Newsletter can help employees cope with a corporate downsizing, merger or acquisition
by David Kandler
Editor's Note: The author of this article, David Kandler, is the founder and president of CompanyNewsletters.com, an Internet firm that produces newsletters for companies throughout the United States. Learn more about how his firm can help your company produce printed and electronic newsletters.
Few events cause as much stress, confusion and uncertainty in an employee's life as a corporate downsizing, merger or acquisition.
Although you can't totally eliminate the uncomfortable feelings employees have during these times of corporate chaos, there is a tool you can use to help employees cope with the rapid changes: your employee newsletter.
During a corporate downsizing, merger or acquisition, employees will have an incredible thirst for more information. Uncertainty will cloud the workplace, and employee questions will seem never ending.
During a downsizing, surviving employees may be wondering: Why did this happen? Am I next? Is the company in trouble?
During a merger, employees may be asking: Will there be layoffs? How will my job duties change? Will jobs be moving to other locations?
In the case of an acquisition, employees from the buying company may be wondering: How are we going to handle the increased responsibilities associated with acquiring another company? How are we going to handle the overlapping of both companies' products and services?
And employees of the acquired company may be asking: Is my job safe? If I'm retained, how will my pay and benefits change?
By featuring articles that address these issues, your employee newsletter can play a crucial role in helping to answer questions and eliminate employee uncertainty.
To help ensure that your employee communications effort is successful, here is a checklist to follow:
Devote a special section of your publication or a separate newsletter to the downsizing, merger or acquisition.
There are so many issues to communicate to employees during these times of rapid transition, you'll definitely need additional space for this coverage.
If you try to squeeze the information into the normal size and format of your employee newsletter, you'll end up shortchanging readers on either your coverage of the downsizing, merger or acquisition, or the coverage of the more traditional news that you typically run in the newsletter.
If you regularly produce an eight-page employee newsletter, consider adding a four-page special section to each issue to cover the ongoing issues related to the transition.
Or you could do like one company did when it was being acquired. The corporation started a new limited-run newsletter called Transition Times. The employee newsletter was devoted entirely to coverage of the acquisition. It was published from the time the sale was announced, through the legal transfer of ownership, and many months afterward until each department and each employee was fully integrated into the new company structure.
As the Transition Times example points out, newsletter coverage of the transition won't be a one-time thing. Most likely, you'll have to continue the special coverage for many months after the primary event has taken place. For instance, in the case of two corporations merging, employees' questions will linger long after the legal transaction has taken place. It will likely take one year or more before employees from both corporations have assimilated into the newly formed company's operations, structure and culture.
Because most employee communications departments are bombarded with increased workloads during a downsizing, merger or acquisition, many companies hire an outside firm to help with the writing and production of the new newsletter or special section.
When interviewing your company's executives for articles related to the transition, encourage them to be totally open and honest with employees.
It's human nature to avoid wanting to give bad news to people. However, if your company's executives don't give employees the answers they need, the executives will not only create a sense of distrust in the organization, they'll force employees to turn to the rumor mill to try and find answers.
If your executives are open and honest about why certain decisions have been made, employees may not necessarily agree, but at least they'll understand the reasons for what took place and be better able to accept what has happened.
And remember this: Employees would rather hear bad news in advance than be blind sided by it when it happens.
Too often, executives think, "We don't want to burden and depress employees by telling them that more rounds of layoffs are coming. That news will just make them miserable."
Yes, it will make them miserable. But employees will be even more miserable if executives mislead them into thinking everything is finally back to normal, and then BLAM - employees get Pearl-Harbored with a new round of layoffs.
Nothing can destroy employee trust faster than having corporate leaders who are not open and honest.
Make sure employees learn about major corporate changes at work before they read about them in the local newspaper.
When you have a major corporate shake-up to announce, it's obvious that you should tell your employees before releasing it to the outside world.
Most companies are good at doing this. However, where they fall short is that they don't give employees the same quantity and quality of information as the local newspapers.
To a newspaper, it's a major story when a hometown company experiences a downsizing or is part of a merger or acquisition. Newspaper reporters are good at asking company executives questions and digging for information.
Consequently, what usually happens is employers tell their workers only the basic facts of the announcement. They leave out many details. Then the next morning, employees turn to the local newspaper to get the full "inside" story.
The challenge for your employee newsletter is to give readers detailed information about the corporate shakeup, so they won't learn anything new when they pick up the local newspaper the next day.
One important note, here: Your employee newsletter should not be a substitute for face-to-face communications - it should be a complement. Whenever possible, major announcements should be made in person. The best way is to call a company-wide meeting and have your CEO address employees directly.
Run an "Ask the CEO" feature in your newsletter in which employees can anonymously ask questions about the downsizing, merger or acquisition.
Chances are very good that, if one employee has a question, many others are wondering the same thing.
Also, encourage your CEO not to shy away from the tough questions. By answering the more difficult and delicate questions, your CEO will be demonstrating his or her commitment to open, honest employee communications.
Besides, if readers see only cream-puff questions being answered, they'll doubt the legitimacy of the questions, and your publication's credibility will suffer.
Write articles that tell employees how to answer customer questions regarding the downsizing, merger or acquisition.
There's no doubt that when your customers read about your corporate changes, they'll have lots of questions about how it will impact them.
Use articles to instruct your front-line employees how to address these questions. List the customer questions that you expect to be most frequently asked, and suggest ways for employees to answer them.
To learn more about the author's firm and how it can produce printed or online newsletters for your company, see http://CompanyNewsletters.com or call 952/892-6943.
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