Managing change during a merger or acquisition

According to a recent Deloitte study, merger and acquisition activity is expected to accelerate throughout 2018 both in number and size of transactions and are driven by a need for technology, expanding customer bases and diversifying products or services. We are also seeing industries strategically converge to stay competitive, including construction and manufacturing, retail and technology, and healthcare providers and plans.

That same study cited change management in terms of aligning cultures and capturing synergies between the companies involved as primary concerns among decision makers.

Indeed, acquiring, being acquired or merging companies with differing background and cultures is among the biggest undertakings for leadership. We don’t need to explain the complexities of the process from beginning to end – because if you are reading this, you probably already know.

What we can talk about is the role of strategic communications when it comes to M&A. Often overlooked, setting a sound strategy for communicating with your internal and external stakeholders will not only ease the stress leading up to, during and after the acquisition, but it will help ensure that your employees will remain engaged and focused where you need them: on day-to-day-operations.

There’s a reason why change management was among the top pain points identified by HR professionals during our focus group last fall.

Communications Make or Break M&A Transitions
Let’s imagine for a moment that you are a production employee and you have been in the same job for the past 20 years. You know you are good at your job and you feel secure. You have great benefits and you hope to spend the rest of your career there.

One morning you wake up and turn on the local news to learn that the company you’ve worked for has been acquired by a private equity firm based across the country. What would go through your mind?

More than likely your thoughts would first turn to whether your job is safe. You have questions and when you get to work, you find that you have no answers. Your supervisor is just as in the dark as you are. This goes on for days and then weeks. You see new execs coming in, sitting behind closed doors and you have no choice but to presume the worst. After all, no one has spoken a word to you except your co-workers who have the same questions and the same worries for their jobs and their families.

Imagine that same scenario, but instead you are clued in about the acquisition before it hits the media. You’ve been told why this is a good move for the company and that the acquirer has no plans to make sudden changes. Throughout the acquisition, your supervisor provides you with regular updates. Your family receives a letter to help them understand the transition.

Over the months to follow, you understand how your processes and benefits are changing and why. What your reading in the paper matches what you are hearing during team meetings.

Does that sound better?

Communication Opportunity
Mergers and acquisitions are necessary to create sustainable, profitable business. The news won’t always be good or easy for employees. But if you allow them to speculate, it can be so much worse. You need to keep your employees on task instead of trading gossip around the water cooler.

In short: communication is key to aligning cultures, processes and keeping employees engaged.

If you are planning a merger or acquisition, here are three things you can do today to prepare:

1. Know your audiences. Make a list of stakeholders inside and outside of your organization who will be impacted. Investigate the best method for reaching them whether they are in an office or on the shop floor (printed newsletter, intranet, email, team meetings, etc.).

2. Make a list of what motivates people. Look at your audiences and really think about what they will care about before, during and after the transition. You will need messaging for each.

3. Download our checklist. Do you think you are prepared? See if your communications strategy checks all the boxes.

Communications Drive Business
Today, tearing down silos and building a business foundation based on effective communication is essential for businesses to thrive. When communication is strong across the board, all functions in your organization will operate more efficiently, your customers will have better experiences and you’ll be better equipped to grow and evolve your business. 

Contact me to continue the discussion.