Best practices for communicating during a corporate transition

By Amber Hamilton

When a company embarks on a merger, acquisition, or corporate restructuring, the need for an internal communications strategy can quickly become eclipsed by leadership’s focus on the financial and legal aspects of the deal. A lack of communication, or poor communication, with employees during such a significant change often leads to adverse outcomes both internally and externally. No matter the industry - healthcare, finance, commerce, med tech, marketing or entertainment – effective communication can mitigate or even eliminate negative backlash. 

It is essential that all internal communications are: 

  • As transparent as possible 
  • Delivered as early as possible 

Here are some additional best practices to follow when the goal is to promote business continuity, minimize the anxiety of employees, boost morale, and retain talent:

Anticipate and proactively address questions and concerns

Naturally, employees’ first question will be whether they still have their jobs and how their roles will change. Address these issues upfront – even the uncomfortable ones – by describing any immediate changes affecting employees. If their jobs are at stake, communicate that immediately. If their jobs are not at stake, write clearly and openly about how the transition will affect their day-to-day operations.

Be able to answer the 4 Ws: who, what, when, and why. 

The 4 Ws will be the foundation for all messages to each audience. They also provide the necessary facts to help employees understand how this change will impact them.

Explain why this is happening and how it will be handled.

Even in a situation where everyone knows layoffs are coming, it’s still important to tell those who are losing their jobs why leadership is taking this specific action. After the initial shock, people want to know three things: 

– What is my end date? 

– What is my severance? 

– What should I do?

Have answers to these available. 

Show compassion, and don’t make it about you. 

Be respectful and show compassion for employees. One-on-one conversations are better than group meetings (or email) in discussing layoffs. Don’t be maudlin. Keep the focus on each employee, and explain how leadership will help during the transition. 

Don’t ask for secrecy. 

Don’t ask people who just lost their jobs to keep it a secret. This is an unfair burden for those leaving, and it shows disrespect for your continuing staff, who are already watching colleagues and friends go.

Direct further questions and concerns to HR.

Direct employees to the appropriate HR person should they have additional questions or concerns. If the company has scheduled a meeting to address the transition in person (which is recommended), alert employees of that so they know when to attend and to bring questions. Employees should feel heard and valued, not left in the dark.

Maintain focus on day-to-day operations.

Be mindful of remaining workers’ concerns. This is also a difficult time for employees who stay with the organization. Inform remaining workers about the changes that may need to be made in light of job cuts. Managers and leaders should be available to remaining employees.

Be mindful of post-layoff announcements. 

The period after a workforce reduction requires special attention. Do not make external announcements boasting additional expenses - new hires, corporate sponsorships, advertising agreements, etc.


by Amber Hamilton

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