On June 13, news of an acquisition rocked the social media world–Microsoft acquired LinkedIn for $26 billion US.
What stood out for me as a Change Management professional in the flurry since the announcement, was the elegant fashion in which LinkedIn’s CEO, Jeff Weiner, communicated the change to his workforce. Mr. Weiner’s change communication contained the 3 key items I advise all my clients to include in theirs to guide people effectively through the communication process. Here are the steps and how this change communication used them:
Step 1: Clearly communicate the case for change.
Mr. Weiner is clear in his communication about the drivers for the change–realizing LinkedIn’s vivid vision to create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce. He aligned the acquisition with LinkedIn’s unique culture and values, and clearly articulated benefits, such as “controlling our own destiny”, and having a seat at the “Tech Titans” table. Clear change drivers help to build awareness and understanding of the change.
Step 2: Create a shared vision.
Mr. Weiner’s communication effectively paints a picture of life after the change for his workforce through several “imagine a world where…” illustrations. He also laid out the opportunities that will become a reality for the company, such as going from a reach of 433 million users to 1 billion and positively disrupting enterprise solutions for the corporate directory, collaboration and productivity tools. This is where the communication shines, by building positive perception and comprehension of the change.
Step 3: Describe the impacts on day-to-day work.
Lastly, impacts on day-to-day activities are made clear throughout the communication in the statements describing the potential organizational structure.
The communication conveys to stakeholders that processes are collaborative by explaining the rationale behind timelines, explaining the process and what is required of them (e.g. the degree of involvement they will have with the acquisition). Mr. Weiner is clear about the processes that need to start, stop and continue in the new way of working to illustrate the current state and desired state (i.e. in the section starting with 'What does this mean for you specifically as an employee of LinkedIn?’). He concludes the communication with a story to foster adoption, commitment and internalization of the change.
It’s clear that this communication is part of a well-thought-out communications strategy around the acquisition, and key messaging around the theme of Together Changing the Way the World Works is consistently repeated across news articles, blog posts and press releases. Research has proven that key messages about the change have to be repeated 5 to 7 times before they are internalized by people.
If you’re looking to communicate change, take a lesson from Jeff Weiner’s book and include Change Management professionals at the very beginning of the discussions about the change, on the strategic team from the start. Remember that a change effort starts with the announcement of a change initiative and building commitment may take weeks, months or even years. Employ the key steps outlined above to guide your workforce from awareness to commitment, and you’ll have a sure-fire communications strategy on your hands.