7 communication tools to minimize disruption in a mergerSeptember 4, 2018
When your organization is going through a big change, rumors and uncertainty can paralyze employees, bring productivity to a crawl, and even cause your top people to jump ship. So one of the most effective things you can do at these times—like when you’re going through a merger, acquisition, or divestiture—is to communicate effectively.
The thing is, effective communication means different things to different people. Some people want to get the play-by-play, right as things are happening. Others would rather focus on their own work and find things out only when they truly need to know. So there’s really no one-size-fits-all approach.
When you’re going through a merger, you need to communicate broadly and effectively across many communication preferences. This is not the time to send out a global email or two and call it a day. Gartner suggests that you partner with your internal comms team and put together a series of communications using a blend of these channels.
Publish a portal
This is an internal microsite dedicated to news and information about the merger. It’s a great way to communicate to a wide audience, anyone who’s on your company network, regardless of their work schedule or location. The trick here is to refresh the site regularly, so it doesn’t go stale. To encourage people to visit the site, you can do quizzes and giveaways.
Things to include:
- Status of the effort applicable for a general audience
- Project milestones, decisions made, open issues
- Talking points and FAQs
- Links to training and other resources
- The ability for people to give feedback and ask questions
Benefits: This can be a persistent resource for people to pull information for themselves over time. It becomes a single source of truth about the merger. And it also allows two-way communication for people to give feedback and ask questions (if you’ve got this feature turned on).
Challenges: Adding new content to the site regularly can be time-consuming. Plus, when information is in writing, it can be easier for people to misinterpret something or draw their own conclusions. So make sure not to rely only on a portal. Use the site to supplement other, in-person communication on this list.
Update stakeholders in standing meetings
This is where you deliver tailored content on a certain schedule. And it’s usually for a small group of key stakeholders, like your executive team and any key influencers, like admin assistants.
Things to include:
- Project status (milestones, decisions taken, open issues, people/morale)
- Open issues that sponsors need to decide on or approve
- Updates on the budget and value
- Asks for help or guidance on certain topics
Benefits: These meetings can help sponsors stay fully informed about the status, with fewer surprises. It also helps rope in vocal, far-reaching people to become champions of the effort.
Challenges: It can often be a scramble to put together materials for these updates, as there are often last-minute changes and late-breaking news. In fact, the time it takes to prep for these meetings can sometimes feel non-value-added, especially if it’s taking away from more urgent tasks. And then if all key people don’t attend, decisions and discussions can be delayed.
Set up an ongoing sounding board
Here, you set up a standing meeting for a diverse committee of colleagues to review concerns about the merger. It’s a great forum for IT leaders and employee reps to give feedback, ask questions, and address issues that come up. You could even run this as a drop in for invitees, in that they attend the meeting only when they have something to ask or report.
- Questions on the future workforce or specific people/roles
- Questions about policies or processes
- Feedback for managers to bring back to their teams
- Concerns from employees that you can speak to in other communication
Hold town halls
This is where you hold large meetings, either for all employees across the organization, or maybe broken down into areas. Encourage guest speakers to come in and talk more about the project, especially around why and how leaders made the decision to make this change. And make sure to save time for Q&A at the end, ideally at least 30 minutes. Then also point people to other places if they have questions, like their manager or the microsite.
Benefits: These types of meetings let many employees get the same message at the same time. And there’s more two-way communication, as leaders can judge employee morale by the questions people ask—and even facial expressions and body language in the audience.
Challenges: It can be difficult to put together a message that’s suitable for such a large audience. Employees can sometimes feel that these meetings are too vague. It can also be hard to coordinate the meeting across regional time zones. And you might get questions/hostility, you don’t expect, so you’ll need to have a plan in place to address the unexpected.
Do a digital broadcast
If your offices have monitors sprinkled throughout, like in common areas or cafeterias, you can use these to announce general information. This is a good way to broaden the message out to anyone who doesn’t attend larger update meetings because of where or when they work.
Typical announcements include cutover dates for locations, rollout of new applications, new training available, and FAQs. Work with the owner of the media content to develop a steady line of communication that’s coordinated with other messages.
Benefits: This approach lets you share consistent, persistent messages with many people. It’s also a great way to reach places other than your headquarters or physical offices. Plus, these can be timely and easy to update.
Challenges: Because you’re limited in the length of the message, it can be easier for people to misinterpret what you’re trying to say. People might also miss the message entirely. Plus, you have to keep in mind that these messages might be visible to external people, too. So you wouldn’t want to share sensitive info.
Put together a meeting in a box
This is where you put together a package of information for other leaders to share with their teams (and you might even share it on the microsite, too). This could include anything from talking points to FAQs to videos.
Benefits: The great thing about this approach is that it helps you share a complete, consistent message. It also gives people smaller forums in which to talk about and digest the change. Employees might speak more freely and ask more specific questions about what the change will mean for them personally. Your managers can then aggregate any general feedback and questions and send it up the chain.
Challenges: The downside of this approach is that it can vary by manager. The timing could also be an issue, as different groups tend to meet at different times. So this can be a great follow-up to a broader, more timely communication.
Get in the hot seat
Last up, offer to attend someone else’s staff meeting. This is a great way to address questions and concerns about issues that might apply only to specific groups. The requestor might ask you to present an overview, or you can just be on hand for Q&A for a few minutes.
Benefits: This facilitates focused conversation with a small group of people on topics that are immediate to them. It also helps humanize a project that can feel big and overwhelming.
Challenges: You might have a hard time coordinating schedules. And there’s a chance that unexpected or difficult questions could come up. If so, you can always say that you’ll take the question back to the leadership team (or even your sounding board) and will get back to them with more info after a certain date.
Need help with a merger?
To find out more about how we can help, get in touch.
Source: Gartner. Use These 8 Communication Tools to Minimize Turmoil During Disruption. May 2018.