A merger or acquisition often requires thoroughly integrating the departments, also across different countries. Following the integration in America, with this takeover, it was time for Europe to undergo the process. This meant moving the European headquarters to a different European country and restructuring six support services. The briefing showed that 12 countries would be affected, so it was crucial to have clear communication and strict compliance with the various legal obligations in the countries concerned.
As an expert in assisting with restructuring in the area of communication strategy and approach, Square Circle set to work to oversee this European integration process and draw up an action plan for communication, social relationships, and people, change and crisis management.
In this case study, we will briefly present our approach.
Step 1: Communication – From international to multi-local
The challenge is to get the management responsible for the project AND the local management on the same page. After all, integration may be the goal of the project team, but local management is the driving force for implementing the changes with the employees and is also key to preserving existing social relationships.
A number of well-organized messaging sessions with the integration team will provide a wealth of input, on the basis of which the communication platform can be developed. This is about more than just the pure business case and should give the stakeholders a clear picture of what will actually be involved in the integration.
Next, a number of work sessions with the various local managers allow the concept to be fully tested against the local reality on the ground. Involving the HR managers of the different countries is crucial for keeping the communication as clear as possible for the local employees and the social partners.
Step 2: Master roadmap – All on the same page
It has now become clear that a good roadmap is a crucial part of the preparation and follow-up once the integration has been announced. A detailed master roadmap is drawn up based on the information gathered during the work sessions and talks with project managers and legal specialists. This Square Circle tool incorporates 20 years of experience in some 400 restructurings and provides an overview of all aspects of the integration announcement: define responsibilities, determine communication tools according to the target groups, identify communicators, management training, major deadlines, legal obligations and, above all, what is expected from whom and when.
We then involve the local HR managers and guide them in preparing a local roadmap based on the master roadmap. This will include the legal steps in the different countries in order to enable synchronization in terms of timing (also during negotiations) and a joint approach.
By describing everything as concretely as possible together with the local managers, they are drawn into the project and can prepare themselves for what will be expected of them. They will ultimately become an important link in the success of the integration process. In the roadmap, nothing is left to chance.
Step 3: Management training sessions – How do I deal with uncertainty and change
During the various work sessions, we often notice that there is a need and demand for us to prepare the management for this change, as well. After all, many of them have never experienced anything like this. For example, we provide 20 training courses throughout Europe on how to deal with change in difficult times. These cover how to take on the role of communicator, persuasive communication and how to deal with the media. A Social Crisis Masterclass is organized in 3 potentially critical countries, with the aim of preparing for a number of difficult social scenarios.
Result: A more robust management following the integration
The thorough preliminary process with the integration team and local management put everyone in prime position for the kick-off. The announcement was flawlessly rolled out according to plan in the 12 countries. The social relationships were not harmed because management focused on transparency and trust. The information and consultations with the social partners went smoothly in all the countries where these procedures were required. As a result, the uncertainty among employees was also kept to a minimum.
The integration went according to plan with a management that came out of the process stronger than before.