M&A: 6 Steps to Go the Extra Mile as a Manager

Mergers and Acquisitions

This is the first of a two-part series. Part 2 focuses on employees.

With mergers and acquisitions (M&As) on the rise, more executives are finding themselves dealing with the complex undertaking of corporate restructuring when separate companies are combined to form larger ones. After hitting a low point following the 2009 financial crisis, M&A activity is heating up for a record year in 2015.

If you find yourself experiencing this reality firsthand, you are far from alone.

Consider this scenario: Your executive team is saying no staff changes are planned as a result of the M&A. The new company’s executives are saying they’re impressed with your employees and want to retain everyone. In fact, they hope to learn a lot from you. But the finance and accounting professionals on your team are still worried. Should they be? Unfortunately, yes.

As companies continue to pursue growth via acquisition and invest stockpiled cash, only one thing is certain: Success during M&A is a roller coaster. No one knows what’s going to happen beforehand.

Here are six steps you can take to smooth the transition and retain top employees during a merger or acquisition.

merger quote1. Discuss workloads ahead of time.

Both mergers and acquisitions mean added work for your team on top of normal responsibilities, uncertainty and stress. Early in the process, talk with counterparts about their staff tasks. Discuss potential new work with employees and communicate your concern for their well-being. Ask about bringing in M&A consultants for specialized expertise and extra support.

2. Communicate openly.

Make sure your team isn’t hearing things at the water cooler before they hear them from you. Stop the rumor mill by providing updates whenever you learn newly proposed plans and how these events will affect employees. Acknowledge potential issues but keep the emphasis on new opportunities.

3. Research the acquiring company.

Learn as much as you possibly can about the company, its culture, the transaction and how it will affect your company and department. Ask about near-term and long-term implications of the merger. Take time to understand the differences between the two corporate cultures.

4. Explore retention bonuses.

It’s amazing how money can smooth fears. Find out if retention incentives were built into the financial model for the M&A and what specific monetary options you may have to retain your top people through a merger or acquisition.

5. Be a mentor and an advocate.

Maybe you already are a mentor, but this is the time to empower employees and build support for the changes ahead. Talk to each staff member individually about the effects of a merger and offer specific advice for succeeding and for advancing their careers in the new environment. Tap into your leadership abilities, and support your employees.

6. Make yourself — and your team — indispensable.

Start identifying your team’s unique expertise. Maybe Rob is the only one who knows that legacy system. Or only Jennifer works with all the divisions. Suggest they volunteer for new assignments. Look for M&A-related challenges and opportunities. Depending on your role, this might mean investigating potential pitfalls with finance or enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, reviewing new regulatory compliance issues that are likely to arise, and so on.

Your first priority is to keep everyone’s job intact. In an M&A, staying prepared and informed will help you do just that. Dig into your files and review the following:

  • Employment contracts

  • Noncompete agreements

  • Company handbooks — specifically, layoff-related compensation/benefits

An M&A is a chance to shepherd your staff toward new opportunities while showcasing their skills, along with your own, to the new organization. By staying informed and anticipating likely developments, you’ll be able to help your employees excel through all the changes.

Related Resources

Merger Mania: How to Keep Employees on Track When Companies Combine

The Human Factor in M&A Success

Protivit’s Guide to Mergers and Acquisitions: Frequently Asked Questions