By Amanda Busby, CCC
Public & Member Relations Coordinator, GreyStone Power Corporation
The proposal has been made, and the board has voted your headquarters is moving. Oh, the excitement and angst that can follow. How will the members react? What type of media storm could there be? How can you transition seamlessly for your members? These are all valid questions and concerns that should be addressed. So, where do you start? How are you going to sell the move to the member?
Communications are vital, both internally and externally, for a positive transition. When your employees understand the process, they can become ambassadors for the co-op and help answer simple questions about the move. For my Georgia co-op, GreyStone Power, employees knew about the plans to move the headquarters for ten years. Our leadership kept us in the loop each step of the way; from the land purchase, to updates on the architecture and construction companies selected, down to instructions on labeling the boxes for the big move and talking points to assist in answering members' questions.
GreyStone has been at its current site since 1963. In 1990, a major expansion was completed to accommodate the growing needs of the co-op. At that time, there were only 50,000 members. Today, GreyStone provides electricity to more than 122,000 homes, businesses, schools, and industries through more than 136,000 meters. Membership has more than doubled, and in addition, staff, operating revenue and miles of lines have increased.
With a move of this magnitude, which affects so many different people in different ways, there has to be a plan of action. There is no way to include all of the specifics that GreyStone has undergone in this short article, but I can pass along the highlights we have found successful, both internally and externally. The biggest plus is that GreyStone will incur no new debt in the building of the new campus and the relocation from its current 16-acre site to the new 194-acre location. That alone is huge!
So, what's our plan? How is GreyStone making the transition and communicating that to members? Let's take a moment to look at our external communications and some things we have done as we have focused on members' benefits.
The media broke the news that we were beginning the process to build the new headquarters in late 2018. By summer 2019, we held a special, invitation-only groundbreaking event at the new site. We even had special granite coaster sets made as a gift for the occasion. We began sending out press releases at various times and included building updates in all of our external communications, which included our statewide magazine, electronic newsletter, social media, bill inserts and online podcast. Each issue over the course of the year has included a headquarters update and pictures. Our website was updated with new drone photos on a regular basis. We wrapped up 2020 with a CEO letter that was emailed to all members with an update on our move.
Once all buildings are in operation, a virtual ribbon cutting will be held with limited capacity. Communication efforts will continue letting members know the move is complete.
In all of our communications, the following are key points that we tried to incorporate as we could:
- The land purchased in 2010, which is now owned debt-free, along with the sale of the current headquarters and satellite branch have allowed us to build a four-building campus without incurring debt or the need to raise rates for members.
- This new location is almost in the center of our service area, which allows us to be centrally located to serve our members more efficiently.
- We had vastly outgrown the space needed to best serve members, and had no room to grow.
- We have more than doubled the number of payment kiosk locations, allowing members more self-service options.
For employees, a move from a small headquarters to a large campus can be quite overwhelming. Internally, leadership put into place a great team to ensure the success of the transition. As mentioned before, employees were updated throughout each phase of the process. Focus groups and town halls were held to ask questions and gain opinions about the new facilities. This process helped employees feel like they were involved in the decision making and helped leadership to understand what employees felt was most important in their new space.
Once the building was underway, we provided a special opportunity for our employees and retirees to visit the new site and sign one of the administration building beams. We provided a catered lunch and buses to transport everyone over to the new facility (since it was still a working construction site with limited parking). Our construction company gave all employees a special t-shirt to commemorate the occasion.
A special campus support page was created on our intranet, which provided a number of resources for employees about the move. Teams were also formed to carry out other functions, such as, furniture selection, transition and a Move Management (MM) team. This MM team was important in helping to sort out a lot of small details that came up on the fly, which needed to be taken care of immediately.
As move in day drew closer, reminders and helpful tips about packing were distributed. This was a great opportunity to educate employees on Records and Information Management (RIM), and for each department to "clean house" in their area.
Our move coordinators discovered that a large number of employees were not familiar with the new headquarters area. They put together a special welcome guide for employees, which included restaurants, banks, grocery stores, service centers, shopping, etc. This guide also explained how to work in our new environment, since the layout and set up is quite different from what we have known before (i.e. workspace and meeting locations).
Once the move was complete for the first employees, our move coordinators found that a number of requests were coming in about various problems. Instead of the help desk request going to the department that would resolve it, the coordinators collected the requests themselves, which allowed them to stay in the loop to document the problems.
The move for GreyStone is historic and exciting. We now have a campus that will allow for future growth. Moving to a new headquarters doesn't have to be a bear. With transparency and communication to all, the ride can go smoother than you think.
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