01 Oct Minimising Deal Anxiety for Staff
On 16 September 2019 Andrew Hill reported the toll that M&A was taking on staff in terms of disruption and anxiety. Though the article focuses on headlining deals, we believe that regardless of the deal size, employee engagement is one of the keys to realising acquisition benefits. Especially when in smaller organisations like start-ups, losing one employee can be too many. What are the practical things that every deal can do?
Change is hard, so it is crucial to ensure that your team is on board. Pinning down blue-sky thinking into specific business objectives can help employees from different departments grasp the purpose of the change.
Planning, planning, planning
The uncertainty and fast-paced change that comes with the deal context can take its toll on employee engagement and day-to-day productivity. A level of flexibility will always be needed due to the nature of M&A and integration and the various factors at play. Although plans may change, the act of planning helps organisations cope with ambiguity and foresee a future.
One of our clients put it well, “It felt like we had millions of things to do at once without a plan, but once you have a plan and start ticking things off, it’s less scary”. This shows that having a plan helps the integration team to avoid being overwhelmed and work efficiently. The firefighting mindset can then be changed to a purposeful exercise to achieve a goal together as a team.
By communicating your plans with your staff, it allows them to see a roadmap to the future. It not only provides the comfort of certainty but also encourages contributors to build a vision together.
Honesty is the best policy and M&A and integration are not exempt from this. We’ve seen companies that promised no change at all but ended up disappointing their staff after a few months post-completion with an organisational restructuring.
People expect change and uncertainty with M&A. It is okay to not know everything, but the key is to be transparent about what you don’t know and how long it is likely to take to get to an answer. Being able to answer these questions clearly along with planning what you do know, builds confidence and commitment.
Tracking integration programme delivery and costs allows companies to prioritise resources, manage risks and issues and most importantly, celebrate success. Companies often overlook the importance of following through the delivery after a deal is done. We encourage you to track your integration programme to inform your messaging to the staff.
Where employee engagement is vital to delivering promised deal value, another more direct way to enhance staff engagement is by tracking the ‘employee temperature’ periodically and mapping it against the change curve to observe where the organisation or any sub-group is on the transformation journey.
Fundamentally, everyone reacts to and copes with change differently. Walking in your team’s shoes is always a good practice when it comes to communicating and executing the integration programme. You will never please everyone all the time, but getting face-to-face with your people, and having an ‘open-door’ policy will encourage conversations to take place.
Clients that take these points seriously perform better than those who do not. The uncertainty of M&A can shake up the business and staff, but it can also be an opportunity to transform and enrich your team’s experience, if the change is well thought-through and managed.
Click here to keep up to date on BTD news, events and insights by following us on LinkedIn.