Strategic Outreach

Managing Change Via Communications

Employee Integration After Acquisition – the Communications Factor

Underestimate the impact of an acquisition on the employees of the acquired organization at your own risk and peril. Just because an employee will continue to do their same job after integration, doesn’t mean that things don’t change in their work world. Often it’s dozens of things – their health & welfare benefits, retirement savings, life insurance, pay date and other HR services (or HR self-service). Their email, information and collaboration networks probably change also. Angst festers due to uncertainty, as employees wonder if their role will continue long-term within the new organization, especially if it’s a larger, more complex organization.

As your people move from being an employee of Company A to an employee of Conglomerate ABC, well-strategized communications are needed to avoid confusion, skepticism and negative perceptions about the change. This series of blog posts will explain what worked for us during the integration of 1,280 clinicians and support staff, plus about 900 affiliated physicians, at a prestigious hospital that became a part of our 33 hospital, 5-state health care system.    

The Kick-Off Strategy – Spell Out What’s Changing, and What’s Not

It is imperative to kick off the integration with a substantive communication from executive leadership that spells out what’s changing, and what’s not changing for the employee. Do this before the integration begins impacting everyone. Effective sponsorship of the change requires multiple levels of management to be actively supportive and involved, but the process starts with executive leaders. They need to not only endorse the change initiative, but also communicate its importance and the resources they have ensured are behind it.

Allow as much lead time as possible to prepare this communication. Timing is tricky – it’s a balance between getting it out early enough to alleviate staff angst and confusion, and late enough that most change factors and go-live timeframes have been solidified to make it as meaningful and helpful as possible.

The emphasis in all communications to managers and staff groups should be on the positive outcome and future for both organizations, but there should be acknowledgement of the challenges and short-term inconvenience during the change. Transparency is key.


November 25, 2014 Posted by | Acquisition Communications, Change Management, Corporate Communications, Employee Integration | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Communication Tactics and Tools as Employee Integration Begins

To get employees on board during integration into a new organization, equip managers with information on the integration steps and ask them to discuss it with their staff/team. This is typically a very effective way to build awareness, depending on the organization’s culture. We prepare FAQs, Talking Points, and Timeline Overview tools to assist these core leaders.

There’s one communication, however, that you’ll want to send directly to all staff levels, without relying solely on mangers. It’s an initial “what’s changing, what’s not” roll-up communication from an executive leader that previews what happens during the integration.

Due to the structure of teams working on the integration, the tendency is to generate one memo from HR and one from Information Services (a.k.a. “IT”) explaining the changes and when they will occur. Resist the temptation to produce separate “welcomes” and combine them. An employee cares about what changes, both personally (for them and their family) and within their immediate work environment, not what department is sponsoring the change. Certain employees also will be looped into other arenas that change, such as supply chain or finance.

Another tool is an “at a glance” overview of milestones and dates (via a checklist or other vehicle) for quick reference by managers and staff. Here’s an example – part of a checklist from a recent integration I anchored.

Pathways to Providence piece

This series of blog posts explains what worked well (or didn’t) during the integration of about 2,000 clinicians, support staff and affiliated physician, at a prestigious hospital that became a part of our 33 hospital, 5-state health care system.


November 17, 2014 Posted by | Acquisition Communications, Change Management, Corporate Communications | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Maintain a Reliable Channel for Updating Core Leaders (Managers and Above)

During the whirlwind of changes that impact employees during integration (after an acquisition), it’s important to establish and promote a primary channel/vehicle for regular updates to core leaders, i.e. managers and above.

My colleagues and I found that a common complaint is that there are too many discrete memo-announcements on individual HR and IT subjects during an integration, and managers and staff get overwhelmed as they accumulate the various information.

After the initial overview-of-the-integration communication is released early in the integration, move quickly to a weekly roll-up update for core managers. Keep each item brief with links to more information or related resources. This should greatly reduce one-off memos. Reminders should be a balance of verbal communications (from managers during staff meetings, for instance), posted notices, and reinforcement on the organization’s intranet . Minimize the repeated “push” communications via email; instead, tune managers into reading the weekly roll-up update.

