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Achieving the Best Outcome

Ensure the success of your whole-company relocation.

November 30, 2000
If you are in charge of a whole-company relocation, here are some steps youcan take to ensure success:

  • Contact the local economic development organizationearly, advises BarbaraHayes, executive director of the Sacramento Area Commerce and TradeOrganization, or SACTO. At no charge, SACTO brings the Sacramento RelocationCouncil to the relocating company’s place of business, offering anoverview of issues like real estate, temporary housing, and schools. Theyhelp to plan a "no-surprises" move.
  • Customize the move as much as possible for each employee. Fox FamilyWorldwide put Judy Morgan in charge of her fellow Virginia Beach employees’moves, then structured her own move to give her the greatest freedom to keepher colleagues productive and happy. A single mother, Morgan, who now servesas director of program operations, had to sell a home and manage two teenagedaughters who were on their own in Virginia for three months. Fox flew Morganand her associates to Southern California to meet with real estate people tohelp them make decisions about a move, then arranged corporate housing in L.A.for those who did move.

        "They did everything they could to make arrangements for us --corporate housing, rental cars, per diem for eating out. I flew back a fewtimes, which was also appreciated. And they even helped move my dog." Asthe point person for the Virginia employees, Morgan communicated with themovers and knew where every van was every day, so she could reduce employees’anxiety. "We were launching a new television network, so it was importantto focus on the launch. There was no time or energy to worry about theday-to-day." Morgan emphasizes how important customizing would be for afamily with greater challenges, such as a disabled child.
  • Prepare employees for culture shock. Morgan had never lived outsideVirginia, and she relied on her faith and sense of humor to help her throughthe difficulties. Still, she could have used a contact person who could orienther to local customs, such as the way public utilities connect (or disconnect)service in L.A. She now laughs about some of the differences, includingfashion trends: "I’ve never worn so much black in my life. Had to getrid of my beige and my cream and my olive."
  • Address the cultural-diversity issues. Goodman recalls, "Some folksmay have been comfortable about being gay, Latino, African American, orAsian in L.A., but they had real concerns about life in other locations.Transamerica arranged for meetings with political leaders in Charlotte andKansas City such as the mayor and the governor to show that there would be areceptive environment. The Charlotte move succeeded largely because thefirst division to move there was headed by a charismatic African-Americanmanager. He set the tone for the others."
  • Honor emotions with concrete help. Some employees may benefit enormouslyfrom classes in stress management or career planning, Goodman suggests."You need to help people face the endings," he explains. Somelong-term Transamerica employees "were very angry. They thought the dealwas security and retirement." Transamerica’s classes for managers intransition management helped, as did a course in coping with change foremployees.
  • Stay in touch through the process. Glennon, of Lucas Digital, believesthat employees should be kept up-to-date on what’s happening with themove. His company has made sure that messages to employees coincided withthe company’s becoming a finalist for the space, its final selection, andits signing of the lease. Mitchell sends weekly e-mail updates and holdstown hall chat sessions.
  • Involve the stakeholders. Expecting employees to maintain productivity meanskeeping them involved and informed. Glennon’s observation of other companiestells him that too often, the stakeholders are not adequately involved, andtheir insights are lost. At Volvo, frequent communication is the road map, andMitchell isn’t afraid to ask directions. "If we don’t know something,we admit it, and tell the person when we’ll know it."
  • Overestimate the time the move will take. What would Craig Heide change ifhe were making a whole-company move again? He’d allow himself a moregenerous time line than 11 weeks. Glennon advises that if directing thecorporate move is a job add-on for you, budgeting your time in line with thetimetable for the move is your major challenge.

Workforce,December 2000, Volume 79, Number 12, pp. 60-61 SubscribeNow!