Good Old Communication
Secret Ingredient to Successful M&A’s
Over the past decade, I have been fortunate to have been part of quite a number of acquisitions in both Canada and the U.S. The smallest of these involved 20 employees, with the larger acquisitions pegging in at close to 2,000 new team members. No matter the number of employees, during an acquisition, the main focus for me and my team is always communication.
Once due diligence has been completed and the money has changed hands, it is “go time” for the Human Resources team.
We’ve come to recognize a sensitive period of time, generally in the first two weeks or so, where the employees of the acquired company need to be provided with the information that their company has been sold and that Impark is the new owner and what this means for them.
In all cases, we have been their direct competition, and this has always resulted in the employees feeling a plethora of fears and insecurities.
It then becomes our job in HR, with the support of our management team, to be straightforward and communicate the changes. It is imperative to the success of the integration that I have a detailed communication plan. This plan needs to include communication strategies for all levels of the organization, and to have management onboard.
During this push, I rely on the management team to partner with HR to help support communicating a clear and consistent message. That is the key. We need to be on the same page and have the same answers, or the plan will fail.
We have developed a mantra that “you can never over-communicate.” Just when we think we’ve communicated enough, it’s probably time to communicate some more.
Our first step is to have a meeting with the management team, and preferably with the previous owner in attendance, to introduce ourselves and provide the acquired employees with expectations over the next 30, 60, 90 days.
During this first face-to-face meeting, we provide information about our culture, and let these employees know what to expect during the integration phase. We also open up for questions and work hard to answer honestly, even when the answers may not be what people want to hear.
We at Impark have a corporate culture that focuses on three main areas: Create Positive Energy, Be Admirable and Trailblazing. These values are simple and straight forward, and ones that everyone can live by.
We introduce a point person from each department whom the acquired employees can reach out to. We talk about living our values, and we demonstrate them through answering questions and providing as much information as we can.
In all cases, employees are fearful of losing their jobs, and we always field the question, “Will my department be redundant?”
If we are unable to provide reasonable answers to their questions, the acquired employees will answer that question for themselves. Rumors and fears will begin to swirl in the organization, and before we know it, we have employees jumping to unrealistic conclusions — and then we can be in damage-control mode, when we should be working to move the employee integration forward.
Create Positive Energy,
Be Admirable and Trailblazing.
Unravelling unrealistic employee fears is a time-consuming endeavor and distracts from the main focus, the integration. Do not misunderstand me, you will always need to work with the employees’ fears, but you can manage their concerns by communicating the transition plan.
As I mentioned, we at Impark have really found that you can never over-communicate, and it is important to have a mix of formal and informal communication channels for employees to use.
During the first 30 to 60 days post-acquisition, we reach out to staff through information sessions. These have proven successful in providing employees with some background on Impark and its cultural values.
I see a common mistake of communicating frequently with the management or office teams, but forgetting about the field employees. These team members are “customer facing,” and they need to be part of the communication plan to ensure a smooth acquisition.
The flow of communication does not stop after the initial meetings. In truth, it realistically takes a few years to fully integrate the culture and values, and this requires constant effort and attention – it’s an ongoing process. HR plays a key role in cultivating this transition.
One way that helps us achieve long-term success is to actively look for at least a few meaningful pieces from the acquired company that we can adopt and integrate into the broader organization. It could be a practice, policy, process or technique that its team did better than us.
This shows a willingness to take on better practices or methodologies, and helps us to grow as an organization and continue to build our strong brand in the marketplace.
We acquired the company for a reason, and we put every effort forth to leverage the value that our new coworkers bring to the table.
Angelica Marshall is a Senior HR Professional with 17 years of experience in industries ranging from publishing to parking. She oversees HR operations for Impark’s Western Region. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.