Communicating change after mergers and acquisitions

It takes a deft hand to communicate the changes that impact those whose roles are affected by a merger or acquisition.

When a company goes through the merger and acquisitions (M&A) process, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered. They can range from changes to branding to alterations made to day-to-day operations. But importantly, the M&A process can also impact the org chart and structure. Earlier this year, we wrote about how comms can work to communicate around this process and how it can be done with clear and concise messaging.

To delve deeper, we spoke with Iliana Garcia, employer brand and strategy director at Renuity Home, and  Brittany LaBovick, Renuity Home’s vice president of employee experience, about how communicators can work to communicate changes in an organization’s structure throughout the M&A process and share these changes with the affected employees.

Avoiding confusion

One of the biggest pitfalls that occur during M&As is not maintaining a clear line of communication with employees who have questions about how they will be impacted. According to LaBovick, it all starts with having the right chain of communication in place to avoid extended games of whispering down the lane.

“It all starts with leadership explaining what their clear vision for the organization is to the employees,” LaBovick said. “It’s also important for leadership to communicate any potential changes through multiple channels because different employees might process information in different ways. Whether it’s communicating through the organizational intranet, flyers around the office, or videos meant to speak directly to employees, it’s about figuring out what’s going to resonate.”

Managerial communication

While leadership comms is undoubtedly an important piece of the post-M&A comms puzzle, managers play a critical role in getting information to their reports as well. Managers are likely to get most of the questions about how exactly roles and functions will be impacted in the process.

“In the end, everyone wants to be sure they’re going to have a job,” Garcia said. “But beyond that, I think changes like adjustments to the org chart or the M&A process are opportunities to really consider how we communicate. We can use it as a chance to reinforce the cultural values of an organization and the roles we all play to create that culture.”

Managerial transparency plays a big role in helping shepherd employees through potential shakeups to the org chart.

“The most important thing managers can do during the process is address employee concerns with the best clarity they can provide,” continued Gracia. “Use verbiage that employees understand — as a manager, you don’t want to come off as if you’re communicating from the ivory tower. Try to make it a side-by-side type of conversation about the process and how it’ll impact them.”

A communication style intended to put employees’ minds at ease could be helpful as well.  “It can be a tough process to navigate sometimes — I think bringing a little levity or humor to the table with your reports as a manager can really improve morale,” LaBovick said.

Customizing communications for the audience and rethinking the chart itself 

As communicators, it’s important to know that not all situations are right for a one-size-fits-all messaging style. A reshuffle of the org chart is certainly a situation that requires a more individualized approach — these are people’s livelihoods that might be changing. Garcia recommended taking an approach that caters to the needs of specific employees while reinforcing that the reason the company is being acquired is that it’s an attractive business due to its people.

“The process should feel more like an embrace to the organization being acquired than a pull,” Garcia said. “But it’s important to honor the culture that’s been put in place at an organization and work within it — there’s something about the way things work there that’s behind why they’re part of the M&A process.”

A careful strategy should also go into changes that are made to the reporting structures on the org chart itself. LaBovick said it’s about finding the balance of both productivity and engagement with company culture to drive things forward.

“I think the most important thing is keeping operations on track while ensuring that employee engagement doesn’t take a hit, “ LaBovick said. “Hold on to cultural programs like happy hours and group outings — they’re going to help the organization feel united through the process.”

Sean Devlin is an editor at Ragan Communications. In his spare time he enjoys Philly sports, a good pint and ’90s trivia night.

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