Poor training blamed as top merger firms fail the talk t

by John Robinson

Companies are failing to communicate with their staff during restructuring or mergers, according to a survey of 235 UK employers by management consultant Collinson Grant Consultants.

It found that more than a quarter of organisations failed to plan how they would tell staff about restructuring.

The results come in the wake of the British Aerospace and GEC tie-up and talk of further consolidation in the defence industry.

Only 40% of employers said they had a written communications policy and, of those that did, half thought most staff had never read it.

The study highlighted a lack of communications training for managers. ‘Although restructuring is a fundamental change, surprisingly few employers provide communication training for managers,’ said author Tony Green.

‘Employers need to find better ways to win committed support from most employees,’ he added.

Green said employers will have to start including unions in discussions to comply with changes in employment legislation which require workplace consultation.

But the survey found employers thought unions were the least important group to tell about a restructuring only one in 100 employers said unions were important to its success.

Ken Jackson, AEEU general secretary, said unions had to show their value as a social partner in restructuring negotiations, but added: ‘It is vital that employees understand why companies undergo structural change. It is very easy to lose the confidence and trust of the workforce if they are not involved.’

False rumours were the biggest difficulty for employers engaged in reorganisation: nearly three quarters of firms involved in restructuring over the past five years had suffered from this problem.

More than half of companies involved in mergers reported increased antagonism among staff. In 22% of the companies staff turnover rose during restructuring.

More than two out of five companies polled reported an increase in stress-related illness, lower productivity or short-term absenteeism as a result of a restructuring process.

Only one in four of communications managers researched the likely impact of restructuring before going ahead.

John Robinson writes for Personnel Today magazine