There’s an old saw that says people dread public speaking more than they fear death. That may be true, but my guess is that one of the multiple choice items left off that survey list was moving. Most people hate to move—from their homes and from their offices. Packing up boxes, purging files, parting with the swag from that trade show two years ago that is still stuffed in a tote bag under the desk—moving is a chore. So when you find yourself appointed to your company’s relocation Project Management Office, the first thing you need to admit is that people hate to move.
In their excitement about the fabulous new space, many business leaders forget that basic premise. As a result, when they announce the move to employees and are met with hostile stares, skepticism and complaints, they are wounded and then angered. “What’s the matter with our people?” they wonder. “Don’t they understand how important this move is for our growth and success?” Actually, no.
As the leader, it’s your job to help employees understand the rationale for the move, what’s in it for them, and the help you’ll need from them to make the move with minimal disruption to the business. The only way to accomplish those objectives—and get people on board with a move from the beginning—is to engage them in the process.
Communicating about a move goes way beyond issuing an announcement about the decision. Moving is not business as usual. It’s a big deal. Whether you’re planning to occupy new space down the street or build a state-of-the art campus in a new city, moving is a project that requires extra effort from everyone.
In our practice, we counsel leaders on how to use the occasion of a move to increase employee engagement, foster good will in the community, and drive the business forward. If these are goals that you’re interested in accomplishing—along with your move—consider packing the following checklist into your move communications plan:
Build the Business Case
Articulate the business case for the move. Develop a brief PowerPoint presentation or video to illustrate the current state of the office space and highlight the new, improved space and location.
Identify move champions. Leaders set the tone at the top of the organization. Select one or two key executives as spokespeople; then ensure the entire leadership team is aligned with key messages.
Develop the move communications plan in alignment with the PMO. Focus first on the announcement phase. Equip front-line managers with the business case PowerPoint and develop a list of Frequently Asked Questions for them to use in speaking with employees as well as key customers and suppliers.
Inform stakeholders. Once the management team is prepared to respond to inquiries from employees, customers, suppliers, investors, and community officials, then issue the press release. Cascade information to employees on the intranet, via email and in meetings.
Scale the Strategy
Deliver a regular cadence of communications. Keep employees informed of the progress of the move. Provide updates on the building activities with photos or videos. Repeat key messages that reinforce the rationale for the move.
Listen and respond to employees’ concerns. Gather their input through focus groups, surveys and online email boxes. Expect concerns about changes to commutes, requests for amenities such as daycare and fitness centers at the new location, and complaints about filing and storage.
Recruit and equip move ambassadors. Select a core team of employees to work with the PMO to coordinate move logistics for their work teams. Train move ambassadors on their responsibilities, from organizing their colleagues to pack and label boxes to serving as the team’s liaison to the IT department on move-out and move-in day.
Measure and recalibrate tactics. Use online metrics and feedback from the move ambassadors to determine if communications tactics are effective. Adjust the plan to meet managers’ and employees’ needs.
Make the move. Designate a move-out date—most companies select a Friday since the move occurs over the weekend. Invite employees to wear jeans to work to complete their packing and receive final instructions for move-in day, which is generally the following Monday. Arrange to have representatives from IT and Facilities available to address issues as they are uncovered in the first few days after move in.
Give a warm welcome. In advance of move-in day, prepare and print welcome kits and place them on each employee’s new desk. If possible, include business cards with the new address for each employee. Some companies give a welcome gift such as a coffee mug or coaster that complements the new office décor. Others provide a free breakfast or lunch to thank employees for their efforts.
Recognize move ambassadors. Thank employees who serve as move ambassadors with a handwritten note, a framed photo, an article on the intranet, and a round of applause on move-in day. Members of the PMO and executive teams should make a point of personally shaking the hands of move ambassadors to let them know how much their coordination and extra effort means to the company. Some companies surprise their move ambassadors with a gift certificate to show appreciation.
Cut the ribbon. Host a company-wide celebration to acknowledge the successful move and thank the many people involved in making the transition go smoothly. Invite local dignitaries and the press to the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Invite vendors in the new neighborhood to display and sample their wares as a way of introducing employees to the community, possibly offering discounts to build future business.
A strategic move communication plan makes the most of a major event in the life of a company. It captures the excitement of a positive change and includes everyone in making it happen. At the same time, it acknowledges the difficulty of bringing that change to fruition and invites people to contribute to the solution. From working with many moves, we know that leaders have a choice about how they communicate a move. You can jerk your thumb over your shoulder and say “There are the boxes,” or you can engage people in making the journey. Which approach makes sense for your organization?
“Vitello Communications Group (VTLO) was a tremendous help to our company when we moved to a new location. With everything that needed to be done for the move, on top of doing our day-to-day jobs, we didn’t know how we were going to undertake communicating everything correctly to the staff at the same time. But that’s where VTLO made it seamless for all involved. They not only produced professional communications for us, but they also helped engage the employees during the process.
“They worked around our schedules, got to know our company, our brand and our culture and incorporated it all into the communications for our team—without taking much of our time at all. VTLO played a huge part to help motivate and inspire our team and I’d highly recommend them to help you!”
—Theresa Perniciaro, Vice President, Human Resources, Aurobindo Pharma