They say the only constant is change. For workers going through an acquisition, this is truer than ever before!
The number of mergers and acquisitions has only grown over time. For most businesses, such deals used to be relatively rare. However, there was a 24% rise in deals between 2020 and 2021. While acquisition deals are always made in hopes of creating a stronger combined company, employees will understandably be worried about all of the changes, including the inevitable redundancies and layoffs.
If you are in management during an acquisition, your leadership skills may be the difference between the deal being a major success or a mortal blow to the company. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at ways you can be a better leader during an acquisition.
1. Identify Employees with a High Cultural Intelligence
While it’s an uncomfortable topic, a major focus during any acquisition is identifying which employees have the best leadership potential. Frankly, this often proves to be the difference between which employees stay on board and which employees are laid off.
When identifying the best employees, you may be tempted to focus on your highest performers (for example, your top sales professionals), but it’s equally important to identify employees with a high cultural intelligence. These employees help keep team morale high, facilitate teamwork, and generally make the acquisition easier because they can communicate with new team members easier than other workers can.
2. Find a Winning Approach to the New Culture
Part of why it is difficult to be a leader during an acquisition is that it falls on you to shape the new culture in the office. With new employees joining and some old employees departing, it’s impossible to maintain the team culture exactly as it was before. Instead, you must focus on the best way to create a winning approach with your new team.
For example, if you genuinely think one team has a better workplace culture than the other, then you should help align everyone toward that winning culture during the acquisition. Alternatively, you may want to merge the two cultures together, creating the best of both worlds. If you’re feeling particularly visionary, you may wish to create a new company culture from scratch that maximizes everyone’s strengths and minimizes their weaknesses.
3. Listen to Employee Concerns and Discussions About the Acquisition
At any given time, some of your employees are going to be nervous about their future with the company. During an acquisition, the number of employees who are nervous grows, and many (perhaps even most) of your workers will worry over whether they will still be around when the smoke clears on the acquisition.
Take the time to actively solicit employees’ thoughts about the acquisition. This will help calm everyone down because they know they can come to you with their questions and concerns rather than spread rumors. In turn, you will have a better idea of what you need to say and do to keep everyone productive and focused during the acquisition after hearing what they have to say.
4. Keep Your Top Talent Engaged
Acquisitions and mergers often make the top talent in any workplace nervous. Once such workers begin to worry about whether they will still have a job in the long run, they’ll start sending out applications to other places. For example, after a merger, 47% of the top employees leave a year after the deal is completed, and a whopping 75% leave within three years.
Because acquisitions can be even more tumultuous than mergers, it’s important for you to identify these key employees early on and interview them about the future they see for themselves in the company. After that, you can develop a retention plan to keep top employees engaged and even offer the employees special rewards (such as raises, promotions, and bonuses) in order to retain them during this chaotic time.
5. Create and Assess Measurable Goals
Even though an M&A can be a tumultuous time for your staff, one of the most effective things you can do is to involve them in the process by setting up a series of goals during the transition. These could be anything from sales quotas to deadlines to setting up new office space. The most important thing about these goals is that they can be easily measured.
Giving everyone clear, measurable goals helps give them something to focus on other than their own anxieties and worries. Your team should be working toward important goals on a regular basis, so if that’s not the case, you now have a great opportunity to introduce everyone to the new norm that helps improve overall accountability.
6. Balance Teams Whenever Possible
As we noted, everyone’s chief concern during the acquisition is that they will lose their job due to redundancies. In many ways, the most important thing you can do during the acquisition is help put minds at ease. One of the best ways to do this is to create balanced teams whenever possible.
In this case, “balanced” means trying to create an even mix of members from each team to handle various projects. If you end up with lopsided teams, then members of the team with the fewest people on the project may worry they are being pushed out or that you are favoring the other team over them. When teams are balanced, and when you equally delegate important responsibilities, it helps put most employees’ minds at ease.
7. Focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Some managers think that corporate focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion is mostly about creating positive PR for the company. However, DEI values are extremely important at all times for your internal business matters and even more important during an acquisition.
That’s because truly emphasizing diversity means emphasizing qualities such as collaboration and teamwork with others, especially when they are different. It’s important for your team to be able to do this at all times, but in the midst of an acquisition, emphasizing DEI also highlights the importance of the two teams now working together as one.
Put Your Management Experience to Its Best Use Today!
Now you know how to be a better leader during an acquisition. But do you know where you can make the most of your skills in management?
At Confie, we have a record of positive M&A negotiations because we always put people first. Learn more about successful M&A skills in our knowledge center. For more information about Confie, contact us today or call us at (714) 252-2500.