When ClientLogic acquired Sitel Corp. in January, the resulting $1.8 billion company became one of the largest customer service outsourcers in the world.
But if any merger has the potential to cause anxiety and restlessness in its employees, the chances increase significantly when there are 67,000 workers in more than 145 facilities in 28 countries.
“We knew that mergers create an environment of uncertainty and that a lack of consistent, controlled communication will fuel gossip and skepticism that can cripple an organization,” says Shirley Loebsack, director of marketing at the Nashville, Tenn.-based company. “The size and scope of our global work force added a unique set of challenges to delivering consistent communications.”
Intensifying the internal confusion was the fact that although ClientLogic was doing the acquiring, it took the more recognizable name Sitel—which also happened to have double the revenue and number of employees.
“It was a publicly traded company that was twice the size of ClientLogic,” says Dan Borgasano, an account supervisor at Schwartz Communications, which represents Sitel. “As you can imagine, this created a tremendous amount of questions internally. Sitel’s communications team not only had to answer these questions, but also relay the new company’s strategy and its ‘Vision. Passion. Purpose.’ mantra to all employees.”
The most important thing the communication team did, Loebsack says, was establish a core team with representation from each region early on. The regional team members reported to communicators at headquarters. This not only ensured communication was consistent and well-timed across all locations, she says, but also helped communicators meet the differing needs of each unique audience.
“For example, each region was responsible for determining individual translation requirements and/or meeting specific labor laws,” she says.
Lots of communication, lots of vehicles—one source
Before and throughout the merger process, communicator’s main goal was to keep all audiences aware of merger activities by delivering accurate, timely and consistent communication from one central source.
Though communication came from one source, it was delivered via multiple vehicles—including e-mail communications, global town hall meetings via conference calls, desk drops, face-to-face meetings, internal global magazine articles, posters, management briefings, intranet postings, “Frequently Asked Questions” documents, manager talking points and press releases.
“During a merger process, it is impossible to overcommunicate,” Loebsack says.
But especially effective was a CEO-led desktop video creatively illustrating the company’s values of vision, passion and purpose.
“Senior executives were involved in the creation and approval of all communications,” she says. “It was important that they were aware of any communications prior to distribution so they were well-positioned to respond to all questions, provide guidance and support our key messaging.”
Apparently, the attention to detail was effective.
“The climax was the ceremonial burning of old traits that associates wished to leave behind. The event marked the official end of the transition period.”
And, as an employee in the United Kindom said shortly after all the merger communication, “The new Sitel is a vibrant, passionate place to work. There is a high level of enthusiasm now around the site, and the additional career prospects and opportunities only add to the excitement that the new company is bringing.”
The most important result of the open and constant communication during the merger, Loebsack says, is that it “helped establish trust, improve the ability to manage change and increase employees’ willingness to help ensure a successful transition.”