An acquisition is simultaneously very exciting and extremely stressful for everyone involved in a company that is undergoing the deal process. Of course, employees are particularly on edge given the uncertainty that this change creates. In many instances, it may not be clear how the acquiring company intends to incorporate existing employees into the new infrastructure, if at all. And in some cases, employees may choose not to stick around if there is a drastic change in company culture. But, there have been plenty of acquisitions in which seamless integration of new and existing personnel has occurred. The leaders of a company that is contemplating or undergoing an acquisition have to help allay employee concerns and take steps to ensure that the acquiring folks are taking these issues into consideration as well. Here are key ways to keep employees motivated post-acquisition:
Hire Team Players from the Outset
This may seem like a no brainer, but when a company is being built from scratch, there is a tendency for leaders to choose employees based on skill alone. This is usually done for the sake of of getting the company to expand as quickly as feasible, and leaders may not have the patience to overcome the learning curves and growing pains that come along with a less experienced staff. Granted, knowledge and skills are important, but so are a good attitude and unwavering determination. Hiring practices need to concentrate on putting together a team of well-rounded employees who share a common vision and work ethic. Chances are if your company is in the midst of a high value acquisition, it was a solid team that got the business to that point in the first place. As long as employees feel valued and respected, and they care about being a part of building something great, there is no reason that a change in ownership or leadership has to ruin that.
Consider the Employees' Futures During Negotiations
Of course, one of the ways to ensure that employees feel that a company recognizes their worth and contributions to the business is to ensure that the employees’ future is a part of the deal negotiation process. It would be hard to expect employees to continue to pour their blood, sweat, and tears into a business if they think it will all be for naught once the deal closes. Obviously, it may not be possible to make any guarantees as to each person’s future within the company once the acquisition has occurred. But, it is certainly possible to make it clear to the employees that every effort is being made to secure a positive outcome and to strive to make it happen.
Keep Communication Lines Open
This is probably the most important piece of the puzzle, even if the results do not end up being completely favorable to all parties. There is perhaps nothing worse for people with families to feed and bills to pay than thinking that their job might be in jeopardy and their financial security is completely up in the air. Leaders owe it to their employees to be as transparent as possible and to keep everyone as apprised of the situation as possible. Clearly, there may be business reasons that prevent leaders from divulging all aspects of the deal negotiations, but employees deserve to know that there is a deal in the works, at a minimum. In addition, there should be fairly regular discourse between the leadership and staff to discuss matters as they unfold as well as any pressing concerns, and the company leadership should encourage this dialogue to go both ways.
Facilitate the Transition and Integration
Depending on whether the company leadership will be staying on post-acquisition and in what capacity, there should be an opportunity for them to facilitate the transition and integration at some point. Even if this is done in an informal or limited manner, any attempt at easing the assimilation process is better than none at all. It is important for everyone to focus on the positive aspects of what very well may be a rather drastic change, and it is incumbent on the existing leadership team to take the lead on that.