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Ready, Set…Group Move!

Google announced last week that the company is moving 3,000 Motorola Mobility jobs to Chicago. Needless to say, the chatter around the office that day was a collective “Wow! That’s a whole lotta moves!” I don’t know about you, but if I was the HR manager in charge of a move this big I might be a little…excited? Er…panicked. A group move program has special needs that can differ greatly from traditional relocation requirements and Google is going to need to pull together a top-notch team of experts both internally and externally.

In a group move, everything is compressed in time. Instead of dealing with a trickle of transferees, you are dealing with tens, hundreds, or even thousands, of employees all at once. This means that once the announcement is made, you are off to the races with little time to do anything but stem the rumor mill and scramble to find appropriate support. So, if you take one thing away from this blog post let it be this: if you are facing a group move it’s critical that you prepare in advance so that you are ahead of the curve when the announcement is made. Otherwise, you will be playing catch-up the entire time and your employees will suffer for it.

Group moves are a niche for us. We have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. Here are the most important steps you can take BEFORE the announcement is made:

Loop in your support team. Be sure to meet with your relocation provider before announcing the group move so that they can help you set a plan in motion. During this meeting, you should discuss the scope of the move, including how many transferees will be included in the move offering, and the timing of the process. This is critical information for your relocation services company, as they will be responsible for lining up support services. This is also a great time to discuss confidentiality expectations with your provider so that they know what to withhold from subcontractors.

Decide on program policy and desired acceptance rate. Ideally, all employees in a group move would move in an orderly pace to the new location with very little interruption to production.  Unfortunately, relocation is a time consuming and costly process.  Depending on the challenges of filling each position at the destination with adequately qualified local personnel, relocation programs must be sufficient enough to entice key personnel and difficult to replace positions – all while being cost effective and reasonable for personnel with a less unique skill set.  Once the program objectives are set, policies can be formulated to attain the desired acceptance rate.

Gather your resources. As soon as you know the programs that will be offered, it’s time to put your relocation provider to work finding resources. They should be gathering information about the destination including relevant statistics, real estate contacts, temporary living providers, cost of living fluctuations, household movers, schools and more. At this time, your relocation provider will alert subcontractors that a move will be happening so that they can start to plan for a wave of people. It’s important to know that this does not mean that they will break confidentiality by sharing pertinent details (such as the name of your company). A resource center should also be created at the origin location, to quickly address concerns.  This should already be in place to coincide with the announcement of the move.

Make the announcement. Once you have all your ducks in a row, and your relocation provider has secured all of the resources that the transferees will need, it’s time to make the announcement. In order to stem rumors and misinformation, any internal announcement about the group move should happen beforethe external announcement to the media and other stakeholders. If you are worried about employees leaking the news to the press, then make the announcements simultaneously. It is critical that HR and PR be on the same page regarding communication because group moves are stressful enough on employees without the added angst of conflicting messages.

Set up an information fair. Once your employees hear about the move, they are going to seek out a ton of information. Remember all those resources that your relocation services company lined up? Now is the time to call them in. Set up an information fair where Realtors, temporary living providers, corporate executives, etc. can connect with your employees in-person to answer any questions and hand out relevant materials.  This is also a good time to discuss the policies being offered so that prospective transferees can start to weigh their options.

Consider a destination tour for the group. For a move the size of Google’s move, this may be difficult, but you may want to consider arranging a destination tour for your employees so that they can see the new location. The tour should include meetings with Realtors, for a community overview, as well as a look at the new facility. While it may seem like a big investment, it’s important that your target employees get a feel for the destination so that they can decide if relocation is the right decision. Half of the battle is getting them to envision themselves there.

Decision-making meetings. Once your employees have seen the new location and have an idea of what the relocation will entail, it’s time to meet with them to discuss if the move is feasible, financially or otherwise. Group moves tend to put pressure on employees to accept because there is a lot of energy and excitement, and they see their peers moving forward. But, as with any relocation, every family is different and the move may not be right for every employee. It’s important to be open and honest with the prospective transferee so that the best decision can be made for everyone involved.

Once decisions are made, the fun starts. Look out for another blog post on best practices for implementing a group move once the announcement is made.

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VP, Client Services

VP of Business Development Northeast Region


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