Selling your company or buying another one can create uncertainty for employees, who wonder if they might be laid off or if their position will change. Business owners need to understand what information to share with employees, as well as how and when to share it.
Here are a few tips on how to effectively communicate with employees during a merger or an acquisition:
Share news promptly and candidly
The first step is to promptly share news internally. Knowing that this news can make employees uncomfortable, it’s natural for business owners to want to delay this communication or hold all news until every detail is settled. However, it’s best to err on the side of openness. The longer you delay, the more likely it is that employees will hear news from someone else or the media, which will ruffle feathers and hurt the trusting relationship the business owner had built with his team.
Business owners should also acknowledge rumors—especially parts of a rumor that are obvious—to lower employees’ anxiety or feelings of being uninformed. For example, if age or succession is prompting M&A, you can assume that these root causes are clear to everyone. Without confirming or denying the details of a deal, business owners can let people know that they are aware that considering a deal would be a sensible and responsible activity given the situation.
As the business owner, remember that the deal is much more than money—it affects peoples’ lives. Communicating candidly and directly to employees as early as possible will help staff trust your leadership through the M&A process, as well as avoid any miscommunication from other company leaders.
Acknowledge the uncertainty and be empathetic
Undoubtedly, the M&A process creates uncertainty for employees, and business owners must acknowledge this and be empathetic. It’s likely that not every employee in the company will be offered a position with the new company. And in fact, the selling business owner usually does not have the authority to offer any employee a job with the new company.
A business owner must be a caring leader during this time of stress by thoroughly listening to employee concerns and letting them know she is there to help in any way possible. If there is a question she doesn’t have an answer to, she must commit to getting the answer.
Continue open communication
As the M&A process continues, it’s essential that employees know they can look to you—the business owner—for honest and prompt information.
Eventually, employees will receive offer letters from the new company stating their newly proposed positions. However, as I mentioned before, it’s doubtful that every employee will be asked to join the new company. There is no right or wrong time to inform a team member that his position is being terminated. However, if you know an employee will not be asked to join the new company, discuss this with the employee sooner than later. Remember that he has financial obligations, and possibly a family to support, so the earlier he is aware of how he fits into the situation—or doesn’t—the more efficiently he can decide his next best step.
While the M&A process can be exhilarating for a business owner, you must remember that the deal will affect your employees. Although you may not have a say in how your employees are brought on board the new company, you can remain a confident, strong leader during the transition that does not leave your employees in the dark.