Let’s be real. When a hospital or health care company announces a merger, some employees are likely to update their resumes and, ultimately, leave.
There are a number of factors that drive these departures, with the most obvious being employees’ desire to choose their own fate rather than wait around to see how a deal might affect their position. This is especially true if merging organizations expect to consolidate jobs where there are overlaps in geography or job function.
Sometimes a little attrition is tolerable, even necessary. However, too much turnover or the departure of key staff could jeopardize the overall success of the transaction.
While there’s no magic bullet, the following communication strategies can help minimize the workforce impact of a deal.
Always. Be. Honest.
Any communication should be truthful to the facts as you know them. This allows you to maintain credibility and trust among employees, which are key factors for retention. Getting caught in a half-truth or selective omission will have the opposite effect.
Although it seems like a simple concept, honesty can be tricky when it comes to transaction communications. For example, you may get questions from employees before the deal is binding or before you’re ready to announce it. You’ll need to have a holding statement ready so you can respond in a way that’s truthful but doesn’t say too much and jeopardize the transaction or your ability to control when and how you communicate it.
Carefully consider timing.
If at all possible, you should share the news of a transaction with internal audiences first. For privately held businesses, that means informing your leadership teams, managers and all employees before making any sort of external announcement. For publicly traded companies, the compliance and legal teams will likely want to make internal announcements simultaneous to, or immediately after the public announcement to ensure compliance with trade regulations.
Employees will appreciate hearing directly from company leadership before reading about it in the news or seeing it on social media. This will help leadership engender the goodwill necessary to support retention efforts. You can then build upon that goodwill by communicating regularly with relevant information and updates – such as responses to common questions. If you don’t have all the answers now, provide a timeline for when you expect to have updates.
Explain value and impact.
Make sure initial communications clearly articulate why the deal makes strategic sense and how it will benefit the organization and its patients/customers, as well as how it will affect employees. You want your workforce to understand why you are making this decision and what it means for them now and in the future. Will the transaction create a new, competitive advantage for the organization? Will it provide a larger platform for employee career growth and development? Will employees have access to new and improved employee benefits or other perks?
If you plan to offer incentives to retain employees, provide as much information about those incentives as possible on the front end. Are you offering bonuses for employees who remain in their positions until the transaction closes? For a specified period after the close? Are there any conditions that must be met in order for employees to qualify for those bonuses? These are all important facts to share – both in writing and through an in-person meeting with individuals’ direct supervisors – before employees have a chance to start sending out their resumes.
Create a feedback loop.
Change can be hard for many people. An important component of navigating organizational change is soliciting and responding to workforce feedback. Make sure to proactively offer a way for employees to share concerns, ask questions and receive prompt responses, whether that’s by contacting their direct supervisor or submitting questions and comments through a company intranet site or dedicated email address. And if you hear a question more than two times, you can be sure that other employees have the same question. Consider adding an FAQ to your intranet or standard internal communications channels.
Every organization and every transaction are different. Contact Lovell Communications at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-297-7766 to discuss your organization’s needs and the specific communication strategies that support employee retention.
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