A great way to format the weekly update is to divide the notices and information under three headings: “Take Action” or “Action Needed”  (when the reader needs to do something), “Need to Know” (for information the reader should pay close attention to), and “Other Updates.”   A fourth section often is a calendar of upcoming milestones and go-lives.

Our Transition screenshot-cropped

A weekly e-newsletter “roll up” update to managers helps to keep everyone on the same page during integration, and minimizes excess email traffic. Here’s two (above and below) I developed for recent integrations.

Integration Update screenshot

This series of blog posts explains what worked well (or didn’t) during the integration of about 2,000 clinicians, support staff and affiliated physician, at a prestigious hospital that became a part of our 33 hospital, 5-state health care system.

November 11, 2014 Posted by | Acquisition Communications, Change Management, Corporate Communications, Employee Integration | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Messaging for Internal Communications During Integration

Pay close attention to the tone and “voice” of key communications to managers and staff during integration of employees from an acquired organization. Besides being welcoming in tone If it’s authored by an executive leader from the new “parent” organization, it’s best to avoid use of “us” and “you” in the wording. It should all be “we” and “us,” especially if the acquisition is official and complete. It should convey that everyone is part of the same organization now.

Depending on the announcement, some integration communications should be authored by a known, local leader (to demonstrate that they are fully subscribed to the change that has occurred). There should be a unified voice from all leaders. No “they will be doing this to us (or for us),” implicit or implied.

Also avoid multiple “welcome” messages from various functional sponsors/teams within the integration that are sent to all employees. There should be one official welcome, not separate welcomes from each HR or IT workstream.

You’ll want to sort out the branding used in communications in terms of logos in play during integration. Transition as soon as possible to a logo aligned with the new, larger (parent) organization – but be sensitive to that “letting go” period when there’s still attachment to the outgoing name and/or logo. In some cases, existing branding is retained for external marketing needs. In my work, the old and thenew name/logo have sometimes been included in early communications, with establishment of the new corporate organization branding when appropriate. The downside is that multiple logos can cause confusion.

Lastly, please, for the sake of the sanity of all, always spell out acronyms. Not doing this is the fastest way to frustrate and alienate both leaders and employees of the acquired organization. For our latest integration, we created a short roster of key acronyms and definitions and posted them on-line for reference.

This series of blog posts explains what worked well (or didn’t) during the integration of about 2,000 clinicians, support staff and affiliated physician, at a prestigious hospital that became a part of our 33 hospital, 5-state health care system.

October 30, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Colliding Vinyl Timepieces – 60s Upbeat

This breezy little timepiece of mine hangs in my office.  Love to work those yellows and oranges with a some red vinyl accent.  The Kama Sutra Records label from the 60s was a gem.  Beatles, Dave Clark Five, Lovin’ Spoonful, and Bubble Puppy. 

July 7, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

When the change initiative changes

About our Epic Implementation at Providence Health & Services: 27 hospitals (ranging from small rural hospitals to 700-plus-bed medical centers) and 350 clinics across five state are moving to a single-build Epic Electronic Health Record system (2012-2014).

A seismic change to an organization or to its core operations is hard enough to accomplish, but from a communications standpoint, it’s even more challenging when the change initiative itself changes along the way. After going live on Epic at six hospitals and dozens of clinics within four months last year, our leadership realized that the initial, highly aggressive go-live schedule could not be maintained. Problematic areas included: building unique lab interfaces for every hospital and clinic group; getting revenue cycle processes up and running (ex: charge capture); and getting physicians across the system to agree to standardized order sets.

After having trumpeted “full steam ahead” for many months, we suddenly needed to explain the need for a 6-month pause in hospital go-lives so that the Epic team could fix, complete, or improve a whole bunch of things. Ambulatory go-live waves of clinics, however, continued during this period.

Our intention was not only committing to getting it right, but also to reinforce that we are a “learning” organization that expects mistakes, and expects to learn from them.

