“Medals are rarely awarded during times of peace.” – Price Pritchett
You’ve been drafted, HR. Your company is being acquired, and you are needed (even if not asked) to make the transition a success. Time to trice up, mill about smartly, and fulfill your promises. “What promises?” you ask?
In times of merger chaos, every leader in the company has a responsibility that can be summed up fairly succinctly into the “Four Promises.” [Smart Moves, Pritchett]
- The organization we hand off is at least as healthy as the one you purchased.
- Lead and support employees through the process with respect and dignity–and engage them as adults.
- No disruptions to customers (external or internal)… we are the duck’s feet.
- More value will be found in the new combined entity than the previous separate ones.
Seems logical enough, yes? Thinking through this logically, why else would a merger occur if not for increased value? But of the four promises, which do you think is most often neglected and/or minimized?
(Please say #2.)
Number 2, you say?! CORRECT!
It happens as instinctively as a bad habit. “Value” is immediately focused on the transactional pieces of the business. Buying power is consolidated, processes are fine-tuned, and we launch shared plans of action to comfort our customer base. To the outside world, we communicate consistently, try to keep ’em happy, and make sure the lights are on at the store.
But how about our employees?
The value of an engaged and productive integrated workforce is almost universally de-prioritized. Granted, the angst and anxiety of major change is unavoidable, so any effort to eliminate the impact of uncertainty is wasted effort. That’s not the goal.
The goal is to minimize the emotional impact encountered by your people–prepare them for the shock, support them through the transition, and maximize the personal and professional value of the employees and the new entity.
As HR professionals, we cannot assume that the employees have been considered with as much concern as the customer; re-establish the people as a priority in the acquisition process.
John Whitaker (“Whit”) is a SVP and Chief People Officer at Sage Dental and the founder of HRHardball.com (2008). He specializes in building and developing strong recruiting teams who are unafraid of “kicking the ant pile.” Like most Texans, he loves to tell a story (especially those that include an armadillo or a poker game) and cutting through the chaff…don’t take it personal.