Effective employee communications was among the five tips I shared in my earlier WriterGirl blog post on ensuring brand voice consistency during a merger or acquisition. And though I listed communicating a merger to employees in the number four spot — I firmly believe it’s the most important.
Organizational change, or just about any change for that matter, is stressful. We’ve all witnessed that over the last 18 months as the COVID-19 pandemic brought significant changes to our lives and workplaces.
But, even pre-pandemic, work-related stress associated with organizational change was high. A 2017 American Psychological Survey found that workers experiencing organizational changes were twice as likely to report chronic work stress. The same survey respondents reported mistrust of management’s change-related communication — specifically their stated motives and intentions.
Effective and timely communication goes a long way toward building trust and alleviating stress.
Communicating a merger to employees
Mergers and acquisitions (M&As) can bring about significant changes to company culture, individual job responsibilities and reporting structure. Communications teams can set themselves up for success by being engaged in early M&A discussions, using a variety of tactics to reach people where they are, and committing to transparency and honesty.
Below are seven tips for communicating a merger to employees.
1. Make sure you have a seat at the table
Insist your communications team be included early and often in meetings and discussions about anticipated M&As. You can’t communicate effectively if you don’t know all the details. And you shouldn’t be expected to play catch up and create quick-turn communications for such significant organizational changes.
Even if deals or details aren’t final, there’s value in you knowing what’s coming. You can use what you learn to begin developing communication drafts or questions that can become employee-facing FAQs.
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2. Make friends with your legal team
All communications created about an M&A will likely require approval from legal counsel. If you haven’t already, introduce yourself to the legal team and ask about their processes. Learn about how they like to receive information and how much time they need for content review. Close working relationships between legal and communications teams can support reputation building and help to manage risk.
Remember that while legal considerations are important, the input and perspectives of communications professionals are equally important. The risks of not providing clear and consistent communication to employees can threaten the success of any M&A.
3. Share what you can, when you can
Being timely with your communication can help you stay in control of the message. But being timely may mean that you (and your organization’s leaders) will need to get comfortable with communication that may not include all the specifics. It’s ok if you don’t have all the answers, so long as you are upfront, honest and commit to following up.
Create a detailed communication plan to help you stay focused and accountable. Make sure your plan includes specific tactics, key messages, audiences and timelines. Keep the plan handy to check your progress regularly.
4. Meet people in person
Work with organizational leaders to plan employee forums or feedback sessions. Host these events at various stages of the M&A process.
If your organization has multiple locations, schedule sessions at each. And don’t forget to schedule sessions across various shifts to ensure everyone has a chance to attend.
If possible, have employees submit questions in advance and prepare your leaders to answer.
5. Take advantage of the tools you have
If you have an employee newsletter, intranet or app, use it to your advantage. Create a dedicated space within your specific tool for regular M&A updates. Use this space to highlight changes, share timelines and answer questions.
6. Partner with managers and HR staff
Managers and human resources staff have a direct line to employees. Make sure they have the information they need to be M&A communication ambassadors.
Provide your managers and HR team with talking points and FAQs so they are prepared to answer questions.
7. Have a plan for your social channels and website
Your employees may be among your most devoted followers on social media. Decide how social channels factor into your communication plan. Regardless of how you use social media to communicate your merger, you’ll want to monitor your channels for M&A-related feedback or comments and be prepared to respond if necessary.
Along these lines, don’t forget your website. Your site is an information source for people outside and within your organization. Make sure it’s up to date with the information you need to share about your M&A.
If your merger also means merging two websites, you’ll want to take steps to save time and valuable content. Learn how to combine websites for seamless site integration.
A trusted partner
All levels of your organization should see you as a trusted partner. The work you do when communicating a merger to employees can create buy-in and trust, ultimately impacting every employee’s overall wellbeing.
Need help communicating organizational change? WriterGirl can help. Our team of healthcare writers and strategists has experience with internal comms support. We create communication plans and content that align with your brand and strategy. Reach out any time to learn more.