Tips for Communicating a Small Acquisition to Employees and Clients

This article covers communicating smaller acquisitions that fall into the category of Acquire-hire (you are acquiring a company for their talent) or an acquisition that adds additional clients and a few employees. Smaller acquisitions generally impact one or two departments in your organization and communication is often the responsibility of a department head once the ink dries.

Acquire-hire acquisitions add additional people to teams without adding additional products or service offerings. Although they may come to you with some projects in flight, once those projects are finished the new people will only work on your existing client base – your sales team won’t be selling anything new.

Since you’ve done the acquisition to add employees, prioritize on boarding and retention. You want to make them feel welcome and make sure they integrate into your organization quickly. Then think your current employees – do they see the new people as competition, a training burden or new drinking buddies? By helping them understand where the new people will fit in you'll reduce your risk of attrition and avoid creating factions of old and new employees.

Some acquire-hires fail because positions are poorly mapped or delayed – this creates uncertainty in the minds of new and existing employees -- which may lead to attrition. Reduce their uncertainty and give them assurance of a bright future by preparing a cross walk between the titles/roles in the old company and your organization. New people should receive materials that show how their new title/role is equivalent to their old one and their career path with you at the same time they receive their offer letter. Existing employees should see the cross walk and have an opportunity to ask questions.

In the real world you may find yourself mapping positions in the middle of confidential negotiations with limited or no access to your new employees. In these cases, I ask for access to a senior leader who is already part of the negotiations and then ask that person for job descriptions, annual reviews and his or her personal knowledge of my new employees. If you aren’t able to fully map positions before the announcement, you can still prepare information about your organization, the process you will use to map people into your roles and a timeline for communicating the changes.

Give every new employee a specific date and time for a one-on-one meeting to discuss their new title/role, differences between roles in the two organizations and their career plan. Be prepared to learn about “special arrangements” or promised promotions that didn’t come up in your due diligence process and prepare your existing team for some reasonable exceptions to your existing policies. For example, you may acquire a company with a more generous vacation policy and need to make exceptions for people whose longer vacations were approved before the acquisition.

Employees aren't your only audience -- you want to make sure your clients hear about the acquisition and understand how it will help them. Let’s take a look at that while we look at acquisitions focused on gaining new clients.

Acquisitions to gain new clients or a new product should include a client communication plan. We often forget to include existing clients in our communication plans – this can let our competitors in the door if current clients believe our attention has shifted to our new clients. So, start with a plan for communicating the benefits of the acquisition to your existing clients. Benefits might include better conferences with more clients in their vertical, improved service offerings or plans to expand your product or service into areas that interest them. Even if there aren’t specific benefits for existing clients you should reach out – it will make them feel valued and strengthen your relationship with them.

Your new clients will wonder if service will improve, decline or stay the same, they may also be counting on something promised by the company you acquired. Put together a communication plan that includes communication from their current contact (assuming some people came along with the acquisition), introduces them to someone on your team who can handle questions and provide a polished FAQ to help them navigate new contact information.

By the time an acquisition happens it often feels like the hard work is over and its time to get back to our “real” jobs. In reality, we open a new chapter in the process, an important time of communication with our people and clients.


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