by Travis Jones, CEO at Career Development Partners
Headline news – “Another Oklahoma based company is being acquired by ____________.” In Oklahoma we are seeing changes in some of our long historically great companies who are merging or being acquired. This is not new but is a trend globally and partnerships are on the rise according to a recent Deloitte report.
An important part of an equity transfer is delivering on the expected value of the partnership. Employee related issues can make or break the values quicker than anything because of a lack of communication. As companies look forward it might be wise to communicate earlier and more often since the fallout can be a loss of key talent which can cripple the value of the partnership. Both employees and clients will make judgements whether good or bad about the whole process. The community in which a company operates can be devastated by the loss of key leaders who impact with their proximity to the population of the area. The issue can be bigger than first perceived.
The success or failure of any change must be consistent, authentic, proactive and clearly communicated. Inadequate communication creates mistrust, insecurity and drives valuable employees away. Keep in mind, in a tight job market, no one is obligated to stay in a stressful, uncertain environment.
Here are some simple considerations to communicate better during M&A that will help you retain talent and thus preserve the value and integrity of the partnership.
- Communication is a conversation, not a speech
Active listening is key to success with a collaborative approach. Utilize tools and technology to reach different levels of hearers. Whenever possible communicate in person and multiple types of approaches for conversations.
- Assess where your employees fit into the plan
Before making a broad announcement to all employees, weigh out which ones need to be informed as to not be surprised by the decision and have time to get clarity on the change. You will need a team of employees that are in support of the decision for the best communication to the remaining employees. Some employees are prone to deal with change well and others take longer to process. Know your people well enough to conduct the assessment and create ambassadors for the change. Some employees consistently struggle with change. Create a plan to help those employees understand with good communication and onboard key employees to assist you in the process.
- Reorient your thinking to that of a news reporter
Think of the 5 W’s – what, why, who, when, where and the how. Communicate the best possible outcome of why employees should stay. This must be a healthy, comprehensive attempt with regular updates throughout the process.
What is the plan? Change is unsettling. People are wired to protect themselves, and when we don’t have the details we need, we fill them in. Rumor, mistruths both conceived and concocted can destroy all the best laid plans and cause people to seek employment opportunities elsewhere.
Why? Includes long-term outcomes, goals and expectations for both sides for the relationship to work.
Who will be impacted and what is the desired result? Engagement of key people is essential.
When will it happen? Share the broad, projected rollout of events. There are plans but plans can change without notice. Let employees know you will share updates along the way. Silence, or trickles of information delivered only on a what may be consider as “need to know” can stoke fears and speculations, which can turn into unrest.
Where is the location or relocation of the business going to be if any?
How? Describe the plan and how expectations will be delivered. Keeping a good line of communication with your key employees is crucial with updates as often as possible. This is a challenging time for all those involved, and feedback flattens the process and helps the employees to feel like they are in good hands and can help to move plans forward more smoothly with others.
- Be available and present
Take an open approach with multiple methods of delivery and dependable communication throughout the different levels of leadership that need to be aware. Avoid the practice of single statements or meaningless messages in your planning.
- Polish off your communication with reliable follow through
When companies merge there are always two distinctly different cultures. Press releases advertise the synergetic relationships that make the two companies well suited to unite. Yet, the ease of combining different cultures are not simple.
The key to retaining the best talent in a M&A is spelled COMMUNICATION and is one of your best strategic tools as a growth minded company.
The result of a poorly executed partnership is, key players are lost and competitors see these newly joined companies as a target for their workforce needs. They do not go after the mediocre employees by the way, they are going for the cream of the crop. In a relationship-driven world, companies run the risk of losing clients when key employees are recruited or driven off during the process which creates disruption throughout.
Best practices include making sure you take care of those that are staying as well as those that will be impacted with a reduction of workforce. People are worth the investment when you consider the effect on the lives of those that have made it possible for you to even be a target for acquisition or consideration of a merger. Knowledge transfer happens when key employees are recruited out of your company. Do you have a plan for “Knowledge Transfer”? If not, check out some resources that will protect your company if and when key employees leave, and it will happen sooner or later.
If you have had an experience that was good or bad, would love to hear from you that I might gain knowledge and ability to communicate more clearly.
At Career Development Partners we have solutions for our clients for talent selection, retention, development, reductions, succession, knowledge transfer and retirement planning. If you have a question, would love to chat.
Please call my office for a free one hour consultation.