From Brexit in the UK to a new President in the US, impending elections in Britain and France, strained relations with Russia and a new direction in Turkey, 2017 is shaping up to be one of the biggest years for economic and political transition.
For the global mobility industry one of the results of so much change is that, whether it is down to necessity or choice, some businesses will now consider relocation.
Already we have seen financial institutions moving out of the UK, businesses looking for cheaper overheads outside of the EU and corporations looking for new strongholds in emerging countries.
Whatever the reason for the decision, group moves provide major challenges for those in HR or global mobility charged with organising and supporting it all.
These moves are very different to moving assignees abroad on short-term contracts. Business needs, individual needs and group dynamics all have to be taken into consideration.
Additionally, the way in which a group move comes about can affect planning and implementation. For example, a group move due to a facility closure requires different assistance programmes to a headquarters move.
Managing attrition is also vital – and can seriously impact on the move goals. The attrition group may incorporate those who the company does not invite to move AND those who choose not to move but whom the company wants to retain for some period of time. Clearly, this is a more complex planning and implementation environment than a “regular” mobility engagement.
Group Move Pitfalls
No-one likes to start a review of a group move with a list of things that should have been done to help the move meet objectives “if only we’d known to do them.” Common pitfalls include:
• Timing: Preparation has to be done far earlier than is typical for ongoing employee mobility. However it is not uncommon to hear from Mobility Directors that they are announcing a group move next month – and want to know if there is anything special they should be doing to make sure the announcement goes well.
• Policy: Assuming that existing policies will be used for the group move without considering whether additional or different assistance may be required is a common pitfall. Just like all mobility policies are designed to meet certain business objectives, group move policy needs to be tailored to the desired outcome.
• Research/staffing: Most HR and Mobility teams are not sufficiently staffed to support a group move, with its large scale and intensive time frame. Look outside the organisation for research and staffing support.
• Short cuts: Some companies think they can execute a group move without all the extras, for instance skipping organised events, and believe that the internet negates the need for this support. However, without guidance, people will go off in their own direction, and may not get the information and perspective they need.
• Cross-functional planning: Business situations that necessitate a group move are often held close to the chests of senior management, and the result can be that those who could provide insight on how to make a move successful are not brought in until too late. A diverse team of experts within the company, representing affected business lines, human resources, facility management, benefits and of course employee mobility should be brought into the inner circle as early as possible.
How to avoid the pitfalls
•Plan early: Ideally planning should begin when the company first starts to explore the situation that might result in a group move. Human Resources, alerted to the possibility of a plant or office relocation, a headquarters move or a new facility start-up should begin to scope out group move parameters and consider costs. There is a cost associated with eliminating positions, but also with programmes required to retain talent in the original location as well as to relocate employees.
•Develop group move-specific policy: Addressing the needs of employees for whom the move decision is a choice between keeping or losing a job rather than accepting an offer or staying in their current position is vital. Families who may not have considered a move before due to complicated personal factors may need services that are not typically offered, such as special education support, extended family member assistance or extra spouse employment assistance. Different home sale programmes may be required to address the fact that a greater than usual number of homes will be coming on the market simultaneously. Extended temporary living, cost of living differences and special needs for financing are common elements of a group move policy.
•Communications planning: A good communications strategy addresses all aspects of the move, each in its own time. The communications strategy should be in place before the move is announced.
•Implement move-decision support activities: Organised trips to the new location, meetings with local area representatives, counselling regarding policy and timing, and a resource room – real or virtual – should be in place when the move announcement is made.
• Design an effective retention programme: This should be in place to support not only those who are moving but also those who will not be moving and are needed to remain with the company through the transition.
• Budget: Whether for relocation, attrition management or business continuity, the HR costs of a group move can be significant. Preparing a budget early can help the business stay on track.
• Find the right partners: Many aspects of a group move require expertise. Lining up appropriate assistance is important. Destination services providers, real estate professionals, group move consultants, and relocation management firms could all prove beneficial.
• Prepare managers: Managers are the front line of group move communications. When the move announcement is made, employees turn to their managers for direction and insight. Preparing managers for this role is key and is especially challenging when managers are also considering their own possible move. Preparing managers can include:
o Leading through change
o Clarity on goals, timelines
o Understanding what services will be available and to whom
o Expectations on potential productivity dips post-announcement
o The manager’s role in recruiting and retention goals
o Knowledge of the new location
o The manager’s own move, if applicable
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Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.