Merger, Acquisition, Takeover are words that are always perceived with skepticism and varying doses of fear. Markets, leaders and employees all suddenly become careful and cautious. The air gets a little heavier.
If you ask any HR professional about this, they will tell you that the news almost always brings large doses of insecurity for the employees. Soon after the announcement, the mere presence of HR professionals on a floor is seen with suspicion and they are no less than dementors for most people, sucking out happiness by just being in the vicinity. Sometimes the wizarding folks aren’t the only ones who need an invisibility cloak.
“I am not clumsy. But I do manage to find obliging corners and polite protrusions to bump into at regular intervals. Maybe I am dimensionally challenged. Or perhaps a dreamer. Obsessive data organizer, granny crafter and paper hoarder. A strategist with an eye for the big picture. I love kitschy and brightly colored art and plain white ppts”.
Sabah Shah, HR Business Partner and Compensation Strategist.
Recruitment consultants know where to head hunt during this season for ready to jump the ship candidates. Even Sam with his coveted corner cubicle takes a break from reading the news to updating his resume. The view from the window and the snack bar only slow him as he does this, he suddenly has new found appreciation for the birds.
But why should this be the case. Almost always the reasons for these transitions are aimed at a brighter future, a happier consequence. All that deliberation in the background is done on the basic premise that the outcome of this entire activity is for a larger good. So that businesses can grow, become stronger, gain from coming together, eliminate threats, consolidate their position or simply not go bankrupt.
Can organizations, leaders and HR professionals take appropriate steps to improve reception to this news? Why is that even important?
There is always a better way to do things, and change is no different. There are some basic practices that make for healthy transitions and involve less effort than calming down a workforce that feels threatened and has already started considering what else is out there or if its time they open that café that they have always wanted to.
Over the course of the next four articles or steps, or ideas, I hope to lay out an easier way of taking your people towards the new reality with more excitement than fear.
Step one. Transparency and Communication
You may now kiss the bride! That moment is here. Do you wait till the union or tell your family about it before you propose? What about mergers and acquisitions? They are not so different after all.
While it is quintessential to be transparent, it’s not that easy to do so. Sometimes business considerations may require organizations to wait till the deal is sealed. Rumors, competition, threats are all real and make it a risky proposition to put this out there before it’s done.
But once it is, it should first be announced to your family – your people. Press conferences must follow town-halls or emails from CEOs. Your videos or Q&As should be ready before it is published to any other source. You should be the first place they find out about this when they wake up. In this age of HR apps on smart devices, this news can be there with them in a matter of seconds from when you choose.
Open forum discussions are the healthiest way to combat rumors and arm managers down the line with the right responses for all the questions that will come their way. Openness begets trust and that is the primary element to make this a favorable exercise.
There are companies that choose to do this organically and let things evolve without holding discussions or addressing queries. What it does is create confusion for the many who are worried about their future. It stresses middle managers who are unable to confidently commit anything to their teams and takes away a lot of their discretion. It pushes those on the edge to move on to something safer.
Your tone sets the direction for how the news will be received. It gives you more control on how your people will feel about this. Your own excitement can be passed down and make this the news they were waiting for.
It also prepares employees to face the various versions that will be presented. Media will have its own, even if it is in fear of a looming bankruptcy or a hostile takeover. Even in such a case being armed with information makes them able to handle a conversation on this topic with more confidence. They will not fear facing their family and friends over what is the future of their employment.
Does knowing alone about the change first stop the problems from unfolding? What next?