Sustaining Corporate Culture During a Group Move
Forbes Magazine introduced contributor Josh Bersin’s article, “Culture: Why It’s The Hottest Topic in Business Today” with the statement that “Culture is the New Black.” The statement summed up the fact that culture, and the way to promote it, change it and retain it, is a top issue at most companies today. Bersin further builds on this point by referencing recent Deloitte research that shows culture is one of business’ top challenges. Eighty-six percent of executives surveyed in the Deloitte study stated that culture is one of the most important indicators of a company’s success. Shawn Parr of the consulting firm Bulldog Drummond further states that, “Corporate culture is a hot topic among businesses that want to attract the best talent, translate their values to products and services, and show customers what they’re all about.” A company with a positive corporate culture is a hard won achievement. It should be tended to and nurtured to ensure its continual renewal.
A group move is a labor intensive, lengthy process during which culture can take a back seat to more urgent issues. Selecting a location, designing a policy, staying within budget and keeping business functions operating smoothly, at the same time that employees are relocating family, home and office, can overwhelm even the most organized among us. A company group move can be difficult for employees, but it is also an extraordinary strain on company culture. If maintaining culture is not given enough time and attention when so many other things are going on, it can quickly begin to unravel during the group move and then continue to slowly erode thereafter.
So, how does a company ensure that its positive culture is retained and transferred to the new location? The answer is by applying to your move the same tactics and principles that gave rise to the current culture. This can be done throughout the group move and in all new locations once the move is complete. There are 7 keys to successfully making the transition:
7 Keys to Keeping Your Culture Alive
- Embrace your company’s personality
- Promote the company mission
- Involve leadership
- Communicate frequently
- Celebrate and acknowledge
- Build relationships
- Hire with culture in mind
Recognize and Embrace the Emotional Aspect of Your Company
Just as a corporation is viewed as a legal entity, a company’s culture should be viewed as an emotional entity. The emotional component of a company’s culture is its personality. Recognizing and catering to a company’s personality is the first step in building a great culture and an important part of a successful group move. However, the handling of this emotional aspect should not take the place of reason and pragmatic decision-making. Columnist David Brooks makes this point when stating that emotions, “…are not separate from reason. They are the foundation of reason because they tell us what to value.” With the proper approach your group move will be more successful. The benefits are numerous, including positively impacting everything from employee acceptance rates to the extent to which employees work within the guidelines and “spirit” of your policy. This also encourages people to be flexible and open to taking on new challenges.
Utilize the Company’s Vision and Mission Statements
A positive corporate culture is built and maintained by clearly stated vision and mission statements that reinforce the values of the employees and the direction of the business. These same statements should be utilized during a group move. This will ensure that the purpose of the move stays in agreement with the company and its employees. For example, a pharmaceutical company placed their vision and mission statement on the first page of every communication regarding its group move. When transferring employees accessed the relocation policy either on-line or in print, the company’s vision and mission statements were the first things they saw. This is a great way to improve the likelihood of success for your group move.
A company with a vibrant culture is fueled and inspired by leadership that is actively involved and informed in all aspects of the business. Leaders shape culture with their words and even more by their actions. What really matters is what people actually do rather than what they say or even believe.
Ideally, key leaders should also relocate to the new location. When leaders, executives, and managers make the move, the employees are more committed to the move. A consumer products company involved its leadership team early in its group move to Cincinnati, Ohio. Key managers and leaders were among the first to relocate. They were also active participants in meetings, workshops and familiarization trips. These very visible and sincere efforts on the part of leadership created positive momentum and contributed to the move’s success. Trust is also more likely to be established early and sustained during the course of the move when leadership is actively involved.
Trust is promoted through clear, honest and frequent communication, too. Communication is critical to building a positive culture and should be maintained, even expanded, during a group move. Once a group move is announced, the need for confidentiality should be over for the most part. At that point both formal and informal company meetings should be held for the sole purpose of the group move – with no other agenda. Information should also be communicated via multiple means, including social media sites.
Social media is an excellent tool that should be utilized during all phases of the move. A company blog, Facebook and Twitter are especially useful for families and other individuals affected by relocating employees. By making access to information widely available, the employee is no longer solely responsible for disseminating information to loved ones. It should be noted that when multiple platforms are being used to convey information, the information timing and content needs to be consistent. Also, the same social media platforms can be effective tools to receive information from employees and their loved ones. Continued surveys are an excellent way to utilize social media platforms.
Celebrate and Acknowledge
Communication should also include celebration and acknowledgement. Barry Phegan, Ph.D., identifies celebration and acknowledgement as value events that promote strong emotional connectors. Reasons to celebrate and acknowledge during a group move can include updates on the new facility or personal stories from employees who have already relocated. Interim success stories of a personal and corporate nature often have a way of relieving anxiety and minimizing procrastination. For one corporate move out of Long Island, New York, a roster was kept and announced as employees made the decision to relocate and when they ultimately made the move (with employee permission). Dubbed “The Movers and Shakers Club,” this club conferred a certain level of prestige and also encouraged dialogue. A large insurance company celebrated the success of their corporate move from New York City to Charlotte, NC with a cook-out for all employees and their families on the grounds of the new facility. The celebration featured both “New York Deli” fare as well as traditional “Southern Style Cooking.”
Foster Employee Involvement and Relationship Building
Fully engaged departments and employees promote communication, diversity, empowerment, learning and better decision making in a company with a positive corporate culture. Companies would see similar benefits during a group move if they could find a way to incorporate employees from different departments into all phases of the move.
A publishing company encouraged relationship building during its group move out of New York City. For years, the company’s growth (organically and through acquisitions) resulted in employees and departments being housed in different buildings, in different parts of the city. In addition to promoting an inefficient workflow, this patchwork of office space hampered employee relationship building. Management took advantage of the mechanics of the group move and decided to co-mingle departments early, rather than wait for everyone to begin work at the new facility. Careful planning ensured that company meetings, workshops and familiarization trips included a cross-section of employees from different departments. This decision not only promoted employee relationships, but also provided for better department coverage during the move.
Hire at the New Location with Culture in Mind
When hiring, it’s wise to focus more on finding someone who fits into the company culture rather than exclusively looking for certain skills. Paul Spiegelman, founder of Small Giants, bases hiring decisions 60 percent on fit and 40 percent on skills. This doesn’t mean simply hiring someone you like and hoping they can do the job. The goal should be to analyze the candidate’s personality and introduce the potential employee to the company’s culture, then interview and hire with the company’s values in mind.
Once the group move is complete, regroup, look back and take pride in a job well done. By applying those drivers that created a positive corporate culture, you may find that the group move experience not only sustained but actually strengthened your company’s culture.
Director, Global Business Development