|Wednesday, 15 June 2011 14:39|
Internal communicators face both a challenge and an opportunity after a merger, says Rebecca Richmond, research & content director at training agency Melcrum
I’ve spent the last few weeks in Asia-Pacific meeting our members in workshops and conferences, and understanding what it is that makes internal communication in that region both a challenge and an incredibly exciting opportunity. One theme that came up time and again in APac was growth – but specifically growth through M&A and the role that comms has to play here.
In a post-merger environment, some people will be reeling from the impact of what has happened to the businesses involved. However smooth and well-orchestrated the process might have been, there will be shocks for certain employee communities. For internal comms, this presents both a challenge and an opportunity to establish credibility and authority as change agents – the team that can help smooth things out and bring everyone together under the new corporate banner.
Over the years, the research we’ve done at Melcrum into change comms and M&A impact has helped us create a checklist of points for internal comms to consider in the ‘brave new world’ created post-merger:
1. Decide what definition of “partnership” is right for your organisation and team. For some, partnership means a collaborative relationship of equals. For others, it can still be a simple customer/supplier relationship.
2. Establish how you ideally want to add value within those partnerships. Do you want to be the person who challenges the underlying strategy and acts as counsellor and coach? Can you add your best value by translating complex strategies into simple messages, expressed in ways employees trust and can identify with?
3. Keep an open mind about where you can add value. Coaching, facilitation, questioning, challenging, being the business counsellor – all those things are highly valued. They unquestionably add value to the business, and I think there’s definite room for us to be developing people’s skills in these areas and spending a higher proportion of our time on them.
4. Know the business and its employees in the new structure – and understand what went before to provide context. An intimate understanding of the business, together with an ability to speak confidently on behalf of employees and predict how they might react, are the two requirements common to all internal comms activities post-merger.
5. Consider whether the team has the right skills. Provide developmental and practical support where it’s needed. Being trusted advisors, coaches, partners, counsellors – these are all roles which internal communicators often seem to aspire to and have in their mind that “the best communicators” do. At the same time, many don’t know what those roles mean in practice, lack the skills or experience to carry them out and, when it comes down to it, will choose the easier option to take a brief and produce materials every time.
6. Invest time and effort in articulating the value the internal communication can add and what it’s there to do in a post-merger situation (and beyond). Clarify roles and responsibilities. Ours isn’t the easiest role in the world to articulate. It pays dividends to spend time explaining what our role is really about, identifying where there are grey areas and agreeing who’ll do what.
7. ... but stay flexible and keep an open mind. Collaboration and cross-fertilisation of skills and experience are two of the benefits of partnerships. They can only happen if we’re willing to step out of the mindset of “This is my job. Keep out”.
This is the last article I’ll be writing for Communicate due to other commitments but I hope you won’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to learn more any of the themesI’ve explored over the last year. Good luck with your future communications efforts.