7 Strategic Steps for Group Moves
Today’s political and socioeconomic backdrop is leading to increases in group move activity across the globe, and once again the role of global mobility is critical.
According to the Institute of Mergers, Acquisitions and Alliances (IMAA), 2016 saw over 48,000 transactions worldwide with a value in excess of $3.5 trillion USD. Pharmaceutical, bio sciences and technology industries have recently experienced an uptick in merger and acquisition activity while in other industries continued cost pressures are resulting in major consolidations, closing facilities or moving groups of employees to locations offering lower labor and operating costs and reduced tax liabilities. Meanwhile, one year following the Brexit vote in the U.K., multi-national companies have started to assess the impact on their businesses and the fluidity of talent deployment. Global mobility leaders can employ several practices when managing group moves to ensure a valuable contribution; this article will explore those in more detail.
Get a Seat at the Table Early
Global mobility leaders should be active contributors to all upfront planning to effectively understand the drivers, assess the impact, and plan optimally for group moves.
Knowing the market
Working with group move mobility consulting experts, global mobility can provide detailed assessments of the individual markets the company is considering for the group move. Specific marketplace factors can vary widely and should be assessed and analyzed. These factors can be taken into consideration as part of the wider site selection process:
- Real estate market trends
- Housing availability and affordability
- Location risk and opportunity factors
- Cost exposure
- Potential recruitment and retention obstacles
Planning for cost
Creating detailed cost estimates is a critical part of effective group move planning. Forecasting models should incorporate all projected HR move-related expenses, including mobility benefits, as well as transition costs, such as dual staffing, training, recruiting, etc. They should also incorporate severance and other separation-related provisions and any predicted impact of tax gross up on benefits. All these elements are an important part of establishing and understanding the full cost impact of a group move. Cost projections can be used to set overall project budgets for executive approval and to monitor cost throughout the process.
Assessing attrition and retention
Another important aspect of early planning is establishing a company’s strategy for talent retention. The strategy will depend on a variety of factors and may include driving retention within certain skill sets or groups while having tolerance for attrition among others. Group moves often also present an opportunity for employers to initiate a workforce reduction, eliminate lower performers and right size the operation’s labor costs.
Understanding the impact of a group move against the overall talent retention strategy is a pivotal part of the overall success of the group move. Employees’ length of service with the company, position level, compensation structure, and family profiles are just some of the demographics that can impact employee retention and attrition during a group move. Knowing those factors and working with a group move mobility consulting team to understand how they potentially will affect retention allows global mobility to consult to the organization on the full impact of a group move. Higher than anticipated attrition can disrupt the transition of business, strain productivity and morale among those who are retained, put additional stress on recruitment to find replacements, and may result in budget overages.
The mobility policies and programs for a group move have a high impact on employees’ decisions whether or not to follow their jobs to the new location. The complete package of assistance is important, including:
- Decision-making support
- Separation benefits
- Assistance for commuters (for short distance moves)
Global mobility leaders should evaluate their policies and programs in light of the unique circumstances surrounding the group move to support retention goals. The company’s standard mobility policy suite may not meet the needs of varying employee levels, generational attitudes, the effect of a group move on the real estate market, or group move relocation timelines. Engaging with group move mobility consulting experts can ensure policies are aligned to objectives and all considerations are factored in.
Group move policies should be tailored to address any special considerations such as:
- Higher cost locations requiring development or changes to cost of living/housing programs
- More complex major metro areas that call for flexibility in the number of home finding trips and days provided
- Locations with limited availability of purchase or rental housing that may lengthen the time needed to transition
Develop a Strong Plan
Depending on the size of the group move and the level of confidentiality required up front, companies may employ an outside project manager to manage all aspects of the group move. Global mobility should collaborate closely with other stakeholders such as Human Resources, internal communications, facilities, the Site Selection team, immigration and tax advisors to increase efficiency. If the timeline shifts or additional obstacles surface everyone can quickly align on impact and make integrated adjustments to their execution, and the project remains cohesive.
Establishing a timeline
Careful consideration needs to be given to the timeline. Establishing what needs to happen before the announcement as well as in between the announcement and the move commitment deadline needs to be established. This will help global mobility leaders frame out what information is needed by when (policies, benefits and support, location information, etc.) and what activities need to happen when (information sessions, familiarization trips, etc.) so employees can make positive decisions.
Retention can be negatively impacted if employees are not provided enough time to consider the information vital to making an informed choice. In addition, global mobility leaders will need to identify groups that may require extended temporary living or interim travel based. Assessing seasonality impacts on rental and home sale markets is also an important factor for success.
Flexibility is essential when scheduling area presentations, policy and program briefings or other information sessions to ensure spouses/partners, business travels, or employees moving during a later transition phase can attend.
Determining the relocation offer process
A key challenge at the onset of a group move is to determine which positions will be moved and which incumbents will be offered relocation. Equally important is establishing the company’s strategy for the job offer process and communication. The approach needs to encompass:
- Essential roles and skill sets to be retained
- Potential attrition that will occur (how many offers must be made to net the desired number to relocate)
- Job functions that can be readily filled in the new location(s)
- Job redundancy and elimination
Extending move/assignment offers to all employees whose positions are impacted by the group move was more prevalent in past years. Today, using various selection approaches, versus extending offers across the board to all impacted employees, is more likely driven by the business initiative causing the group move. Approaches may include one, or a mix of, the following:
- Job posting and rolling offer process
- Selecting employees based on documented performance measurements
- Invitation to select employees based on job level or function
The selection process or invitation policy will impact the overall timeline and group move plan and should be well thought out. Be sure to consider, the impact on talent retention, business continuity, program costs, and potential litigation in the event of adverse effects.
Laying out a broad communications plan
Group moves are often accompanied by other significant organizational changes, whether the underlying business reason is the result of a consolidation, merger or acquisition, expansion or other strategic initiative. While companies may focus on initial communications designed to address questions surrounding mobility or separation benefits, they also need to establish an understanding of the business rationale for the move and to identify key work¬place issues and concerns.
Group moves are complex projects that offer immense opportunity for companies to meet their wider business objectives. If managed correctly, they offer global mobility leaders the chance to take a more strategic role in contributing to the organization’s success and to developing, deploying and retaining critical talent.
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