Using 'Social' to Engage Employees in a Newly Merged Organisation

Strategic Communications

July 22, 2013

In Australia and around the world, mergers and acquisitions have been a major focus of our work as communicators at FTI Consulting. We’ve helped hundreds of companies in fast moving M&A situations communicate their stories to critical stakeholders, from shareholders and customers to regulators and politicians. As many companies have learned the hard way, communications (or lack thereof) is oftentimes a key component of whether a deal succeeds or fails.

But communications aren’t only important during the “live” cycle of an M&A deal. Should a sale or acquisition successfully complete, the sizeable task of integrating two companies begins. As well as addressing the operational issues and setting to work on realising the strategic benefits and synergies of the transaction, it is important that communications continues to stay centre stage.

Over the years many companies have fallen into the trap of ignoring the task of communicating with their newly expanded stakeholder base, from new customers and employees to suppliers.

Indeed, failing to address internal cultural issues can undermine even the most seemingly compelling corporate partnerships.

As anyone who has worked at a newly merged organisation can attest, integrating two companies can lead to corporate cultures clashing and turf wars breaking out among employees now working together. Managers who once had near autonomy in previous roles may struggle to adapt to a new boss. Rallying staff behind a common vision can seem an insurmountable task.

In recent years, increasing awareness of how cultural issues affect integration has created a body of research and advice on how to manage these worries. Communications is a major pillar of any post-merger integration program. Social media is a natural platform for communicating to a newly-expanded employee base.

Indeed, a wide and expanding array of enterprise social networking (ESN) platforms are making inroads into the office, changing the way not only colleagues communicate among each other but also how they engage with management.

A few notable examples include Yammer, the social media platform designed for internal business use which was bought last year by Microsoft; Salesforce Chatter, a Twitter-style feed for internal communication via the company’s cloud platform; and SAP’s Jam offering which complements its core enterprise service. A variety of smaller niche players such as Jive and Socialtext are also developing a loyal following.

A handful of major multinationals, including IBM and Deloitte, have been singing the praises of ESN particularly as a tool for employee communication in post-deal integration. The platform can be engaging and impactful as part of an internal communications plan, but it needs to be deployed and managed correctly to ensure it is well received. Here are a few suggestions on how to get employees (from new joiners to veterans) on board with your ESN, and how to use it as part of an integration strategy.

  • Stop sending emails: Sometimes email is the right way to contact people, but too often it comes across as sterile and impersonal. Some organisations are now even banning the use of email for internal communications. Instead of emailing staff-wide announcements, post them to an ESN platform. While formal town hall-style forums and meetings will always be a good idea, consider having more frequent forums on ESN; oftentimes video capability can be easily incorporated.
  • Drive traffic to the network: You may be posting great and engaging content on your ESN but your content is only as good as the audience it reaches. Use email to send links and encourage employees to host shared files on an ESN. Over time, employees will feel more comfortable using an ESN as part of their workflow, and will be more likely to engage and contribute to the platform for communications.
  • Be prepared to engage: Allow for comments on announcements and threads so that employees feel empowered to ask questions and contribute to conversations. Importantly, make sure that questions are answered or at least acknowledged.

The communications function is only a part of the social business movement which is changing workplace habits, increasing productivity and creating more engaged employees.  To learn more, please email the writer at: tracey.sen@fticonsulting.com.

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