How to Communicate Mandatory Group Moves with Empathy to Employees

Corporate relocations can cause apprehension among employees. Here are some tips to alleviate those concerns.

Black and white picture of a banner that says We Hear You.

Following years of holding serve and largely pausing group move plans, 2024 already is showing signs that mass corporate relocations are beginning to return to pre-pandemic levels. While many companies have formally adopted indefinite remote and/or hybrid work arrangements, others are ready to bring their workforce back to the office full-time. However, the office may not be in the same city – or state – that it was before.

As a HR professional, navigating the sensitive yet significant process of communicating a corporate relocation to employees is as critical as it is complex. These moves can be essential to a businesses’ long-term plans and needs, but they also demand significant change to staff’s personal lives. Communicating the business imperatives while highlighting the opportunities and expectations behind a mandatory group move to employees is a delicate balance.

Corporate relocations, though often strategic and advantageous for the business, can usher in a wave of uncertainty and apprehension among your most valuable asset – your workforce. Here are some tips and best practices for communicating a corporate relocation to employees with finesse, transparency and the right human touch necessary to ensure a smooth transition.

The Critical Nature of Employee Relocation Communication

The way in which a corporate relocation is communicated to employees can enhance morale, retention rates, and ultimately, the success of the relocation itself – so long as it’s effectively done. Apple recently made headlines for its blunt ultimatum to employees when announcing an upcoming group move: relocate or lose your job. Just because the group move is certain, doesn’t mean it can’t be communicated with empathy and accommodations. Effective communication strategies elevate the transitional experience, positioning the move as an opportunity for growth to employees and positively influencing the organizational culture’s resilience to change.

Understanding the Human Impact

Before the initial announcement is issued, it’s critical to place people at the heart of the relocation narrative. Understanding the personal and professional impact on staff gives depth and empathy to the communication plan you’ll develop.

Communication as a Retention Strategy

Corporate relocations often lead to a spike in voluntary turnover. One survey suggests nearly one in 10 employees (9.4%) leave as a result of a group move. A robust communication approach can counteract this statistic by conveying a compelling business case and addressing employee concerns proactively.

Planning the Relocation Communication Strategy

A solid foundation for communication is comparable to the architectural details of a building — it shapes the entire experience. Planning begins with the “why”: Why is the relocation necessary, and why does the employee matter in this narrative?

Setting Objectives and Goals

The rationale behind your group move and how it’s communicated should be aligned with the broader goals of the relocation. Whether it’s expanding into new markets or consolidating offices, these objectives should be clearly woven into the messaging.

Identifying Key Messages

Strategic consistency is key. Develop a set of key messages that will serve as the pillars of all communication efforts, ensuring that they resonate with your employees and answer their unspoken questions.

Selecting Communication Channels

Different strokes for different folks. Some employees may prefer a traditional town hall meeting, while others might appreciate the flexibility of asynchronous updates via the company intranet. By considering a multichannel approach, you can effectively reach a diverse audience.

Crafting Compassionate Communication

It’s said that timing is everything, but in the realm of corporate relocations, so is the tone. Crafting a message that is both informative and compassionate is an art requiring careful thought and choice of words.

Ensuring Transparency and Honesty

Employees should know everything that you can tell them — don’t hold back. Address the “why” of the move as well as their role in the process as early as possible. Transparency builds trust, which is especially crucial during a time of significant change.

Addressing Concerns Head-On

Anticipate the questions and fears that your team might harbor. Establish a comprehensive FAQ which employees can reference that covers topics ranging from job security to the logistics of the move.

Highlighting Benefits and Opportunities

While many relocations entail sacrifices, they also present a host of opportunities. Lean into this, emphasizing how the move aligns with personal and professional growth for your employees and the company at large.

Timing is Important, but So is Preparation

Delivering the news of a corporate relocation is akin to setting off a ripple effect. Get the timing wrong, and you might create a wave of unrest. Get it right, and you lay the groundwork for a transitional period that’s as smooth as possible.

Finding the Right Time

Choose the most opportune time to announce the relocation, avoiding periods of high company stress or individual employee life events. Buffer significant announcements with a tangible time for employees to absorb and consider the information before requiring immediate action.

Providing Ample Notice

Employees don’t uproot their lives overnight, and they shouldn’t be asked to do so in light of a corporate relocation. Offer a sufficient notice period that allows for contemplation, decision-making and planning.

Communicating Preparedness

While the corporate move itself may be unfamiliar territory, your communication should exude readiness. Highlight the preparation and execution plans that are already in motion, reassuring employees that the organization is well-equipped to handle the transition.

Delivering the Message with Impact

From the suite of communication channels available to you, select the one that best befits the gravity and nuance of your relocation message.

Align the Message to the Right Channel

Not all messages are created equal, and neither are the channels through which they’re delivered. Tailor each delivery method to the content it carries, ensuring that the message is both received and respected.

In-Person Town Halls

In-person meetings can be incredibly effective toward helping employees feel seen and heard regarding their thoughts and feelings about the group move. These meetings can provide a two-way dialogue and ensures management’s presence during a time of significant change.

Be Consistent

Include leaders and those responsible for communicating and speaking to the relocation in all messaging preparation. The best communication plans quickly can go off the rails when people stop singing off the same song sheet, so to speak, and begin sharing different details and reasons to staff. This can turn into employees trading notes about who said what and diminish their confidence in leadership’s reasoning for the move. Preparing talking points for staff can be helpful in ensuring the same messages are being shared internally, and externally if the moment arises.

Follow-up and Support Communication

The communication doesn’t end with the last town hall Q&A. Develop a series of follow-up communications that provide ongoing support and updates to employees on the relocation’s progress.

Addressing and Overcoming Employee Concerns

This is not the time to shy away from communication – quite the opposite. Encourage a dialogue that flows in both directions, understanding that the employees’ concerns reflect their investment in the company.

Listening and Empathizing

Create multiple channels for employees to voice their concerns, whether it’s a dedicated email address, anonymous question boxes or one-on-one meetings with HR. People have different preferences and comfort levels for who they share concerns. Accommodating those varied needs as best you can helps ensure you’re getting a good pulse on how employees are feeling about the move.

Offering Solutions

As employees begin sharing feedback, it’s paramount to act on those responses. Employees need to see that their feedback has been heard and is valued. Work with your team to develop a set of clear and equitable solutions to common relocation issues, such as housing assistance or family support services.

Monitoring, Feedback and Course Correction

The best-laid plans are never immune to adjustments. Monitor the effectiveness of your communication strategy, solicit feedback and be prepared to adapt your approach.

Assessing Strategy Effectiveness

Regularly gauge employee sentiment and concerns through surveys, focus groups or direct feedback. Use metrics like retention rates and employee satisfaction scores as indicators of effective communication strategies.

Flexibility is Key

Be prepared to pivot if employee feedback reveals a previously overlooked concern. It demonstrates a commitment to a truly collaborative and comprehensive approach to the relocation by the entire organization.


Corporate relocations are among the most complex and challenging ventures a HR professional may face. This is especially true as many employees have heightened expectations around remote work and having a say in where they fulfill the responsibilities of their job. By embracing a strategy that prioritizes clear, empathetic communication, you position your company and your employees for successful growth amidst change. At each step, from the timing of the announcement to the ongoing dialogues that guide the transition, your commitment to open communication is not merely a process — it’s a path to success for all involved.

If your organization has a group move planned this year, Hilldrup can help you prepare for it in a way that meets both your company’s needs and your employees’. Learn more about our relocation services, capable of domestic and international moves. Contact us, and we’ll take it from there!