Chau Woeste and Christian Kurtz explain how creating unique employee experiences for different teams drives deal value.
Day 1 has finally arrived. You’ve put a huge amount of effort into communicating and welcoming your new employees. The leadership team has cascaded messaging through the organisation, you’ve sent out welcome packs, and you’ve held town halls virtually and on-site. Everything has seemingly gone smoothly. Then, a couple of weeks later, your market share in Asia drops three percentage points. What happened?
This isn’t a story constructed to make a point. We saw it happen to a global business. The reason? While it had sent out all the usual communications, the business hadn’t successfully transitioned its sales force. As the deal closed, competitors recognised the opportunity and lowered their prices. The company’s sales reps didn’t know how to respond – they didn’t know how to go about seeking approval for discounts. As a result, they lost key accounts.
That’s why it’s so important to understand the business you’re acquiring and ensure that key business functions are able to carry on with business as usual, even when everything is changing.
The white glove treatment
Take a look at the other blog posts in our series on the human side of the deal and you’ll see why we strongly believe that the workforce is the key asset in your deal. Each individual talent is important, but it’s obvious there are some groups that can play a bigger role in the making or breaking of a deal. Which are the critical teams that need a white glove treatment?
The answer to this question will depend on the rationale behind your acquisition. Are you looking to drive a larger and faster innovation pipeline? Then, the R&D team should be a priority. Do you want to extend your client base geographically? If so, you’ll need to focus on the sales team in this geography. Sometimes, you’ll need to do more investigation to discover who your critical talent is. Business success may be based on team leads who inspire strong individuals, rather than one particular function. Any step you take should be connected to your business strategy and the deal rationale. Ask yourself: who are the key teams that will make the difference to this business? Or even: which part of the business would we suffer most if people lost motivation and left?
Different folks, different strokes
Once you know where to focus your attention, the next step is to identify what makes those individuals or teams tick. In our experience, bringing people from all areas of the integration team together and discussing internal and external drivers, needs, interests, and concerns your key groups might have is beneficial; you could call it an enhanced stakeholder assessment.
Your teams may have developed different cultures and ways of working over time. Understanding that will help you engage them, address their concerns and win their trust. And, of course, it will help ensure that you give them the information, resources, and support they need to do their jobs and avoid any performance issues – as in our example above. Sometimes, providing line managers with information a week in advance can really help them lead their teams, and they, themselves, will appreciate the extra care. Other groups might need specific trainings, round tables with the leadership team, or targeted coaching.
There are many tools to deploy and only by knowing your stakeholders can you find the right approach to each, meaning you can start to customise experiences. We’re all increasingly used to this – when going on holiday, ordering a pizza, browsing media players for a film to watch. Why can’t we deliver it at work? We can, by using digital tools to gather employee sentiment and acting upon it, by creating online communities to connect global teams, by enabling local leads to customise communications, by letting people tune in (or out) to what’s relevant to them.
Employees leave their managers
One group you should focus on is your line managers. They play a vital role in engaging your teams and providing a customised experience. Whether you’ve acquired a service business, a manufacturer or a software developer, your line managers are the primary point of contact for employees. Do I have a future at this organisation? What’s the direction of travel? Will we still get a bonus? Chances are high that it’s line managers who will get these questions first.
Equipping your team leads with the right answers, techniques and back-up they need to get through this time of uncertainty is crucial to keeping your people motivated and engaged. After all, it’s often said that people leave their managers, not their jobs.
We advised a global tech client to focus especially on its mid-management team during a key acquisition, resulting in an attrition rate that was half what we would usually expect to see during an integration. We provided talking points to those managers in advance of major change announcements, tailored a list of FAQ crafted from their point of view, and always fed them updates at least a couple of days before the news was cascaded throughout the rest of the organisation.
Of course, it’s important to get the basics right for everyone. Your people need to feel part of the new family. They need to feel supported. And they need a clear understanding of what they’re collectively working towards – your purpose as a business. Your aim should be to provide a consistent experience for everyone, across all your channels. But also look at how you can differentiate it for your key groups.
We would love to hear from you about your challenges and successes on culture change following and acquisition. Get in touch if you’d like to discuss any of the points raised or how we can support your integration.