During mergers and acquisitions (M&A), one aspect of the transaction that is often overlooked is an effective communications strategy to the audience most responsible for a company’s success: its employees. According to a recent report published by Deloitte, 75% of corporate executives and private equity investors expect M&A activity to increase in 2017, both in quantity of transactions as well as deal size.
To ensure a successful transaction that will hopefully give rise to a company whose sum is greater than its parts, importance should be placed on internal employee communications, since these are the individuals responsible for a company’s success going into the deal as well as those who will be left carrying the bag post-closing.
This article explores three essential principles necessary for creating a successful communications strategy during mergers and acquisitions, in addition to possible outcomes that could arise if these steps are not followed.
Don’t Forget About the Frontline
While senior management can and will talk among themselves, a chain of communication and timeline for sharing key event milestones should be established when it comes to lower-level employees, as they are going to be the ones most vulnerable to change resulting from the transaction. These are also the individuals that are most susceptible to fueling the proverbial rumor mill.
Failure to develop a communications strategy and plan relevant to these employees will inevitably result in decreased employee morale and difficulty when it comes to future recruitment. This isn’t to say that frontline employees need be brought into the fold on all details regarding what’s to come.
Nevertheless, to the extent Human Resource (HR) professionals are responsible for reinforcing the importance of teamwork, which depends on positive morale, logic would have it that HR and communications should work together to create a plan that will accomplish both of their work objectives.
Get Personal . . .
It’s one thing to communicate what’s going on when a company is being acquired, but it’s another thing to do it in a genuine and meaningful way. When it comes to the methods used for communicating, tried and true conduits like e-mail and intranets can and should be used to get information into hands of employees. But HR managers should also think about incorporating more engaging and personal strategies.
Consider scheduling a series of town hall meetings that coincide with the various communications milestones that comprise the M&A communications plan. For organizations with dispersed and remote workforces, webcast these meetings and allow employees to participate live via their mobile device. Or consider videos of senior management, especially the CEO. Seeing their face and hearing sincerity in their voice can go a long way towards calming the insecurities that necessarily will exist.
It Doesn’t End When the Deal Is Done
Mergers and acquisitions have the potential to offer a world of opportunities for personal and organizational growth, both during the process and after it all comes to fruition. However, many organizations, even the successful ones, fail when it comes to the integration phase of the process. Once the ink is dry, this is where the communications challenges can begin. Keep the process consistent and ongoing. Don’t make it a “one and done” deal.
Messaging and communications materials may need to be varied based on employee job classification as well as whether an individual belongs to the group being acquired or the one acquiring. There’s a good chance that HR information including payroll and benefits may differ as the entities come together.
Be sensitive to those individuals whose benefits may change, particularly those who may find their benefits less valuable as a result of the transaction. Consider keeping HR communications channels separate until full integration has occurred to ensure that the right content is received by the appropriate individuals.
This is also where 21st Century technologies, particularly social media, messaging technologies, and mobile apps should be taken advantage of as a means to communicate with and engage your employees as well as boost morale.
A final thought to consider—stick to and follow your plan. While it should be dynamic and change as the new company evolves and the business grows, consistency is key. Employees are your organization’s most important stakeholders (and greatest asset).
Knowing when and how they should expect to receive information and be communicated with will give them peace of mind during both certain and uncertain times. This will allow for continued organizational success even after it’s a done deal.
|As a corporate communications consultant for the past 20 years, Jeff Corbin is pioneering the use of technology in the communications industry as the founder of APPrise Mobile, a business-to-business/enterprise native app platform that includes theEMPLOYEEapp®, for internal communications; theIRapp®, for public companies; theCOMMSapp™, for external communications; and theCONFERENCEapp™, for investor, analyst and other conference and event communications. Prior to APPrise Mobile, Jeff served as the CEO of KCSA Strategic Communications in New York City.
Jeff is a licensed attorney and before joining KCSA practiced securities and bankruptcy law in New York City. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and a law degree from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. You can follow and connect with Jeff on Twitter @jcorbinIR.