How BG Group motivated and engaged employees during the merger with Royal Dutch Shell [interview]

Hester Gras

One of world’s largest transactions was the merger between Royal Dutch Shell and BG Group last year. In an exclusive one-on-one with Paul Osgood, former Global Head of Internal Communications at BG Group, we discussed his biggest challenges during the merger, why personal communication is key in times of turbulence and which communication channels were the most effective.

What was your biggest challenge in internal communications during the merger?

Shell’s acquisition of BG Group was one of 5 global deals valued at over $50bn in 2015 and the 7th largest M&A transaction ever in Europe. During these kind of large acquisitions, the biggest challenge is to keep employees motivated and engaged.

What was your strategy to make the most out of it?

It’s possible to consider merger transactions as similar to major change programmes, especially when we think of communication with leaders and employees. As we listened to leaders and employees, we recognised that almost all of their questions were outlining what we might call a new change curve where, regardless of the timing or the sentiment, there was just one fundamental question – “Have I got a job?”. Once we understood that this question is at the centre of almost all interactions regardless of morale, motivation and where we were in the merger, we were free to help leaders to acknowledge and respond to this critical communication dynamic.

Can you give us a look in the cockpit of BG Group internal communication during the merger with Royal Dutch Shell?

The team was small; roles were split between business partnering the transaction itself, the BG Executive Committee, leaders and key business functions. This is quite a stretch for any team, putting aside the challenge of the impending corporate transaction and so we were pushed hard to deliver a consistent and value-adding service to the business.

What were the channels you were using during the merger and which ones were the most effective?

We used a omnichannel approach; face-to-face communication, digital and some paper-based communications – basically we were content rich and so we were very liberal with the channels we used. Let’s walk you through our on- and offline channels:

Face to face communication was always most successful for us and hence we used the global town hall meeting as the springboard for a raft of more local and personal communications that would follow. Video proved to be a very efficient and cost effective method of achieving distribution of key information and making the executive more accessible to our employees worldwide.

Next month the Internal Communications Camp will take place on October 7, 2016 in Amsterdam. This high end event enables you to adopt cutting-edge leadership skills, lead and manage sustainable change, facilitate winning Internal Communications strategy, transform and shape the future. During this inspiring day you will gain insights and examples of good practice adopted by successful brands. One of the speakers will be Paul Osgood, former Global Head of Internal Communications of BG Group.  Don’t miss the exciting opportunity to join Paul Osgood, as well as other leading Internal Communications professionals from Rolls-Royce, Zurich Insurance and Schneider Electric at the IC Camp

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