What didn’t change: the executive sponsors’ involvement and commitment to the objective and the program. Strategically we remained consistent; tactically we were flexible. During the inpatient go-live pause, twelve high-priority workgroups hammered out specific deliverables. Communications were open, transparent, positive, and frequent.

May 29, 2013 Posted by | B2B messaging, Change Management, Corporate Communications, IT Process Change, Tech Sector Thought Leadership | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Physician engagement during major change implementations

When you change the way thousands of physicians will be working in your hospitals (i.e. implement a totally new Electronic Health Record), it’s no small task to win their hearts and minds. Nothing can substitute for face-to-face engagement: local physician champions talking to their colleagues at mixers, convenient and effective training followed by hands-on time, prior to go-live; and at-the-elbow support at go-live. Emailed information is not the name of the game.

At Providence, we created an interactive tool called Choose Your Own Journey that lets physicians try-out our build of the Epic Electronic Health Record (EHR) prior to training. These modules walk them through patient visits, orders and other tasks – with a narrator prompting them to perform each step (and helping them if they need it).

Our first inpatient go-live experiences demonstrated to us that we needed even more support for our physicians.  We subsequently added Provider Optimization Workshops, on site, to help better prepare them before go-live. We also employed tutors (med students already well-schooled on Epic) for at-the-elbow help during their first days of using the new system with actual patients, and set up Provider Engagement Centers during go-live where physicians could ask questions and get help.

Our physician champions used talking points, FAQs and other tools we prepped for them. We wrote a candid “pros and cons of Epic” piece that acknowledged what tasks would initially take them more time until they became proficient on the system.  It also discusses what they needed to sacrifice for the greater cause of achieving integrated patient records that would ultimately save everyone time, and lead to better outcomes, and higher patient safety and satisfaction.

Bottom line: you can’t have too much physician engagement.

May 1, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

IT Change Management Requires Good Communications

Information Technology swells and recedes as a separate business entity with changing corporate structures.  A number of Fortune 500 companies are eliminating their overarching CIO positions and moving IT to the Business Unit level.  In some cases,  an “IT Leadership Group” is ordained to create standards, allocate resources, etc. The fear when doing this is that Business Unit level IT silos will be controlled by people who lack overall corporate perspective and have limited accountability.

Sounds like a corporate communications opportunity for folks like me who have been involved in IT process change.  I was recently part of the opposite situation: the large corporation I was working with had centralized IT after years of Business Unit IT autonomy.  The upside was that IT was being treated as a strategic bottom-line-enhancer.  The new penalty, however, was that the Business Units felt that they weren’t being listened to – that IT crammed canned solutions down their throat without regard to their individual B.U. needs and requirements.

And so it goes.  Clarifying IT missions and getting employees on board to make it all work is a fascinating endeavor, and I’ve had the pleasure of working on this equation both internally and externally.

It’s true during process change (effecting staff) as well as organizational change that impacts management: it can be difficult for IT managers to fully embrace the communication part of the equation. As Management Leadership guru Jim Clemmer puts it: “A direct and positive correlation exists between the results obtained and the amount of time spent upfront helping everyone understand the need for the change and training to help them deal with the changes.”

Terse content (i.e. messaging), convincing and to the point, is a key element.

January 12, 2011 Posted by | B2B messaging, Change Management, Content-Inspired Conversations, Corporate Communications, IT Process Change | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Print Media is Alive and Thriving

In an environment where oceans of websites claw for audiences and compete with traditional media, the Association of Magazine Media has rolled out a major campaign to remind everyone how vital print is. I love this headline on a recent 2-page spread ad:

“Will the Internet kill magazines?  Did instant coffee kill coffee?”

They certainly picked a poignant example; one that relates to the “instant gratification” aspect of the internet in terms of convenience.  The difference is that the internet is vast and sensory-rich, whereas instant coffee is bland, predictable and boring.  But history does indeed verify that very few communication technologies have died at the hands of a new one. And their logo is cool: you quickly recognize the “g” from Rolling Stone and the “Es” from Esquire mastheads.

