Toyota, through a consultant, talked with other companies anonymously to see what had worked for them in their relocations — and what had gone wrong. Out of that came one of its most successful programs for retaining employees, known as "go and see."
"We decided very quickly that probably one of the best decisions we made was to offer these two-and-a-half day trips for the team member and a family member to come with them to really experience the Plano location," Hughes said. (Those being transferred to Michigan got a chance to check out their potential new home as well.)
"Depending on where you were coming from, the Dallas area probably presented different things to different people," she said. "I think Californians, you know, the coast and the weather, obviously that was probably a bigger thing. I think Kentucky people probably were more concerned with housing prices, a bigger metro area."
For Californians, housing in the Dallas-Fort Worth area was far cheaper. The median home price in Plano is about $325,000, compared with $775,000 for Torrance, according to the real estate website Zillow. The median price in Erlanger, Ky. — the former home of the Toyota engineering center — is about $125,000.
Although much has been made about the desirability of Texas relative to California in endless online forums, Hughes thinks family ties or a spouse's job were the top reasons for staying behind. "I don't think it was about Texas at all," she said. "I think it was more about the individual team member's circumstances than it was about moving to Texas."
One surprise to management, in fact, was the number of Toyota employees volunteering to move early. The first group of "pioneers," numbering in the dozens, set up shop in temporary offices in August 2014. Subsequent waves forced the company to lease additional office space until the number was up to about 2,500 by the time the headquarters was completed in May.
Others wanted to be in the last group arriving later this year, or created a back-and-forth arrangement as their kids remained in hometown schools or spouses hung on to their jobs.
At the end of the day, Hughes said, Toyota kept its promises: Employees were given time and resources to ponder a move to Texas and all were offered a job under the reorganized corporate structure — either their existing job or a new one.
For their sacrifices, Toyota and Lexus employees have been rewarded with a slew of new opportunities internally that came with the North American reorganization and the departures of 1,000 people who chose to leave the company rather than relocate.
For some reluctant to make the move, that upward mobility was enough to stick with Toyota rather than seeking employment at rival automakers that remain in the Los Angeles region, including American Honda, Mazda, Kia and Hyundai.
"Part of why we were coming together as One Toyota was because we wanted to share that talent across manufacturing, design and engineering, sales, as well as financial services," Hughes said. "I don't think it was a formal incentive but I'm sure that team members felt like, 'Boy, if I can have a different job or have an opportunity that didn't exist before,' that would probably incent them to come with us."