When you are facing one of the biggest changes you will face in your life, the sale of your company - for over £100m, what do you do when the logic you are told is to “keep it quiet”, “you must not share details”, “you must keep the information between a tight knit group” and “tell your staff NOTHING”?
So why did we do what we did - when everyone said don’t?
Well here at Reward Gateway, we decided that that was not what we wanted to do, so we turned logic on its head and we told staff that we were changing investors, when we expected it to happen and kept them updated about how the sale was proceeding at each stage, making sure that they had as much information as we could tell them, confidentiality agreements notwithstanding.
We identified four main reasons why we needed to do something different.
We have a culture of openness, honesty and inclusivity. We did not want to wait to the last minute to deliver the news. We share information when we can, we treat our employees as partners, including them in the decision making process where possible. We believe that by telling people what you know as early as possible you end up with the best possible result, this is for both good and bad news. During this process, we had 15 investors through our doors to meet Glenn, our Founder & CEO, but rather than meeting them in a closed board room (which we don't actually have) he met them in the open office on the sofa so everyone could see they were ‘human’ and normal. Every investor went on an office tour and our staff were used to just chatting to them about anything.
2. Manage negative impacts
Uncertainty, nervousness and fear are all natural responses to a change of this magnitude, so what do you do? Keep people in the dark or communicate with them? Share with them what you can and reduce their uncertainty, make them less nervous and show them a bright future is what we believe.
3. Employees = Shareholders
Our employees are also our shareholders, the rest being the leadership team and the current investors. Is it fair that they are the only ownership group who were kept in the dark? Probably not. So we needed to look at what we could do to keep them updated.
4. To reassure staff they are part of the future
We had to turn this fear into excitement, we wanted employees to know that they’re a part of the next step in our journey and that their jobs and shares were safe.
In performance terms, do you wish to maintain performance at a high level or do you wish to impact on the focus of staff? If you inform, include and excite staff then this will do you later. If you do not, then the opposite will occur.
For us it was a simple choice, and one we took willingly.
First off, we knew we did not wish to do just simple email updates or some basic presentations to a select group; we knew we had to do more. We do a lot on our comms internally, and we had to match those high standards, so we set about thinking; how could we make the communications informative and interesting and answer the questions that arise when you share potentially life changing information to staff.
First off we needed a vision:
Our vision was to build an employee communications strategy and campaign that would engage our employees in the investment process and inspire them to join the journey, staying around for at least the next five-year investment cycle.
We then set ourselves some goals for the project:
Remove the mystery and fear around selecting a new investor by making our employees a part of the process.
Retain talent – we didn’t want any employees to leave because of investment process. This was a positive move for the company and this project would be a failure if people left for this reason.
Read: The Ins and Outs of what we did, how we did it and if it worked in part two of this blog post.