Critical communication meetings with employees occur:

  1. Announcement Day
  2. Close Day
  3. After Close–Benefits Briefing

These meetings are prime opportunities to inform people, engage them in the transition process, and answer any questions they may have. Therefore, these sessions should be planned carefully.

When it comes to sharing information with employees, it’s a “pay now or pay later” proposition. Time invested up front in communications is time wisely spent. Without adequate information, people will cook up all sorts of wild rumors that create unnecessary stress.

It’s important to remember that mergers and acquisitions are not democratic processes. Employees don’t have a say in the deal and they don’t get to vote on things that matter to them. In fact, most acquired employees feel that the deal is being done “to them” instead of “with them.” To help them feel more engaged and involved in the process, it’s critical that you schedule meetings to address their predictable questions and concerns. But it’s not only acquired employees who have issues. People on the acquiring side usually experience changes as a result of the deal as well. Therefore, it’s important to communicate simultaneously with employees on both sides of the deal.

When planning for meetings, managers should remember that it is okay to say:

  • “I don’t know.”
  • “That hasn’t been decided yet.”
  •  “I simply can’t share that information with you at this time.”

If the merging companies are spread out geographically, it may be necessary to have more than one meeting to announce the deal. If appropriate technology is not available for single real-time messaging from leadership, it may be necessary to hold simultaneous meetings conducted by local management. This is a little more difficult to facilitate because several people may be responsible for delivering a single message.

A list of anticipated questions with the recommended responses should be developed for all who lead the meetings; this will help prevent speakers from shooting from the hip. The positive side of having multi-location facilitators is that the employees are hearing the news from their local management, with whom they may feel a closer bond and ease in asking questions. This method requires that:

  • facilitators are coached on the messages,
  • meeting times are set for simultaneous delivery of the message, and
  • announcement materials are distributed to all facilitators in advance.

If employee responses are expected to be volatile, speakers should be rehearsed in dealing with very sensitive questions, reacting to emotional outbursts, and dealing with difficult employees.

Note: Don’t be surprised if employees of the acquired company respond to the announcement of the deal with shock and denial. These are normal responses when people first receive information they didn’t anticipate. They may behave as if they didn’t hear you or as if they don’t understand, or don’t care. Even if employees are very pleased with the news, they may not demonstrate their reaction in a way that makes it easy for you to read how they really feel.

To help people understand unexpected news:

  • Speak slowly and calmly, but naturally.
  • Repeat important messages more than once.
  • Keep the messages short, simple, and to the point.
  • Remind people there will be additional opportunities to ask questions in the future.
  • Put all the main messages down in writing so employees can refer back to them later.

In addition to these three meetings, managers must be prepared to communicate much more frequently and much more openly than they normally might. Mergers create an insatiable thirst for information. Even though this thirst is impossible to quench, managers must do their best to try. That means being accessible, listening as much as they talk, and checking in with people frequently to make sure they have heard and understand what is being said.

Announcement Day

For post-merger integration, communication needs to start as soon as possible–and be constant throughout the merger and integration process. For a public company, of course, communication is limited by regulation. The merger or acquisition cannot be announced to public shareholders until the Letter of Intent (LOI) is signed.

Even if both companies are privately held, it is still a good idea to wait until the LOI is signed. Many deals fall apart before an LOI is signed. If you make a premature announcement to employees and the deal is nixed, this could create confusion.

But once the buyer and seller sign the LOI, employees need swift communications. If not, rumors will spread and multiply.

Message Content

The purpose of the announcement message is to share with all employees that the companies are going to be combined. The anticipated benefits and goals of the transaction should be communicated clearly so that employees from both sides understand why the merger is happening. The message should include the vision and mission of the new combined organization, as well as the advantages and synergies expected. Some of these advantages may include improved customer service, expanded market share, or broadened competencies.

The main question on employees’ minds will be, “What’s going to happen to me?” In addition, here are some other questions that employees commonly ask or have on their minds at Announcement.

Business Strategy and Operational Questions

_____   1. We had a successful company? Why was this deal necessary?

_____   2. Why weren’t we told before now?

_____   3. How will this change how we do business with customers?

_____   4. When will the deal be officially closed? What if it doesn’t close?

_____   5. Will I still report to the same manager?

_____   6. What will the new organizational structure look like?

_____   7. Will I have the same responsibilities as before?

_____   8. How much overlap is there between the two companies?

_____   9. Will there be layoffs? Short and long term?

_____ 10. Will any locations/departments be closed as a result of the deal?

Presenters should be well-rehearsed in how to respond to these questions.

