May 20, 2015

How to communicate with employees through a merger

Here are some pointers to remember when deciding what to share with your employees and when.

Your employees are important to you. In a startup, the people on the ground have helped build a successful brand from nothing. At a large corporation, efficiency and operations depend on the support of thousands of individuals. Some companies extend equity to founding employees, so the future of the company matters even more greatly to the people business leaders employ. 

The merger or acquisition process is fraught with a great deal of sensitive information. Keeping certain details private can be the difference between signing a lucrative deal and losing the trust and attention of your prospective parent company. That's why much of the negotiation happens in closed meetings until more information is available to share with the public. However, deciding when to alert employees to decisions that will shape their future and that of your company can be a challenge. 

Here are some pointers to remember when deciding what to share with your employees and when. 

Don't reveal more than you should. Again, mergers and acquisitions are sensitive dealings, so avoid breaking news that isn't shored up. This could raise a false alarm or jeopardize aspects of a deal that haven't been ironed out yet. It's also important to decide who, at what level of the business, is privy to certain pieces of news, and to emphasize discretion for those you trust with sensitive information. 

Don't reveal less than you should. Many mergers and acquisitions require staffing shifts, whether it's restructuring departments or eliminating redundancies. For that reason, it's critical not to withhold need-to-know information about the security of an employee's job any longer than is necessary. Good employees have invested a great deal of trust in your leadership, so keeping people in the loop as much as possible is important.

Mind your values. Office culture may be one of the qualities that made your business so attractive to a potential buyer, so staying consistent with your approach to human resources is key. Honor any existing transparency standards and invite employees to learn about the process. 

"Include a sentence in the company memo stating that employees may schedule a private, one-on-one meeting with their manager if they still have unresolved questions regarding the merger," writes Charity Tober of the Houston Chronicle. "Managers should meet with employees behind closed doors to provide a safe, non-hostile environment where an employee can openly discuss questions or concerns related to her specific position."

Break news internally first. Tech blogs are full of speculation about future M&A deals. If your enterprise is eyeing a new arrangement, there may be some gossip around the company. However, timing the announcement that your deal has gone through requires sensitivity and respect to your employees. Don't let them learn on TechCrunch or the Wired blog that their workplace has been sold for an undisclosed sum. 

It's also important to remember that the completion of a deal isn't the end of the road in a merger or acquisition. A long integration process lies ahead, so open and honest communication with employees will be critical through the next steps of the deal. With the guidance of an experienced M&A advisor, business leaders can get invaluable help bridging the transition that can be challenging and opaque. Contact us today to learn more about the benefit of working with a MergerTech advisor.