
- Financial Benefits – Being in an urban location may be able to help a company cut costs. They may have access to copackers, distributors and other important members of the team when in an urban environment. Some municipalities may offer tax advantages of managing the business in an urban locale.
- Proximity to Customers – Businesses may want to be closer to their target market. They may be able to increase sales if they are closer to more people. They may also be able to provide better service if they are closer to the community and customers they serve.
Strategies for Engaging Employees during Transition
While targeting new talent is important, it is equally important that companies do not alienate their existing employees. Some strategies to maximize an effective relocation that keeps all employees happy include:
Organizations should complete an analysis before making an official plan to relocate. They should research which groups of employees will be most likely to balk at the idea of the move. They can ask employees about possible locations and identify any challenges the employees mention. Even if the feedback is negative regarding your plans to relocate, you can use the intelligence collected during this research to create a solid engagement and communications strategy designed to address the fears and concerns of your employees.
The most important part of this transition is to clearly communicate with employees so that they feel they are important and included during this process. Companies should inform employees of the planned move as soon as possible.
Organizations should provide the following information to affected employees:
- The timeline of the move
- The date of any office or current location closures
- Each employee’s role during the move
- The date when employees will begin at the new location
- Whether the relocation will cause any layoffs
- How to pack
- How the new office space will be allocated
- Instructions regarding parking and commuting
Ask for Staff Input
Employees want to be heard. A company can greatly benefit from listening to their staff and their suggestions. They may identify problems that were present in the previous work environment that they can improve in the new location.
Employees can also identify challenges to the idea of moving to a new location. The more involved staff is in the decision-making process, the more input and teamwork they can provide.
Find Ways to Address Challenges
Businesses may be able to ease the transition by finding solutions to identified challenges, including:
- Offering housing and/or commuting allowances
- Setting up carpools
- Creating incentives to move
- Providing assistance for employees who cannot move, such as resume clinics
Effective Ways to Implement Relocation while Ensuring Employee Engagement
It is also important to ensure employees are engaged after the relocation, so they feel like an integral part of the new headquarters. Share important information about the move with employees and if possible, give them opportunities to view the new space before officially beginning work.
Businesses can also help employees acclimate to the new environment by sharing information with them about the new location. For example, give employees a list of local businesses in the area, including restaurants, cafes, gyms, daycare facilities and grocery stores.
If new team members will be starting around the same time as current team members are relocating, encourage them to meet. Developing a successful mentoring program in which they pair new hires with an existing employee is also recommended at the start of the relocation. The existing employee can provide training and explain the company’s organizational structure while the new hire can suggest fresh ideas.
Engaged employees who feel appreciated and are loyal to your company will transition with you if circumstances allow for it. So, make sure your managers are doing their part to recognize their direct reports and that colleagues are taking advantage of peer-to-peer recognition. This, along with the other recommendations, will pay off in dividends when the time comes for employees to weigh the pros and cons of staying or relocating with your company.