The role of internal corporate communication during organizational acculturation of acquired companies
A review of the existing literature on M&A (mergers and acquisitions) pointed to the relevance of internal communication during the integration phase when the cultures of the acquired and acquiring companies interact, a process termed organizational acculturation. Internal corporate communication (ICC) has been conceptualized previously to be the communication between two stakeholder groups: strategic management and employees. As research on ICC in the context of acculturation is limited, this research stems from a curiosity about what the roles of ICC are after an acquisition. It seeks to understand the ways employees of acquired companies respond to ICC as they adapt to another culture, and to find out how they can be better supported during this period of change. This study contributes to the theory development of ICC by providing empirical examination of the phenomenon in real-life settings. It investigates ICC through the perspectives of multiple stakeholders who had experienced M&A by means of a qualitative inductive research. The findings confirm ICC’s cognitive role as a conveyor of information and in uncertainty reduction after an acquisition, but raise questions about its aspirational affective objective to promote a sense of belonging or commitment amongst employees. This is because the interpretation of ICC during acculturation is subjective: the meanings of the ICC co-created by the stakeholders during ICC consumption could turn out differently from, and even contrarily to, the meanings intended by managers during ICC production. In addition, it was found that informal acculturation leaders emerged as an important stakeholder group in ICC. This research offers an alternative perspective to ICC. Although the production of ICC is centrally managed, the consumption of ICC is an interpretive phenomenon that cannot be controlled by management. The results of this study underscore the point that ICC needs to be understood not only as a linear transmission of messages between two stakeholder groups, but also as a dynamic complex phenomenon where meaningmaking takes place constantly through continual formal and informal social interactions amongst multiple stakeholders. The practical implication of this point is that M&A strategic managers and internal communication professionals should not only focus on the production and delivery of ICC. They should also consider the consumption of ICC and provide a conducive participative environment for all stakeholders where the meanings of ICC can be contested, negotiated and constructed.