By: Rachel Heisterkamp
An IPO is an exciting prospect for any company – it’s the result of incredible focus, teamwork, and goal setting. But IPOs are unlike, and every newly public company will grapple with its unique set of stakes, change management obstacles, and public scrutiny. It’s critical to remember, in what may be a messy and unclear process, that your people are the engine moving your business forward. During IPO, internal communications is a key priority and hitting the right internal messaging is essential.
Here are a few ways internal communications can guide your workforce through an IPO:
1. Congratulate, but Be Clear
Employees going through an IPO need to understand that while a newly public listing has the potential to be an exciting opportunity, it will also likely be a major cultural disruption. It’s a great time to celebrate, but only focusing on the enthusiasm can leave employees feeling insecure. Whether the executive team is handling the high-level messaging, or an appointed IPO taskforce, getting everyone on the same page with tone and topical relevance is important to clearly state the rationale behind the move to a public offering, not to mention the fine print (and lack of guarantees). When the organization presents a direct, unified front, employees will feel more comfortable asking questions, clarifying expectations… and, of course, joining in on the excitement!
2. Equip Employees with Resources
When it comes to an IPO, details are everything. Important disclosures, external communication and social media policies, insider trading education, equity plan information, and much more, are all key resources to create, audit, and distribute throughout the entire workforce – but this amount of specificity and information can’t be conveyed in a single all-hands meeting. To truly support the team, as well as arm them with the resources and tools needed to stay compliant and successful, make sure all IPO-related resources are in one place that’s easy to navigate (and re-visit when needed). And, given that an IPO, a quiet period, and everything that follows is under a strict timeline, consider a communications platform that will automate the delivery of your IPO content and messaging so no stone goes unturned in such a crucial schedule of events.
3. Impact will Vary Across the Workforce
One of the key goals of any IPO employee communication plan is to remove stress and ambiguity around what’s to come. Internal communication resources for your workforce, on their own, are a huge help to ensure this entire process goes smoothly (both internally and externally), but you may also want to keep in mind the different and unique positions your employees may find themselves in on the other side of your IPO. Going public, at the very least, will deeply affect the value of any equity or stock options your employees have. As you strategize internal communications, keep in mind that one message may not suit every individual. Segmenting your audience (by equity plan, by job level, or by benefit eligibility), and targeting those groups separately will take a huge amount of manual lift out of the process, and can help make sure every employee only sees messaging that’s sincerely relevant to their situation. The more specific and personalized your approach, the more likely it is that every group you target will be engaged and actively involved in company culture and impact.
4. Communications Shouldn’t Stop at Launch
This next chapter of change for your business is likely one of the most dramatic shifts any of your employees have experienced – there’s inherently a great deal of anticipation, momentum, and even anxiety in the time leading up to your public offering. The worst thing you can do is leave your workforce in a communication drought after you ring the bell. Yes, the lead-up is a critical time for information, FAQs, guidelines, and policies, but your employees won’t simply stop having questions they want answered after the official IPO – and suddenly switching to radio silence can cause even more uncertainty and strain, leading to negative effects like employee churn or disengagement. There are inevitably going to be a great deal of internal changes once the IPO goes through – updates to equity, compensation, and other benefits, for example – so keeping an open, thorough channel of communication is critical to stay connected to your workforce. Make sure your communication timeline – including company-wide meetings, emails, and even helpful videos and documents – stretches well beyond the date of the offering to make your support clear, simple, and long-lasting.
With any major change, there are both risks and rewards. As any company approaches this new launch, make your workforce communication a priority. Keep your people in the loop – without overwhelming them – by approaching a new IPO with empathy and strategic communications. Use automation features to streamline the process even further, so you can focus on what’s most important: your company culture, your leadership’s transparency, and your workforce security. With strong communication, your people will carry you through this exciting milestone to the future.