“My company is located downtown, but I’m thinking of saving a small fortune on rent and property taxes by moving to the suburbs. That will also make it more affordable to rent more space for future growth. But I’m worried some of my most valuable employees won’t follow the company to the suburbs. How do I figure out how many I might lose?”
Chris Mallmann, The Wardrobe Workshop:
Have you asked your employees? If you let them have a say in the decision, they will be much more supportive during the turmoil of the move. If you approach them with advantages of the move — not yours (rent is cheaper), but theirs (parking is cheaper, more workspace for them, etc.) — then you may be able to create some enthusiasm! Even employees who have nothing to gain by the move will assume that enough of their co-workers are drawing advantages, and the move will be seen in a more positive light.
My advice could best be summed up as follows: ask them. Hopefully, you will get honest feedback on how your employees feel about the move. Certain employees may not like the proposed re-location, but I bet they would appreciate the opportunity to voice their opinions on the matter, rather than being told, “We’re moving, here’s the new address.” You may also want to consider sharing the benefits of your reduced lease costs with your employees, one way or another. If they can share in the financial benefits of the office re-location they will almost certainly feel better about the sacrifices they are being asked to make.
I would recommend asking HR to run a little research on the employees’ commute: means of transportation and average time of travel. Moving to the new location should not mean a dramatic change for them. After this little exercise, prepare a business case for the move, showing the advantages from both the company and the employees perspectives, and ask for their feedback.
My suggestion would be to discuss the possibility of a move with your staff and get their feedback. You may be surprised to find they would welcome the move. If your city is anything like my city down town parking sucks and the traffic is horrible. And the commute to work is sometimes easier if you are going against the traffic which is sometimes the case when working outside of the main core. If your staff is happy at their position, like the company and need their position, they may stay despite the move. If you find that someone is especially inconvenienced then a compensation for gas or time may be all they require.
Mireille Mainville, Global Automation Partners:
If the employee is a very good worker — quick to learn and responsible — then the reasons behind the constant complaining must be real. By paying attention to these complaints, you most likely will find the cause of the negativity and be able to take the proper actions.
I am not sure what business you are in, but my concern would also be customer retention. How would your customers feel about the move?
Dan Cadieux, Accolution:
Clients of mine have been through the exact same challenge, one of them making the move from downtown Montreal to Laval. There are a number of approaches to take depending on the extent to which you are willing to reveal your intentions to your employees.
- If you’re not ready to tell your employees, try an Internet-based mapping software (like Mapquest or MSN). Spend the time going through each employee — enter their home address (from your personnel files) and get directions to your current location. This should also provide the distance and travel time. Now do the same thing for each employee to a desired new location or area. Start a spreadsheet with each employee’s current travel distance and time and the new travel distance and time. You may find that some employees would actually like the office to move.
- If you can selectively trust a few key employees, ask them for their thoughts and if they have any insight into the thoughts of other employees. It is often surprising to the boss how much employees know about each other. You might learn that a few employees are planning to move closer to your proposed new location.
- If you can openly discuss the possible move with your employees, try a survey. Ask how far they would be willing to move the office, in which direction, at what point they would start looking for another job because the move is too far, etc. Again you may be surprised at how many people are willing to make a move.
- You should also consider employment standards. My understanding is that in Ontario if you move an office location more than 40km from its current location it can be considered constructive dismissal. Check with an employment lawyer before you make any significant decisions.
For his answer, Dan Cadieux will receive a copy of Advantage Play: The manager’s guide to creative problem solving by David Ben.
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