The association offers a Magazine Handbook – Engagement to Action that cites reams of research from various sources showing that magazine readership is going up, not down.  One of the findings: 87% of those interested in reading magazines on a digital device also want a printed copy.  Interesting. The campaign does not make it clear whether its other statistics are referring to just the print versions of magazines, or reflect the print, digital and on-line versions.

Personally, I don’t think print will die; most professionals are spending most of the day staring at a computer screen, then staring at the glare for hours more in the evening for social media, hobbies, etc.  So relaxing with print is a relief.  I enjoy magazines during air travel, especially when cramped in.

I predicted years ago that the business and industrial product-review potpourri publications (fueled by product news releases) would drop their print editions since searching on the web for compressors, for instance, is so much more efficient than thumbing through a random round-up of various types of products.  Some have gone, some haven’t.  Witness IEN (Industrial Equipment News).

My belief is that the higher level, thought-provoking journals will indefinitely remain in print – they are meant to be absorbed and pondered in a comfortable chair, not scrolled through on a laptop.  if inspired, the reader can quickly jump back onto the stream-of-consciousness info superhighway and join (or start) the conversation on the subject.  It’s all good. Content that drives conversations should come from diverse media, including video, audio, holograms, whatever works.

December 20, 2010 Posted by | B2B Media, Brand and Reputation, Content-Inspired Conversations | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Wouldn’t You Put Your B2B Video on YouTube?

The use of YouTube by B2B marketers is growing fast, and since an entertainment element is preferred by viewers, this is where serious companies with complex offerings should lighten up a bit and relate to the “people” side of things.

Novell’s “Gimme” video for its WorkloadIQ (a suite of products for intelligent workload management) is amusing, clever, and right on in terms of the message. In it, conversations directed at the IT guy consist only of two syllables: gim-me (with various inflictions).  The “gimme” theme is something everyone in IT can identify with; in fact, anyone who is employed within the service and support sector of the business world would probably give this a knowing nod.

Even though the little commercial can be shared from the Novell site, YouTube is the fastest way to get extra mileage and awareness from the effort, and if the producer is lucky, videos like these get a big viral boost. Plus, if it had been on YouTube, I  could have easily imported it as a playable video right into this blog post.

Maybe it’s not up on YouTube because Novell is in the process of being bought by Attachmate and a consortium led by Microsoft, and they want to appear serious.  Microsoft doesn’t really have a great sense of humor as far as I can see – typically when they try, it looks like they’re trying too hard.

Other tech sector big-leaguers are cool enough to jest. My favorite Intel TV spot pokes fun at what’s funny to a techno worker. It’s far more interesting than the overplayed “robot who gets his feelings hurt” spot that had a Super Bowl premiere this year.

So is B2B awareness-building success on YouTube just for the big guys?  Not really. The Earnest Agency, a London-based B2B marketing services agency decided to take their research report that summarizes B2B use of the social web, and turn it into a lively animated video (think Monty Python animated cut-outs).   In the first six weeks (last autumn) it got 6500 views, 90 mentions on Twitter, and they saw a 30% increase in traffic to their website and a 77% increase in weekly visitors to their blog.

But there was one hitch. When you click the play button below, you’ll see that you have to then click a link to YouTube to see it.  See my explanation below.

Looks like you can only view it on YouTube.  It seems Sony Music Entertainment forced them to stop offering it on the agency website, since the soundtrack is a Dave Brubeck recording.   But apparently showing it on  YouTube is allowed (because it’s an educational venue?)  My take on Earnest’s mistake: 1) they used the whole jazz recording, not just part of it.   2) Earnest Agency is indirectly selling something…themselves.  It’s a commercial purpose.

Back to the bottom line on video: lighten up and use YouTube.

December 9, 2010 Posted by | B2B messaging, Brand and Reputation, BtoB Marcomm Creative, Content-Inspired Conversations | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment