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Article -> Maintaining Employee Identity after an Acquisition

Date Added: April 2006

After acquiring a company, there are several ways to make employees feel part of your organization and culture. People want to understand how the organization will preserve value, create value, and how their positions fit into the plan. Good leaders clearly communicate the reasoning for the acquisition and how it will benefit the entire organization and customers. Critical success factors must be announced to everyone within both organizations. Leadership must focus the company direction by clarifying initiatives, outlining value creation objectives, and identifying and rewarding the behaviors that drive those objectives.1

In the hectic days following an acquisition announcement, executives often pay "lip service" to employee communications. That is a mistake if the goal of an acquisition is to retain employees and customers, and increase revenue. All too frequently, in the days following an acquisition, a "generic" email or message on the intranet is all that most employees hear from senior management. Bad news and gossip carry quickly among employees if proper communication isn't established. To avoid such outcomes, leaders must explain the situation immediately - on the day the acquisition is announced. Once employees know about the strategic benefits of the acquisition, they will want to know how it will affect them personally.2

Your company must take on a certain identity as a whole, not only to the employees, but also with customers. A clear understanding of the decision-making process used in making the acquisition will help define this identity and is the first step in communicating with people so they know how they are affected. People want to know the rationale for acquisition events, and leaders should be able to clearly communicate them in a consistent manner to ensure alignment within all levels of the company and with all employees.

Some items to help leaders communicate with employees includes:

  • Creating a sense of team identity to boost morale (employee attachments may be lost during an acquisition)
  • Allowing time for employee feedback regarding perceptions, engagement and understanding
  • Scheduling one-on-one meetings with newly acquired employees (determining future leaders and those to retain)
  • Focusing on behaviors that support employee integration (conducting a Voice of the Employee process to measure employees' perceptions and understanding of corporate culture - and do this again six to nine months later to review changes/gaps)
  • Displaying visible leadership by being effective role models and mentors

A new corporate identity only can begin when employees are engaged and feel they fit into the organization. Only then will an acquisition maximize profitability and productivity in complete employee and customer satisfaction.

1 Andrews, Jim. "Worker's Identity Issues Influence the Success of Integration Efforts in Mergers and Acquisitions." SHRM Information Center (2005).
2 Bekier, Matthias M., and Michael J. Shelton. "Keeping your sales force after the merger." The McKinsey Quarterly 2002.

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