How to Communicate That Your Company Has Just Been Sold
As an senior HR leader, I have had the opportunity to work for organizations that went through Mergers and Acquisitions on multiple occasions. The biggest takeaway I have learned from all of these experiences was the value of communicating with the employees before, during, and after an acquisition to help manage their expectations. Of course if you are a publicly held company, any communication prior to the acquisition cannot be shared with your workforce. However, ensuring you have a communication strategy developed and ready to launch when the news is broadcasted will help pave the way for a smooth transition. Let’s start by constructing a communication plan.
Review These 5 Steps For Your M&A Communication Plan:
- Establish the objectives of the communication – what is the intent of the message?
- Define the audience – how will the company be affected by the change and will there be a need for multiple messages for different audiences?
- Identify the tools – what medium will be used to communicate? (Ex. All Hands meetings, FAQ documents, etc.)
- Establish a timeline – identify key dates for delivery of the messages.
- Anticipate hiccups – do you have a back-up plan to address any last minute changes that may take place?
Once the communication plan is activated and the news is being shared with multiple audiences, a critical step in the transition process is to ensure each member of the Leadership Team - from the executive level down to the first line supervisor - is aligned in the conveyance of the message. The uncertainty and apprehension that many employees will experience during this time can often lead to rumors and false information being circulated among the rank and file. If the Leadership Team is united in the message and is able to clearly articulate the guiding principles that will be used to make future decisions about the company, this will help to alleviate the employees’ angst and that energy can then be devoted to moving the organization forward down it's new path.
HR’s role in the communication process is pivotal. Keeping the lines of communication open and providing a “safe harbor” for the employees to share their open and honest feedback about the organization’s new direction is critical to the success of the transition. Here at Helios, the most common issue we come across during our clients' transition is communication. Once we begin working together and take a deeper dive, many times it boils down to the following.
3 Most Common Communication Problems During an Acquisition:
- employees’ uncertainty surrounding security of continued employment;
- a misconception about the organization’s mission and vision; or
- employees not knowing the new organization’s mission and vision at all.
So, how does your company stack up? Do your managers have an open door policy and are they able to articulate the mission and vision? Talk to your employees and make sure they understand how their role contributes to the success of the organization.