It is important to consider the make-up of the various employee groups when creating the messages to be delivered. It may be necessary to customize the message for different audiences. For example, the employees from an acquiring company will need to hear why the acquisition is being made, what benefits are anticipated, and how the acquisition may change their work environment, organizational structure, and so on.

Employees from the acquired organization will need to hear much more, such as the history of the acquiring organization as well as its leadership structure, growth, major events, and perhaps its revenue/profit trends.

The announcement materials for the acquired company employees should include a Q&A sheet with answers to anticipated questions. This allows the facilitator to discuss such questions with answers provided. This information won’t take the place of an open Q&A session during the meeting, but it does help provide more consistent facilitator responses to general questions. These Q&A documents must be developed carefully because they will be reviewed with close scrutiny by employees.

Along with the business-focused message, there will need to be some discussion for acquired employees regarding pay, benefits, and HR-related topics. This can be brief as long as follow-up meetings are planned for more in-depth discussions of these topics. At the very least, a few bullet points that can be stated to calm immediate fears would be helpful. Here are some examples of the kind of statements buyers may wish to make:

  • “Your past years of service will be recognized and transferred.”
  • “Vacation balances will be transferred.”
  • “Paydays will continue to be bi-weekly.”
  • “There will be no lapse of coverage in benefits.”

Employee reactions to the announcement of the deal can range from:

  • “This is great news,” to
  • “I’ll wait and see before I make up my mind how I feel,” to
  • “I’ve competed against these jerks for years, and now you expect me to happily join forces with them? You must be crazy.”

It is critical to win over the informal leaders of the employee groups, which may require one-on-one meetings with them immediately following the announcement meeting. These informal leaders can then follow up with individuals after the meeting and help them work through the negative emotions they may be experiencing.

  

Agenda for Announcement Meeting

The Announcement Meeting should be as short as possible, but as long as necessary. Anticipate that it will create more questions than you have answers for. Keep your messages short and succinct. Since people may have trouble absorbing the news, don’t include any more content than is absolutely necessary. Save time for questions at the end.

It’s important to remember that mergers and acquisitions are not democratic processes. Employees don’t have a say in the deal and they don’t get to vote on things that matter to them. In fact, most acquired employees feel that the deal is being done “to them” instead of “with them.” To help them feel more engaged and involved in the process, it’s critical that you schedule meetings to address their predictable questions and concerns. But it’s not only acquired employees who have issues. People on the acquiring side usually experience changes as a result of the deal as well. Therefore, it’s important to communicate simultaneously with employees on both sides of the deal.

When planning for meetings, managers should remember that it is okay to say:

  • “I don’t know.”
  • “That hasn’t been decided yet.”
  •  “I simply can’t share that information with you at this time.”

If the merging companies are spread out geographically, it may be necessary to have more than one meeting to announce the deal. If appropriate technology is not available for single real-time messaging from leadership, it may be necessary to hold simultaneous meetings conducted by local management. This is a little more difficult to facilitate because several people may be responsible for delivering a single message.

A list of anticipated questions with the recommended responses should be developed for all who lead the meetings; this will help prevent speakers from shooting from the hip. The positive side of having multi-location facilitators is that the employees are hearing the news from their local management, with whom they may feel a closer bond and ease in asking questions. This method requires that:

  • facilitators are coached on the messages,
  • meeting times are set for simultaneous delivery of the message, and
  • announcement materials are distributed to all facilitators in advance.

If employee responses are expected to be volatile, speakers should be rehearsed in dealing with very sensitive questions, reacting to emotional outbursts, and dealing with difficult employees.

Note: Don’t be surprised if employees of the acquired company respond to the announcement of the deal with shock and denial. These are normal responses when people first receive information they didn’t anticipate. They may behave as if they didn’t hear you or as if they don’t understand, or don’t care. Even if employees are very pleased with the news, they may not demonstrate their reaction in a way that makes it easy for you to read how they really feel.

To help people understand unexpected news:

  • Speak slowly and calmly, but naturally.
  • Repeat important messages more than once.
  • Keep the messages short, simple, and to the point.
  • Remind people there will be additional opportunities to ask questions in the future.
  • Put all the main messages down in writing so employees can refer back to them later.

In addition to these three meetings, managers must be prepared to communicate much more frequently and much more openly than they normally might. Mergers create an insatiable thirst for information. Even though this thirst is impossible to quench, managers must do their best to try. That means being accessible, listening as much as they talk, and checking in with people frequently to make sure they have heard and understand what is being said.

