How to relocate a travel business without a drama
I was very interested to read that Channel 4 is up and moving its HQ from London to Leeds. The broadcaster will still have a second hub in London, but wants to spread out where it gets its news and views from. This is a large-scale business relocation and there was a mixed response to the news.
We have a lot of experience in advising how to relocate a travel business, and wonder if Channel 4 has followed all the best protocols, as a Guardian report stated that 90% of current staff would rather take redundancy than move to Leeds. About 300 of Channel 4’s 800 staff are expected to be moved out of the capital this year (or replaced) at a cost of about £50m.
Of course, many of the London Channel 4 staff will want to stay where they are. It’s a big ask to move whole families 200 miles away. Changing schools, friends, partners’ jobs, and houses is a major uprooting. And relocating is an unsettling time for any business.
It’s great news for anyone in the broadcasting industry in and around Leeds, though. Suddenly a large employer is moving in, with jobs up for grabs.
However, that 90% is exceptionally high. We know from when we have helped relocate a travel business that a company needs experienced people to be there to make sure the relocation runs smoothly. Current staff’s inherent knowledge of how things work can’t just be recreated overnight, and companies don’t want to train everyone from scratch. Maybe Channel 4 didn’t invest in advice about how to sell the idea properly – or offer enough relocation assistance. These are key factors in any move.
It was the same when the BBC moved much of its production to Manchester (my old home town). They lost many good off-screen staff, plus some high-profile names (BBC Breakfast Show presenters Sian Williams and Chris Hollins left as they wouldn’t move to Salford for family reasons). But, like the BBC, Channel 4 has a sound reason to move. They’ve got one eye on the future, like all good companies should. And I’m all for putting a plug in the brain-drain of people feeling they have to move from vibrant cities such as Manchester or Leeds to London to find success.
So how do you ensure staff harmony when you relocate a travel business?
Here are a few essential relocation tips we’ve learned along the way:
1. Legal requirements
In legal terms, you can write in a mobility clause into a contract requiring staff to move, however they are able to contest this if the offer seems unreasonable (eg having to uproot children’s education, or not being given enough notice). But you may create problems down the line if you’re having to force staff to move. Consulting your staff about a relocation is also required by law. You need to get an indication as to how many employees might consider a relocation, and what as a business you can do to assist with that possible move.
2. Sell the idea
When you first consult staff about a move, it’s best to have done all your homework. You really need to sell an idea to them. If you just turn up and present it as a fait accompli, you’re going to face a wall of defence. It’s all about how you present the idea, and retaining the trust of your team. For example, with Channel 4, they should have sold the plus points of living in Leeds (much lower housing costs, for one thing), in order to persuade more than 10% that moving would be a viable and exciting option for them.
3. Engage local recruiters
Local recruiters can help with your HR issues, and specialist travel recruiters, like us here at Progressive Travel Recruitment have access to tools which can map how many suitable candidates there are in any given area. For example, according to our database, the following cities have the largest talent pools for ‘Leisure, Travel & Tourism’ in the UK:
It comes as no surprise that London is the largest, but there are considerable employer savings to be made by considering relocating a travel business, or opening a travel business in places like Brighton and Manchester.
We can drill down further to then assess the make-up of the talent pool in each location. Ultimately, we can provide insights about where your travel business will have the best chance of success in attracting travel talent. We have data on circa 200,000 candidates working in the UK travel industry.
4. Keep it inclusive
You don’t want there to be an old place vs new place divide. Make sure the whole company gets together and works together regularly, and that this culture is fostered from the word ‘go’.
5. Be honest
When such a big player as Channel 4 makes a move, it is best to be up-front and honest. I recall when Thomas Cook purchased My Travel back in 2007, they made assurances that the My Travel HQ in Rochdale would remain open. But, subsequently, the decision to relocate the travel business became apparent, and staff were told the site would close. Relocation was an option for many, but it must leave a taste of dishonesty and lack of trust in your employer to feel like they have withheld vital information.
Trust and credibility take time to earn, and can be destroyed quite fast. Present your information honestly and positively, and do everything you can to keep everyone on side – even those who do opt for redundancy. Remember that when staff leave, they act as an ambassador for your company: read more about that in this recent blog.