As a business owner, going through a merger or acquisition (M&A) spells out a whole world of possibilities for your company. This exciting time can even spell the actualization of a goal in your long-term business plan. However, for your employees, the feeling may not translate in the same way.
It’s common for your team, especially if you’re the company being acquired, to feel insecurity and stress during this time. At this point, a lot is going through their minds. For one, there will be changes in their work environment, coupled with the need to adjust to new working conditions.
There will undoubtedly be new policies and rules that they will have to follow, some of which may not be what they signed up for when they agreed to work for you, like salary adjustments or work time parameters.
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There’s also having to endure two separate workplace cultures and being uncertain about the company’s future. These don’t sound enticing to a person who wants a stable livelihood to pay the bills and support his/her family.
That said, it’s understandable why a lot would consider jumping ship before the M&A takes place. Unfortunately, this results in a loss of great talent—people who are integral to your company processes and growth.
Losing an employee hurts your business. It takes around one to two years for a new hire to match the productivity rate of an existing employee. Therefore, you need to come up with an employee retention program, so your team won’t flee during a delicate time in the company. Here are a few tips on how you can avoid them from quitting.
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#1. Be transparent with the changes
If there’s one thing employees appreciate, it’s the fact that their managers and team leads are transparent to them. This means having frequent one-on-ones and company town hall meetings, so your employees are aware of all the changes that will take effect once the M&A is complete.
You may also use this time to reassure them that their concerns will be heard, and their needs will be considered to make the transition smooth for both parties. Don’t wait until the last minute to inform your employees about significant changes in your company structure. This will only cause further unrest and dissatisfaction.
#2. Give them the floor to air out feedback
What do your employees think about the upcoming merger or acquisition? Encourage them to share what’s on their minds, whether it’s coursed through anonymous forms, summarized by their team leader, or even directly with you.
The ideas on how to lessen the impact of this event could very well come from them. Don’t discount the feedback your people give you, as it can be beneficial during this time. Let them know that it’s alright to express their fears and insecurities during these feedback sessions. This is the most effective way to get into their minds and start coming up with programs that can solve the problems they are raising.
#3. Offer a bonus or monetary incentive
Realistically speaking, money is a high motivational factor for employees. During this time that the fate of the company is uncertain, it would do good to review your finances and see if you can allocate your funds to give your employees a retention bonus to convince them to stay. This can also show that your company is stable, and therefore, not a “sinking ship” that they should jump from.
Keep in mind that cash incentives should not be the only thing you are relying on during this time. Think of this as an excellent first step to show your employees that your company is still worth investing their time and effort in. You will have to come up with other plans to get them to stay.
#4. Develop employee training programs
A company that cares about the professional growth of its employees is desirable for most. Survey says that 87% of millennials want professional development and career growth opportunities in their workplace.
Ideally, before the merger takes place, you should already have training programs in place for your team. If there are exciting training programs you can open for your employees to survive this merger, now will be a great time to do so.
Be careful in making it seem like your employees are forced to learn a specific skill set, or else they might get laid off. Instead, allow them to pick the training tracks they want to be part of and identify if these are within the company’s scope.
#5. Review employee tasks and workloads
Will any of your employees’ job descriptions change during the merger? Perhaps it has already changed, and you’re not aware of how significant the impact of this is on your team.
Be careful about overloading your employees with tasks they have no knowledge or prior training over. This can add to the stress and confusion that they feel during this time. It could get to a point where they feel like they’re working different roles or answering to different managers to accomplish their jobs.
Outline your expectations with them clearly. Roll out new job descriptions as soon as possible, and let your team know for how long these changes will be in effect.
#6. Keep tabs on employee performance
Often, the performance of your employees can tell you a lot about their overall disposition. Keep your eyes open if you see a decline with the productivity of some of your team members, or you’re noticing that some are having a difficult time adjusting. These would be great opportunities to speak with your staff and ask them how they are doing.
This method will also help you identify who is likely to stay and who is comfortable amidst the merger. Performance checks help you recognize the talents that are providing the most value to your company.
#7. Lend them a helping hand
If you feel that your employees are having an especially difficult time adjusting, it’s time to stick your hands in the issue and help them out. Show them a better way to deal with the changes, or be there for words of motivation and encouragement. They need your presence and reassurance now more than ever, so spare time for them whenever you can.
#8. Stay within agreements
Lastly, be fair to your employees. If you’re guaranteeing them a place to work for the next three, six, or 12 months, make good on your promise. If you’re planning to give them an increase, do so, and not just say so. If they’re moving into a new role, detail their responsibilities, so they’re not doing something they’re not supposed to.
Put it all on record, so you have something to look back to and revisit. Make sure all aspects are agreed upon by both parties before proceeding.
Place Great Value on Your People
Your employees are your best assets. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to hire people who are a natural fit for your company culture and can perform their tasks flawlessly. Don’t forget to protect them during company changes as significant as this. The key is open communication lines and setting realistic expectations, so you can be sure that everyone’s on the same page.
Eric Allison is a managing partner of Golden One Ventures, a boutique M&A firm catering to the middle market for the staffing and recruiting industry.