Announcement Day

For post-merger integration, communication needs to start as soon as possible–and be constant throughout the merger and integration process. For a public company, of course, communication is limited by regulation. The merger or acquisition cannot be announced to public shareholders until the Letter of Intent (LOI) is signed.

Even if both companies are privately held, it is still a good idea to wait until the LOI is signed. Many deals fall apart before an LOI is signed. If you make a premature announcement to employees and the deal is nixed, this could create confusion.

But once the buyer and seller sign the LOI, employees need swift communications. If not, rumors will spread and multiply.

Message Content

The purpose of the announcement message is to share with all employees that the companies are going to be combined. The anticipated benefits and goals of the transaction should be communicated clearly so that employees from both sides understand why the merger is happening. The message should include the vision and mission of the new combined organization, as well as the advantages and synergies expected. Some of these advantages may include improved customer service, expanded market share, or broadened competencies.

The main question on employees’ minds will be, “What’s going to happen to me?” In addition, here are some other questions that employees commonly ask or have on their minds at Announcement.

Business Strategy and Operational Questions

_____   1. We had a successful company? Why was this deal necessary?

_____   2. Why weren’t we told before now?

_____   3. How will this change how we do business with customers?

_____   4. When will the deal be officially closed? What if it doesn’t close?

_____   5. Will I still report to the same manager?

_____   6. What will the new organizational structure look like?

_____   7. Will I have the same responsibilities as before?

_____   8. How much overlap is there between the two companies?

_____   9. Will there be layoffs? Short and long term?

_____ 10. Will any locations/departments be closed as a result of the deal?

Presenters should be well-rehearsed in how to respond to these questions.

It is important to consider the make-up of the various employee groups when creating the messages to be delivered. It may be necessary to customize the message for different audiences. For example, the employees from an acquiring company will need to hear why the acquisition is being made, what benefits are anticipated, and how the acquisition may change their work environment, organizational structure, and so on.

Employees from the acquired organization will need to hear much more, such as the history of the acquiring organization as well as its leadership structure, growth, major events, and perhaps its revenue/profit trends.

The announcement materials for the acquired company employees should include a Q&A sheet with answers to anticipated questions. This allows the facilitator to discuss such questions with answers provided. This information won’t take the place of an open Q&A session during the meeting, but it does help provide more consistent facilitator responses to general questions. These Q&A documents must be developed carefully because they will be reviewed with close scrutiny by employees.

Along with the business-focused message, there will need to be some discussion for acquired employees regarding pay, benefits, and HR-related topics. This can be brief as long as follow-up meetings are planned for more in-depth discussions of these topics. At the very least, a few bullet points that can be stated to calm immediate fears would be helpful. Here are some examples of the kind of statements buyers may wish to make:

  • “Your past years of service will be recognized and transferred.”
  • “Vacation balances will be transferred.”
  • “Paydays will continue to be bi-weekly.”
  • “There will be no lapse of coverage in benefits.”

Employee reactions to the announcement of the deal can range from:

  • “This is great news,” to
  • “I’ll wait and see before I make up my mind how I feel,” to
  • “I’ve competed against these jerks for years, and now you expect me to happily join forces with them? You must be crazy.”

It is critical to win over the informal leaders of the employee groups, which may require one-on-one meetings with them immediately following the announcement meeting. These informal leaders can then follow up with individuals after the meeting and help them work through the negative emotions they may be experiencing.

  

Agenda for Announcement Meeting

The Announcement Meeting should be as short as possible, but as long as necessary. Anticipate that it will create more questions than you have answers for. Keep your messages short and succinct. Since people may have trouble absorbing the news, don’t include any more content than is absolutely necessary. Save time for questions at the end.

____ I. Thank employees for coming.
____ II. Announce the intention to combine the dealerships and the business rationale
  for doing this.  (Include major details of the deal that you intend to make public
  at this time.)
____ III. Explain where you are in the overall deal process.
 
  • Negotiations complete
  • Letter of Intent signed
____ IV. Explain next steps in the process.
 
  • Due diligence
  • Purchase agreement/close
____ V. Explain what will happen between Announcement and Close.
 
  • Integration planning
  • Continue to operate as separate companies
____ VI. Clarify what can and can't be done since the deal hasn't closed.
 
  • No competitive data shared or information exchanged that could do
    damage to one or both parties
  • Planning is okay, but implementation is not
____ VII. Explain how they will be updated as news of the deal becomes available.
 
  • What they can expect to find out when
  • Who will be communicating this to them
  • Who they should call with questions
____ VIII. Explain how customers and the community will be informed.
 
