A Challenge for HR and International Mergers: KMP Construction and Engineering Efforts to Keep the Discussion Going Across the World

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Mergers and acquisitions can be one of the most vulnerable times for an expanding company, especially one which fails to maintain employee engagement during transition. For this proposal, this team’s goal is to improve the business to business communications of the international KMP construction company, whose internal employees feel a disconnection with upper management. In order to address the problem, it is necessary to strategize a more efficient, uniform chain of communication between the domestic and international branches of the same company to address lags in company updates. There are three strategies that are recommended. 

The first strategy is providing multiple options for the company newsletter’s mode of delivery, which addresses the issue of communication frequency. Innovation is the number one challenge that many companies face when adapting to the change of the times, and in the current age of technology, remaining behind can spell disaster for the most mundane. As an international mogul with multiple branches that span an array of countries, cities, cultures, and languages, staying connected can be difficult when relying on outdated postal systems. According to research, “it is argued that having a successful employer brand will mean that the employer has become differentiated from other potential sources of employment” (Edwards, 2013, p.29), and it can be said that “employee perceptions of organizational identity strength” is a key component to a company’s brand. Our first recommendation is to upgrade the mode of delivery for the company newsletter by providing employees more options for receiving it. This can easily be done by providing an e-newsletter that can be accessed via the company website or attached to mass company emails. The advantages of this would be the ease of access to company news anytime, anywhere, and on any device via the internet. Granted, an accompanying disadvantage would be the opposite, as barriers to internet access would mean complete blackout to company news. A proposed solution to this might be providing the print newsletter option in addition to the e-newsletter, this might be selected voluntarily by employees or set as a company default to be changed to suit the preference of employees. The cost indications for providing an e-newsletter might be the operational costs of creating a website if the company does not already have an internet presence. This can include upfront costs of purchasing a domain name and a hosting platform in addition to long term costs of designing and maintaining the website that can imply designating staff. 

The second strategy is increasing social media presence, which addresses the issue of communication consistency to improve employee engagement and decrease feelings of disconnection. KMP lags on the issue of consistent delivery, as company news should be accessible as often and in as many ways as possible to improve employee satisfaction with company efforts to provide relevant and recent information. “According to social identity theory, individuals partly define themselves in terms of their group membership…Thus, individuals specifically identify with groups that provide a distinctive and positive identity” (Lupina, 2014, p.753). Our first recommendation is to invest in the company image and employee identity by delegating a PR team to collaborate with a social media team across the company’s digital platforms. The advantages are endless, and include the very real payoff of employee engagement in the daily workings of the company and allowing for an open two-way form of dialogue with management. For argument’s sake you can say that the disadvantage of social media is the frequency that digital engagement requires on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis in comparison to the thousands of employees an international company such as KMP has in addition to the round-the-clock monitoring that may result from having participants in every time zone around the world. The cost indications of maintaining social media are significantly less than running an entire department dedicated to PR. To implement this plan of action, KMP might first include an interest poll in company communications to gauge how many employees like the idea, then one digital platform with multi-purposed posts to serve as informational and provide grounds for discussion can be chosen, and organized.  This ties into the third strategy. 

The third and final strategy is [an open letter company blog], which addresses issues and concerns employees bring about company actions. Much like the letter from the Brazil office, complaints are not the only online form of feedback that should be highlighted in company publications. This blogging can take the form of interviews held with employees in different offices around the world about any number of company news happening in real time or it can happen more formally as a sit –down panel discussion or other form of round table talk where open discussion is encouraged on any range of pre- and post-merger topics. Quantitative changes such as lay-offs are distinguishable from qualitative changes like mergers (Tanner, 2016, p.2197) and are often a concern for employees that feel out of the loop. A blog can change that, as “pre-merger identification is an important predictor of identification with the post-merger organization” (Lupina, 2014, p.754). The advantages of this approach is that the visual aspect of the feedback being received or given provides an illustration of the people that make up the KMP Company. From a PR perspective, this open feedback can be a disadvantage as it cannot be predicted nor controlled once momentum takes hold. Cost indications follow as mentioned above with social media. This plan of action can easily be implemented as a plug-in on the social media of course and hosted on a company run blogging site. These forms of employee feedback are popular and give KMP an air of authenticity that fosters a common company identity that is not far-fetched or fabricated by PR. Research supports that “the widespread problems companies face when integrating their operations” after a merger or acquisition shows that HR, to an extent, is a part of the integration problem, “as understanding how employees’ perceptions and attitudes evolve in the post-acquisition period is crucial” (Edwards, 2013, p.50). Yes, image will remain intact, however, the goal is to encourage connections between branches and within departments through organizational coaching.

In conclusion, the three recommended strategies offer a more efficient, consistent, and uniform chain of communication through digital media. This includes e-versions of company publications to provide accessibility, a social media presence to encourage engagement and dialogue with management, and blogging to encourage connectedness across borders. A lack of employee engagement with company goals is directly linked to poor forms of communication, as “uncertainty associated with change is often based on missing or, respectively, failed communication” (Tanner, 2016, p.2186), causing a detachment and deep disconnection among employees who would otherwise participate in company strategy.

References

Edwards, M.R., & Edwards, T. (2013). Employee Responses to Changing Aspects of the Employer Brand Following a Multinational Acquisition: A Longitudinal Study. Human Resource Management, 52(1), 27–54. https://doi.org/10.1002/hrm.21519

Lupina, W.A., Drzensky, F., Ullrich, J., & Dick, R. (2014). Focusing on the bright tomorrow? A longitudinal study of organizational identification and projected continuity in a corporate merger. British Journal of Social Psychology, 53(4), 752–772. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjso.12056

Tanner, G., & Otto, K. (2016). Superior–subordinate communication during organizational change: under which conditions does high-quality communication become important? International Journal of Human Resource Management, 27(19), 2183–2201. https://doi.org/10.1080/09585192.2015.1090470