The Gatehouse Blog

When two become one: Amec Foster Wheeler

Tereza Urbankova, Head of Internal Communications at Amec Foster Wheeler, shares her experience managing internal communication during a large-scale acquisition.

In February 2014, Amec plc, a global engineering company, announced the acquisition of Foster Wheeler AG. From all points of view, this operation was transformational for Amec, as it would considerably strengthen our positions worldwide and in our key markets. It also meant that we would grow from around 26,000 to 40,000 employees in more than 50 countries.

As Head of Internal Communications at Amec, this was the most significant acquisition I ever had to deal with. Considering the scale of the operation, we immediately understood that we should not position it as an acquisition, but as the combination of two great businesses that aspired to combine the best of both. This was reflected in the fact that the new entity adopted the name Amec Foster Wheeler.

“We immediately understood that we should not position it as an acquisition, but as the combination of two great businesses that aspired to combine the best of both.”

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Keeping employees informed ahead of the acquisition

Although our intention to purchase Foster Wheeler was announced in February 2014, our first day as Amec Foster Wheeler wasn’t until 13 November 2014. My main challenge over those nine months was to ensure that we kept both Amec and Foster Wheeler employees regularly informed. For legal reasons, we were quite restricted in what we were allowed to say, and anything we wrote had to be approved by lawyers.

We set up a non-branded online platform called the Common site, which became the go-to place for information for employees from both companies. It contained frequently asked questions, senior leader blogs, press releases and regular updates about the deal.

Day One

Due to the confidential nature of the deal, we had to work in secret to rebrand 25 key offices the night before the deal. All people involved had to sign a non-disclosure agreement – nobody else knew the new company name.

“Immediately after Day One, the Senior Leadership Team kicked off a series of road shows to present the new brand, values, vision, capabilities and services. Within three weeks, they had seen 23,000 people; by the end of January 2015, every single office had been covered.”

On Day One, many of our people walked into newly branded offices as Amec Foster Wheeler employees. When they opened Internet Explorer, the rebranded Common site appeared, containing information and news about the new company – it became our temporary intranet that also included links to legacy intranets. Every employee received a welcome email from the CEO, a welcome booklet and a little gift to commemorate the occasion. By June 2015, we had completed the rebranding of 400 offices.

Immediately after Day One, the Senior Leadership Team kicked off a series of road shows to present the new brand, values, vision, capabilities and services. Within three weeks, they had seen 23,000 people; by the end of January 2015, every single office had been covered.

Integrating the business 

Integrating the two businesses has been a very complex task and although the core processes, policies and procedures have been harmonised, a lot still remains to be done. Amec Foster Wheeler is a complex, geographically dispersed company, which makes collaboration and knowledge-sharing even more important than in other businesses. In particular, it is crucial that our people understand the extent of our capabilities so they can cross-sell and not just push their part of the business, but the whole of our services.

“The whole internal communications piece around the combination, including challenging people, questioning their reasons and offering better solutions, positioned internal communications as advisors.”

As a result, knowledge-sharing is a key focus for internal communication in our new company. Yammer has proven to be a very helpful collaboration tool in this regard. Interestingly, we had been using it at Amec, but it had never taken off. It was seen as a chore by many, and I had to promote it very hard, making sure that questions were answered and getting subject matter experts to join conversations.

A few months after Day One, we relaunched it and it’s been amazing. Currently, we’ve got over 28,500 members including over 12,000 active users who post, like or share posts. People use it to share skills, expertise, knowledge, and views on topics that matter to Amec Foster Wheeler, such as diversity and inclusion.

Looking back to the past two years, the deal really gave us an opportunity to demonstrate our value as communicators, in particular internally. Our team won four awards for stakeholder, internal, financial and brand communications. In addition, the whole internal communications piece around the combination, including challenging people, questioning their reasons and offering better solutions, positioned internal communications as advisors and helped us build our reputation. I believe our stakeholders appreciate that it has played a key role in bringing the businesses together.

BIOGRAPHY – TEREZA URBANKOVA

Tereza Urbankova is Head of Internal Communications and part of the global corporate affairs team at Amec Foster Wheeler. She joined six years ago as Communications Manager in the Power and Process division. She has worked in PR, communications and marketing roles in a number of different industries including hospitality, IT, retail, defence, logistics and engineering.