businessBusiness Coachingbusiness growthconsultantHuman ResourcesM&Asmall-businessCommunicating a Merger to Employees- Leadership Approaches

May 26, 2021by amybabashoff0

Following the event of a merger, appointed leaders-typically HR leaders-begin developing an internal communication strategy. Helping your leadership team understand  the impact of mergers and acquisitions on employees determines it’s overall success.

Executive teams lead groups in the right direction, therefore, the moment they fail to acknowledge change, HR struggles to align employees and engage cooperation.

Executive teams who appear divided and unaligned foster unhealthy and disengaged cultures.

Unfortunately, as employees struggle with a wide range of emotions worrying about their futures, leaders turn their attention to focus on separate items like:

-Financial projections
-Org charts
-Contracts

The majority of mergers and acquisitions fail because leaders often ignore the emotional needs of their employees.

Business leaders must focus on effective communication and improving the employee experience. After all, your mergers and acquisition process will only go as far as your people will take it.

Well, what leadership approaches are most effective while leading a merger?

Here are some common emotions and leadership approaches to begin communicating a merger to employees…

Address anxiety.

Due to the private nature of an M&A deal up until it’s finalization, employees are unable to mentally prepare for change, causing them to feel blind-sighted upon announcement.

Sudden change disrupts employees from their normal routine and pushes them to feel on edge-prompting a flood of questions including:

-What information am I missing?
-What should I expect in the future?
-Who can I trust moving forward?

Employees crave stability, and the introduction of change can breed gossip, uncertainty, fear, and disengagement.

Highly concerned employees may begin to lose productivity, succumb to their stress, or may choose to leave the organization altogether. These instances and unintentional patterns can impact employee well-being, engagement, performance, and culture.

The leadership approach: Communicate with employees.

While managing  mergers and acquisitions, don’t communicate with your employees without a plan of action. Instead, ensure that you are assessing your unique audience and developing methods to address their needs. Ask yourself:

Do we have a central FAQ document for managers?
Do we have a timeline of milestones and updates?
How should we communicate the purpose of this change?
What is our key message?

Your internal communication plan should be multi-tiered and intentional. It should add clarity-not confusion. Consider and recognize what your specific audience would like to hear, and how how you can effectively deliver that message. Leverage frequent communications and continuous listening strategies to address new questions or concerns.

Avoid selfishness.

A merger or acquisition can signal a need to refresh your resume. Voluntary turnover is common when individuals feel their future-fit in an organization uncertain.

With a focus of security in mind, employees may begin to focus on their own work and disregard their other team members, impacting overall employee engagement.

As employees internalize and focus on themselves, productivity comes to an unfavorable halt. Additionally, egos can get in the way of onboarding new hires-preventing the opportunity for successful and essential team dynamics.

 

The leadership approach: Build better relationships.

While you can’t keep employees from trying to gain an upper hand, you can fight selfishness by prioritizing relationships- and effective team building.

Create opportunities for your employees to join together and collaborate as a team. Recognize that team building activities outside of the office can provide a change of scenery-decreasing anxiety and increasing humility.

Consider problem-solving activities; escape rooms or workshops require teamwork which help in building a collaborative spirit. The moment your employees connect and understand that their teammates are human-they’ll feel a stronger need for their support.

 

Understand grief.

Employees are sometimes asked to alter their routine during the acquisition process:

Colleagues may leave
Culture may dissolve
Job roles may change overnight

Employees spend a significant amount of their lives at work, therefore, understanding the impact on their mental health is clear when asked to part with meaningful aspects within their job.

As a result, excitement about the future and long-term engagement can be difficult to maintain.

 

The leadership approach: Be human.

Understand that it may take time for employees to accept culture change post-merger. Empathizing with employees and considering their need helps you in managing this transition. Maintaining a personable demeanor throughout this change can be the ultimate determinant between failure and success.

Acknowledge employees’ feelings as some may feel a genuine sense of loss.

Address how the merger will affect employees directly. Celebrate previous accomplishments and history. Share past memories and allow employees to take part to say goodbye before moving on.

 

Acknowledge pride.

Looking beyond profit and market share, a desired outcome of a merger is to build a unified culture. However, in the instance one entity remains superior, the idea that there are winners and leaders becomes part of of your workplace. As a result, pride can surface among those who are a part of the acquiring company.

Pride from the “old regime” can create division and stifle learning opportunities. This can keep your culture from coming together. Individuals who stick to their “old ways” may hoard knowledge and become condescending toward other team members. This can stall or prolong essential job training and onboarding.

 

The leadership approach: Foster culture champions.

Empower your biggest advocates by encouraging them to become mentors to new employee groups. Create ambassadors out of those who hold valuable information and can help you grow the new brand.

This will help you create measurable touch points for employees to share their knowledge while changing potential office bullies into leaders and change agents.

 

Build excitement.

Not all emotions around mergers or acquisitions are negative! Many employees are actually motivated by change, and this is a perfect opportunity to leverage their skillset to drive innovation in the organization.

On the flip side, some employees may loathe, be hesitant, or downright resistant to the change.

All in all, you can be certain that questions will surge and managers won’t be able to fill all the gaps.

 

The leadership approach: Develop a communication team.

Mergers and acquisitions continue to serve as key strategies for companies looking to increase their market share. As you build your own communication plan, consider the power in numbers.

It’s crucial that you provide accurate information throughout your workforce. Ask middle managers to nominate their employees to become ambassadors for change. Working by department or business unit, fill the gaps between employees, managers, and leadership, and remember that excited employees can serve as your best chance to get as many employees on board as possible.

 

The process of a mergers and acquisition presents a wide array of mixed feelings and worry about significant change. While you can’t directly control how your employees will react to hearing the news, your supportive and personable efforts can ease their transitions. If you still find yourself worrying about managing your employees through this process, our team at MCDA CCG, INC offer extensive knowledge to assist your company in this sensitive time. Our personalized systems and unique approaches guarantee complete satisfaction-allowing you the ability to make well informed and composed decisions. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.

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