A merger and acquisition, while important for a business's long-term strategy and health, may feel like new terrain. While you're wrapped up in transition processes, employees are dealing with other concerns. They may wonder if they'll still have their jobs a year or two from now and if their professional development will suffer.
As an owner of a small or midsized business, it's important to keep your employees' needs front and center during the merger and acquisition preparation process. While you'll ultimately make your decisions based on what is in the best interest of the business, here are three simple steps to follow to help you provide guidance to your employees:
1. Communicate the Bigger Picture
A big question employees will likely ask throughout the merger and acquisition process is why. Why now? Why not keep operations as they are? Why make such a change?
It's important to answer questions like these head-on and to be transparent about the long-term vision for the merger or acquisition. Make sure each employee knows whether his or her role fits into the big picture of your organization, too. These people may have contributed to the growth of your business. They will be eager to learn how they can continue to do so. If their skills will not be needed in the future, you may want to communicate that with ample time for the employee to seek new opportunities.
2. Be Available for Questions
When you announce a sudden change in business direction, questions are inevitable. For example, what will happen to health insurance policies or other benefits? Will my role become redundant? Will work hours change? Will I report to someone new?
Employees need a support system in which they can ask questions and seek guidance transparently and openly. General company announcements won't be enough to resolve each employee's personal concerns, so set up a forum for your team to seek answers comfortably and openly, without penalty. Develop speaking points for the forum that include responses to anticipated questions. This can help ensure consistent and accurate communication with employees.
This level of transparency and attention to individuals' needs is key to boosting employee morale during merger and acquisition preparation and will hopefully get them excited about the business's new direction. Brainstorm a list of questions that your employees may ask, and outline your responses to ensure your communications with employees are accurate and consistent. Be careful not to promise continued employment if you unsure of whether a role will fit into the new organization.
3. Provide a Timeline
Don't surprise your employees: After all, their livelihoods are on the line. Make sure they know when key events and milestones of the merger or acquisition will likely occur.
You can't predict outcomes ahead of time, so the dates you provide won't be definite. Your due diligence process — investigating the background of the other business — may run over its allotted time. The two businesses' systems may not integrate as you had originally expected.
To keep employees in the loop, communicate to them that the timelines aren't set in stone. Instead, create a living, breathing, evolving document that employees can follow over the long term, and explain why milestones could become delayed. Above all, be patient with your employees throughout this process.