Despite a lack of communication being regularly cited as a top reason why employees leave a company, internal communications are often still an afterthought for leaders during times of significant business transformation.
V Formation explains the importance of communicating change effectively and of having a strategy that sufficiently prepares your workforce for times of uncertainty.
Fail to prepare…
Even though mergers and acquisitions are not uncommon, businesses often struggle with communicating such significant changes effectively to their teams, often with disastrous consequences. According to a 2021 Statista survey, some of the main causes of M&A failure worldwide include:
- Poor cultural fit and lack of trust among parties (41%)
- Unclear strategy and objectives (34%)
- Unclear governance and decision-making structures (25%)
- Inability to retain key people (20%)
In establishing a comprehensive internal communications strategy during times of change, you can help address some of these pain points before they become a serious problem later down the line, particularly those centred around providing clarity.
When a company goes through a period of significant transformation, such as during a merger or acquisition, the leadership team is naturally distracted by the deal itself, whilst trying to balance the day job. Sensitivities around what can or can’t be divulged internally can lead to rumours, speculation, and uncertainty amongst the workforce.
Having an internal communications strategy and process during the deal, when information may not be shareable, will help to maintain trust and employee engagement. This then puts you in a stronger position as you navigate the change.
This is why it is vital to bring your marketing or communications team in, in confidence, along the way. The more notice they have to create and implement a strategy, the better they can communicate the change with the team.
What should you include in your internal comms change strategy?
- Positive internal comms before the announcement. Your strategy needs to ensure consistent, positive internal communications while the deal is going on, and before things can be announced. This helps create a safe and secure culture.
- Timeframes. Whether it is your employees, stakeholders, or the public, your strategy should detail who you’re going to tell, when you will tell them, and in what order. It is paramount that employees are aware of the change before the news is shared with the press or on social media – no one enjoys feeling like the last to know.
- A unified senior team. People in management roles should all be given a detailed brief on what can be said during the announcement. This can help prevent mixed messaging and also ensures everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet.
- Map out roles. One of the first things employees will want to know is what implications there may be for their job roles. In your strategy, roles and responsibilities should be clearly mapped out, particularly any changes to leadership and management positions, so that employees know who they will be reporting in to.
- Keep an open communication policy and maintain communications. As with any big change, people will undoubtedly have questions, so it’s important to keep an open line of communication and to let employees know who they can speak to about any subsequent concerns or queries they might have. Invite questions and have an ‘open door’ approach.
- Prepare a Q&A document in advance. This can help deal with likely questions or concerns your employees may have and is an immediate resource to direct people to after the announcement has been made. You should also provide regular updates to maintain the flow of communication.
- Consider communication channels. In the world of hybrid and flexible working arrangements, leaders need to consider how news is shared with employees, whether it’s face-to-face, via video call, in writing, or a combination of several channels. We’d always recommend building social interaction into your communications plan; speaking in person can help reduce the chance of any misunderstanding or misinterpretation.
Considered communications = connected company culture
Failing to have an effective internal communications strategy in place could lead to several potential pitfalls. As mentioned above, “lack of communication between employee and management” is regularly cited as one of the top reasons why talented employees leave a company.
This is particularly true during times of change. Without clear and consistent communication, employees and stakeholders may rely on rumours and misinformation to fill in the gaps, which can only lead to confusion, anxiety, and a lack of trust, all of which can have a severe and negative impact on company culture.
Culture is what creates the day-to-day experience at a company, and internal communications is a critical component of that. According to recent research, clear and frequent communication is the best way to make employees feel more connected to their work; and a connected culture leads to significant gains in employee productivity and wellbeing.
How we can help
At V Formation, we understand that making time for internal communications in times of change can be difficult. Our aim is to take away some of those time pressures. We can help you develop an internal communications strategy and put tools in place to ensure it becomes part of your company culture.