  • What they should say to customers/community members who ask
  • What they should not say to the media
____ IX. Say a few things to allay major fears and concerns (just make sure they're
  accurate and true).
  Explain that additional meetings will be held at Close and shortly afterward to
  brief them on benefits.
____ X. Question and answer session


Agenda for Close Meeting

By Close, most of the news regarding the deal is old news, so this meeting can seem a bit anticlimactic. However, it’s important to pull employees together once again to let them know the transaction is complete and that the companies are now one organization. It’s nice to have a short celebration at the end of this meeting. Some companies like to hold the meeting first thing in the morning and provide coffee and donuts afterward. Common questions that employees ask or have on their minds at the Close Meeting are:

  1. When will we know what the final integration plans are going to look like?
     
  2. When will we begin to implement those plans?
     
  3. When will the integration be over?
     
  4. When will any staffing changes be announced?
     
  5. When will we begin using the new company name and logo?
     
  6. When will we be briefed on our benefits?
     
  7. Are there any restrictions on what the companies can do together now?

For acquired employees, the buyer should consider distributing welcome packages with new hire/transfer materials and information. Recommended materials include:

  • Welcome letter from buyer
  • Copy of press release about the merger or acquisition
  • Highlights of the deal
  • New hire paperwork (application, I-9, W-4)
  • Benefits enrollment materials (brochures, summary of plan description booklets, forms)
  • Payday/timesheet instructions
  • Employee handbook
  • Code of conduct
  • Frequently Asked Questions handout

Agenda

____ I. Thank employees for coming.
____ II. Announce that the deal has formally closed and reiterate the business rationale
  for doing the deal.
____ III. Explain where you are in the integration planning process and when you
  anticipate implementation will begin.
____ IV. Announce any management staffing decisions that are finalized.
____ V. Announce any other decisions that are finalized (both good and bad).
  Note: People who will be laid off should be notified in separate
  one-on-one meetings.
____ VI. Announce when the Benefits Meeting will be held.
____ VII. Announce that an Open House for customers will be held in the future.
____ VIII. Question and answer session

 


Agenda for Benefits Meeting

This meeting will explain benefits—how they’ll change or remain the same. Expect quite a few questions. This meeting can sometimes take 2 to 3 hours depending on the amount and complexity of information that must be communicated. It should be led by a specialist in compensation and benefits. Attendance should be mandatory.

____ I. Thank employees for coming
____ II. Explain differences between previous and new benefits plan
____ III. Explain options available to employees
____ IV. Explain what steps employees must follow to enroll in benefits plans
____ V. Explain what happens if employees miss the enrollment deadline
____ VI. Explain any differences in policies and procedures related to
  benefits/compensation
____ VII. Question and answer session


Here are questions you should anticipate employees asking at the Benefits Meeting:

Benefits Questions

____ 1. Will my years of service be recognized in the new organization?
____ 2. Will I have health/dental/vision coverage?  When are they each effective?
____ 3. Who are the carriers?  What is my cost?
____ 4. How long do I have to file medical/dental/vision claims that I have not processed
  for reimbursement with the prior carriers?
____ 5. What if I wish to continue my health care with the prior carrier?
____ 6. Will I have life insurance coverage?
____ 7. Will I have short-term and long-term disability coverage?  How will they vary?
____ 8. Will there be a retirement plan?  Will there be any company match?
____ 9. What will happen to my existing funds?
____ 10. How will my 401(k) loan be handled?
____ 11. What happens to my stock/stock options?
____ 12. What happens to my vacation hours I had accrued that I had not used?
____ 13. How much vacation will I earn in the future?
____ 14. What happens to my unused sick or personal pay?
____ 15. Will I accrue hours for sick or personal pay in the future?  How much?
____ 16. What holidays will be recognized in the new organization?
____ 17. I had tuition assistance.  How will that be handled, and will the new organization
  provide this assistance?
____ 18. I have flexible spending accounts for dependent care and medical expenses.
  What will happen with them, and how do I submit expenses going forward?

 
Compensation and Career Questions

____ 1. When is payday, and how often is it?
____ 2. Can I continue having automatic deposit?
____ 3. Will my job title and pay be the same?
____ 4. When and how do I get pay increases in the new organization?
____ 5. How will I find out about career opportunities?
____ 6. What training and development is available in the new organization?
____ 7. I had the opportunity to earn a bonus each quarter/year.  What will happen to
  this quarter's/year's bonus?  Will the new organization offer bonuses?
____ 8. I had specific bonus objectives to achieve.  Should I continue to focus on those?
____ 9. Who should we contact for questions regarding payroll?
____ 10. Who should we contact for questions regarding travel expenses?