The value of relocating your team abroad

Every year, a presentation software provider relocates its entire team to a new city somewhere in the world, for a month. Its CEO Johnny Warstrom, explains the benefits for the business

Company relocations often take place for practical reasons, such as accommodating company expansion, or office redesign, however, they can also be used as a way to implement a new way of working.

Moving offices, or cities, can kick-start a company into assessing the way it operates; it can motivate and encourage employee performance, and enhance both internal and public perception of the business. Essentially, relocations can be a catalyst for the internal makeover of a company, not just an aesthetic one.

Mentimeter, the Swedish-based, interactive presentation platform, is a good example of a company that has adopted this practise of relocation with great success. Every year, the company relocates the entire team to a new city somewhere in the world, for an entire month. With internationally renowned clients, scattered across the globe, this practise has become an essential part of Mentimeter’s core business and has contributed to the building of an innovative and successful company.

Mentimeter’s first company relocation occurred in 2016, when Mentimeter was accepted to the 500 startups prestigious accelerator programme in San Francisco, where upon, the company took the decision to move the entire office to the tech-hub for four months. This move proved so successful that it led to the decision to make office relocation an annual feature of company life at Mentimeter. The following year, in 2017, this was put into practise and the office relocated to Barcelona for four weeks. This year the chosen location was Lisbon. Named by Wired magazine as one of Europe hottest startup cities (2018) and chosen to host this year’s Web Summit, Europe’s largest startup conference, Lisbon was an obvious choice for a fast-growing tech startup like Mentimeter.

Aims and objectives with relocation
These relocations have played an important part in helping Mentimeter discover and understand different corporate cultures, as well as being instrumental in providing a change of scenery for employees and the opportunity for the company to experience different ways of working, something they believed to have been integral to building an innovative, global and fast-growing company. Since this initiative started, the retention rate at the company has been 100%. Despite the fact that this is only one of the many benefits that Mentimeter offers its employees, this retention rate shows the popularity and success of the programme among employees. 
 
What happens in practice and what are the challenges
Mentimeter’s relocation takes place every year in February, however the process of relocating begins around six months before, with the first step being the most important; picking a location. For Mentimeter, the key is to find somewhere that reflects the company’s core value. For example, startup and technology companies, might want to aim for innovative tech-hubs that can spark creativity and offers inspiration. Mentimeter decides it’s location based on criteria such as how innovative and forward-thinking the place is, the climate and temperature at the destination, and most importantly, the culture and inspiration that the destination has to offer employees.

With longer trips such as these, offering flexibility to employees is essential. Employees should be able to opt-out if they feel the location or timing of the relocation is not suitable for them. For Mentimeter, the process of relocating is all about personal and professional development, therefore making the trip inclusive to all, no matter what their circumstance, is essential. If employees are unable to join the relocation for the full time, they are able to come for as little time as they wish. Staying true to their core value of inclusivity, this year, the team have also introduced the option for family- members to join the trip.

The relocation process doesn't go stress free, there is a lot of planning and administration with organising such a trip. One of Mentimeter’s key beliefs, is that it is important to ensure that the whole team is involved in the decision-making process and employee feedback before, during and after the trip is an essential part of making these relocations such a success.

These trips don’t come without a significant cost, but the benefits gained from such a trip, such as improved team-spirit, increased cross-team integration and business growth, ensures that the rewards of such a trip can outweigh the financial cost.

As companies grow and the team becomes bigger, the planning process of group holiday and away-days become more complex and relocation programmes might need to be altered, but at Mentimeter the talent management including the relocation programme is one of the biggest and most important investment.