Spend enough time reading the business pages of any major newspaper, and before long you’re bound to come across news that yet another company is moving its headquarters. Avon, Beam Suntory, CKE Restaurants, ConAgra, and GE are just several examples of major corporate relocations to hit the news recently.
Like any major business transformation, headquarters relocations are done for a variety of reasons. Some companies simply outgrow their space and need a bigger building across town. Others are looking to tap into the benefits of a young, tech savvy workforce. Still others move to be closer to their operations or customers. Finally, some headquarters relocations are financially motivated; mergers, acquisitions, and increasingly controversial corporate tax inversions can serve as reasons for a company to uproot and move.
While there are numerous reasons for headquarters relocations, they all mean significant changes for many employees in the form of longer commutes, moves across country or internationally, or the possibility of parting ways with an employer. Companies can face employee resentment or dissatisfaction if they don’t properly communicate, and that can adversely affect business performance. The number of moving parts in a headquarters move is endless, which presents both a challenge and an opportunity for internal communicators.
Since employees ultimately determine how successful a company’s relocation is, bringing everyone on board a communication plan is essential. Here are four key principles that communicators can employ to help make a company relocation go smoothly:
1. Conduct a rigorous stakeholder analysis. Determine the benefits and potential concerns each group may have so you can plan how to address them. Stakeholders can be grouped by function, level in the organization, or geography, among other categories.
2. Empower your leaders to answer tough questions. Employees will have legitimate concerns, so make sure your leadership has consistent and strong messaging about the implications, risks, and contingency plans in place to make the move work seamlessly. This includes senior executives, business unit heads, and support leaders, all of whom need to engage their teams during the transition.
3. Give employees perspective. Making a big change successful requires focusing on the big picture. What is the company’s rationale for the move? What are the benefits? Get employees excited about the company’s future and their role in shaping this important change—even in cases when their personal circumstances are such that they won’t be able to move with the company. Leaders not only need to convey the rationale—why they are moving—they need to evoke the right emotions and help employees translate both their knowledge and emotions into positive actions.
4. Provide accurate, timely, open and transparent communications. As strategic business partners to the rest of the organization, communicators play a key role in making this happen, both by producing content and supporting business unit leaders as they engage their teams.
Every company is unique, and every headquarters relocation is different, but with proper planning and a solid communications plan, organizations can move forward confident that their employees are supporting them—whether across the street or around the world.