Most people are frightened when they hear they’re going to be merged or acquired by another organization. The announcement provokes stressful conversation at the workplace and at the home dinner table. I’ve even seen grown people cry when hearing the news of an impending acquisition. Uncertainty can be the cause for personal distress.
There’s usually a modicum of relief when you happen to work for the acquiring company, but the transaction nevertheless still has its impact on morale in the acquiring office.
So how do you overcome the stress that comes knocking upon hearing such news? How do you maintain morale?
The Answer: Resilience in Communications
To consider morale and its relation to an M&A transaction is to consider what value your organization and its culture place on communications – under any circumstances. The more collaborative and change-friendly an organization is, the more it’s able to withstand the stresses and pressures invoked by the transaction of an M&A. To address the notion of morale, we have to ensure that the organization has built a culture of communication and this starts way before you’ve begun contemplating an M&A. It actually starts when you make a commitment to build resilience in communications within your organization, threading its concepts throughout the company culture, its strategy, its policies, its processes, and, most importantly, its people.
When we talk about building resilience in communications, we’re actually building a culture that values open and honest dialogue – upwards, ownwards, and sideways. When an organization successfully cultivates open dialogue, it wins by building an environment that fosters pro-activeness, trustworthiness and confidence in its leadership and its employees.
Before I discuss how we build resilience in communications, let’s consider the attributes of organizations with high resilience in communications and those with low resilience in communications.
Low Resilience in Communications
High Resilience in Communications
|Negative; Critical; Complaining; Condemning; Dishonest; Distrustful; Secretive; Unkind; Disrespectful; Shies away from difficult conversations; Blames others; Guarded; Fights change||Positive; Avoids criticism, complaints and condemnation; Honest; Truthful; Transparent; Kind; Respectful; Willing to have tough conversations; Solution-oriented; Proactively deals with change|
It should be easy and straightforward to follow how the employees of the organization on the right are likely to take the news of an M&A. I would suggest that they would take the news more positively.
Resilience in Communications: What does it mean?
So what does it mean to have resilience in communications and, more importantly, how does an organization build it?
Starting with a definition. We measure resilience in communications by an employee’s ability to be honest, truthful, and transparent in the workplace. Some organizations might not feel comfortable with these touchy, feely concepts, but studies have shown that organizations with cultures that invite and embody these attributes open themselves to more resilient and happier employees, leading to more productive, less stressed, and more “people-first” (aka “Best Place to Work”) work environments.
What does it look like?
With resilient communications, employees are more likely to show up to the workplace with the notion that their voice matters, that they are respected for their opinions, and are empowered to make a difference (and, hence, better fit to proactively deal with change). Such employees come into the office with a focus on production, workmanship, and loyalty.
Contrast this with organizations with low resilience in communications. Their employees come into the office afraid to speak up, hesitating to step out, and eyeing their fellow workers with suspicion. You can bet these organizations have higher employee relations issues, employer turnover and recruiting costs. They also have lower productivity, product and service quality, and lower customer satisfaction – all of which, by the way, are quantifiable and measurable.
How do you build it?
So how do you build an organization with high resilience in communications? You start with a Resilience at WorkTM program that creates a model centered on two simple concepts:
- Culture of Communication, which means a culture that fosters honest and respectful communication both internally and externally. To build this, you should
- Focus on leadership’s “Tone at the Top,” ensuring that leadership values the attributes of a resilient communication policy that fosters proactive versus reactive behavior and that they practice what they preach, ensuring substance over symbolism.
- Develop a communication policy and a communication plan describing upward, downward and sideways communication that values openness and honesty.
- Create incentives that tie open communications to performance evaluation and compensation processes.
- Develop a strong Diversity, Whistleblower and Conflict Resolution policy.
- Conduct routine “Messaging Events,” such as Town Halls, Newsletters, Lunch & Learns, Huddle Meetings, etc.
- Collaborative Communication Venues, which means providing physical spaces and formats that engender open and honest communications. To effectuate this, consider using Huddle Rooms, Coffee Corners and Conference Rooms to encourage the organization to utilize venues, such as:
- Think Tanks, where employees freely generate ideas and openly discuss issues.
- Town Halls where leadership has the ability to hear from employees on a periodic basis and where employees gain insights into organizational vision and strategy.
You know you’ve achieved high resilience in communication when you start to notice a change in the workforce – output increases, people are more pro-active, and well-being improves.
Revisiting our initial dilemma
Let’s revisit our initial issue: How do we maintain morale when faced with an M&A transaction? By now, you should know the answer depends on How Resilient in Communications Are You? Find Out Here!
This post was written by Erin Marin, Partner. Eric Marin has worked in the Management Consulting industry for more than 22 years in the domestic and international arenas. During this time, he has sat on public and not-for-profit boards and has served in various executive positions, overseeing strategy, governance, compliance, organizational effectiveness, and operational performance.