When an entire leadership team got wiped out…
An entire leadership team was getting wiped out; A disruption, tectonic in nature for any organization.
Top talent leaving across levels. The ones that remained losing faith and trust fast. An organization adrift and listless with no one to man the oars. And just 6 months after an acquisition. A foreign acquisition.
The FT Press book states that “Many research studies conducted over the decades clearly show that the rate of failures is at least 50 percent for any acquisition”. That became reality when I experienced an acquisition not working out right before my eyes.
In the last 2 years before I joined Coviam technologies, I was part of two acquisitions; One as part of an acquiring company and one an acquired. I felt like a drum being beaten on both sides as a senior leader focussed on people and talent aspects in the company.
Acquirers sometimes get the notion of conquerors. Plunder and pillage. The arrogance and the hubris getting a full flow to vent. Other times it is mostly a lack of sensitivity and awareness of the people aspects during an acquisition. An acquisition now is mostly about the people and the knowledge they carry and unfortunately in most acquisitions is relegated to the bottom of the ladder.
How does one make it to be smooth and friendly rather than being involved in a war? Skipping over the notions of ‘superiority’, the ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ mentality, the tug of war with the acquiree being short changed.
Few companies have mastered the art of integration and my attempt here is to try to make this art form a science.
Building trust in the new leadership and the acquiring Company– Trust begins at the top. Effort should be to have acquired company’s executive leadership completely and totally on-board and have belief in the acquiring company. Their confidence will trickle down throughout the rest of the company. Establishing trust requires a level of inclusivity and transparency from the acquiring company. Throughout the entire process, put the people aspect at the center of all communications since that is the key part that matters. Communicate openly, frequently and honestly. Make yourself available rather than locking up in ivory towers and basking in the glory of the acquirer.
Who fills-in the critical roles– Face it, there will be a duplication of roles. Let the best talent take charge irrespective of which side s/he is coming from. If an acquiring company shows partisanship towards assigning critical portfolios to its own team, then they have lost the game even before it starts.
Culture consideration and assimilation– It is imperative to anticipate cultural challenges and proactively take steps to integrate the two cultures. Don’t undermine the culture of acquired company. It’s okay to let the newly formed organization have its own, new culture. Create an environment in which employees feel safe to ask questions and share feedback. Provide honest answers; work on feedback as it will go far to instill trust and cultivate loyalty. Give it time for trust to build and don’t switch it on day 0.
Manage change effectively – People often fear change. However, everyone should understand that there will be change. Communicate the essence of this change and how it would benefit everyone. Communicate aspects which will affect employees in their day to day lives. Set this tone as early as possible, and emphasize the positives as much as possible, while also being honest about the variance as appropriate.
Continuous communication– Take proactive steps to ensure that the HR team and people managers of the acquired company stay updated and in turn keep their teams informed. Employees should not be left wondering as to what next!! Encourage teams to ask on anonymous boards any concerns or queries they have.
Involve people from an acquired company – Ensure that new team is getting visibility. Do not let the buyer ego come into play and ensure that sellers remorse does not set in. Treat them equally, let them feel valued and respected.
Layoffs- Layoffs are inevitable. However, don’t be in a hurry to execute layoffs right after the deal is done. Consider all business and operational aspects and plan layoff once for all, rather than making it a frequent event in the first year of acquisition.
Would love to hear your experience..
Cheif People Officer
Also published on Medium.