Maintaining Employee Trust During a Merger or Acquisition

In addition to a merger or acquisition being a large business decision, it is also a large human resources decision. While business growth and financial stability are important things to consider when choosing to merge a company, the bloodline of any business are the employees. Responding to their concerns is equally as important as responding to the concerns of your potential buyer or seller. The Reina Trust Building Institute lists 7 important things to keep in mind when considering your merger or acquisition.

Most mergers and acquisitions fail because the focus is put on the business and financial issues, not on the human issues, according to Dennis and Michelle Reina, leadership experts and cofounders of the Reina Trust Building Institute. As a result, workers lose trust in leadership and withhold the talent and energy that are needed for success.

The following seven tips can help leaders regain employee trust during a merger or acquisition:

1. Acknowledge what’s happening. Recognize, preferably in a public way, that you know the merger hasn’t been easy. Tune in to how people respond and show them that their views matter. A little acknowledgment can go a long way in helping employees feel better.

2. Hear people out. Provide employees with non-threatening environments to express their feelings, so their emotions don’t go underground. Regular feedback sessions at all levels can help people reflect on what it will take to regain their confidence, commitment, and energy.

3. Provide information. Make sure no one is moving ahead blindly. Help employees feel involved and in the know by sharing as much as information as possible.

4. Put the situation into a larger context. Help workers see the bigger picture by sharing the business reasons behind the merger or acquisition — why it’s happening, what makes it the best course of action, and how the company will be better as a result.

5. Take responsibility. Own up to your mistakes and, by creating a safe, open environment, help employees do the same. Acknowledge lessons learned and, as an organization, commit to concentrating on problem solving, not blaming.

6. Help people move on. Challenge employees to buy into the company’s future, starting with the new opportunities it can offer them. They may not soon forget the present perils and pitfalls, but they can choose to look forward rather than stay stuck in the past.

7. Walk the talk. Successful mergers and acquisitions demand artful, authentic leadership, and that starts with consistently walking the talk. If your actions don’t match the vision and values you claim for yourself and the company, you may lose credibility.

Remember, your business is only as strong as the employees that make it. Do not neglect your employees, and when the time is right, explain to them carefully what the situation is. Always be sure that you are informing them within the agreed guidelines of the confidentiality agreement between you and your potential buyer or seller. If you are seeking advice for an M&A agreement, contact George & Company.