How can you engage employees during times of change? The experience of shepherding your company through an acquisition or restructuring is naturally fraught with stress and uncertainty. Employees' needs can easily be overlooked during a rocky transition period - and most transitions do have their rocky patches. If you don't work proactively to relieve workers' concerns and let them know you value them, you may lose those whom you most want to keep. Here are 12 tips for keeping your employees firmly aligned with the goals and objectives of your newly structured organization:
1. Communicate plans as early as possible
You may worry that if you let your employees know ahead of time about a potential merger or takeover, they'll all jump ship and leave you stranded in turbulent seas. However, human resources expert Mitchell Lee Marks points out that leaving employees in the dark will erode their trust and make it more likely that they'll leave once they find out you didn't share this vital information. Furthermore, telling them early will help them make plans for weathering the changes.
2. Offer training opportunities
After an acquisition or restructuring, people's roles may undergo big changes. Inevitably, there will be new systems in place and new procedures to navigate. When you take time to arrange and offer training, your employees will feel that you're invested in their success. They'll feel that you really care if they stick around, and they may stop looking for a pink slip in their inbox. The right training opportunity might be the best way to engage employees and get them excited about learning.
3. Retain and engage employees based on merit
Unfortunately, takeovers or mergers often make it necessary to let some employees go. When you're deciding on which people to retain, don't automatically reach for the most heavily promoted stars. RecruitLoop warns that, in some instances, people are promoted solely due to internal politics or because of their loyalty to a certain manager. It's helpful to approach retention in a methodical way, retaining people on the strength of their demonstrated skills and experience, as well as overall employee alignment.
4. Ease the stress of relocation
Even if a worker's daily tasks don't change, it can be highly stressful to navigate a change of workplace. You can help employees adjust to a new location by providing public transportation tokens, facilitating carpools or van pickups, making sure there is reasonable parking, and allowing some flexibility with start times.
5. Retention bonuses alone aren't sufficient
Despite the fact that compensation isn’t ranked as the largest motivation for employees to stay at their jobs, these bonuses remain a go-to solution during times of change. If money isn't the reason people are leaving, then more of it won't induce them to stay. Furthermore, your top performers are likely to receive substantial signing bonuses from a new employer, neutralizing the effect of your retention cash.
6. Address culture clash
Not enough time is spent on culture during times of change. Brent Gleeson wrote in a Forbes’ article, “Culture fit is the most important aspect of retaining great employees above anything else, especially when the company is facing significant changes.” Even Mitchell Lee Marks points out that companies that offer intensive workshops in cultural learning have much better success retaining employees during acquisitions.
7. Provide creative retention agreements
Successful retention agreements can contain more inducements to stay than straight-up bonuses, and they serve a useful purpose in expressing your company's creative willingness to foster employee happiness. A Towers Watson survey finds that companies with high employee retention rates after acquisition used formal agreements 73 percent of the time, whereas only 33 percent of low-retention companies made use of such agreements.
8. Emphasize staying rather than performance
The survey noted above also states that retention agreements work best when they are based on the employee staying a certain length of time, rather than on meeting specific performance metrics. While performance matters, specific outcomes can be unpredictable during times of change, and unrealistic expectations drive people away.
9. Seek employee feedback
During transition times, it's essential to continuously monitor employee engagement levels and gather employee feedback. Daily pulse surveys of employee happiness in real-time are an essential tool to help you recognize and head off potential problems. The right employee engagement platform can put that tool in your hands.
10. Give recognition and rewards
There's no better way to let people know you value them than by giving employee recognition and rewards. Only one out of every three workers in a Gallup poll strongly agreed that they had been recognized within the past seven days for doing good work. During sensitive transition times, providing steady, empathetic employee rewards is more important than ever.
11. Get social
Team building is crucial during restructuring because workers often have to collaborate with people they've never met before. While creating a true sense of teamwork is a multiphase task, you can get a great start by setting up an easy social recognition system by which workers can praise each other for a job well done. Engage employees by giving them access to a real-time news feed showcasing social recognitions sent across the company.
12. Recruit dedicated people ahead of time
This final tip will only be useful to you if merger or takeover plans are still far in your company's future. Writing in Harvard Business Review, successful entrepreneur Craig Walker underlines the importance of picking employees who "put the team - rather than themselves - first." The hard-core, dedicated people he hired were willing to stay with his startups during and after the rocky period of being acquired.
Plenty of companies buy each other up, transform and thrive with a stronger sense of employee motivation than ever. You can't go too far wrong if you follow all 12 of these tips. To learn more about how to engage your employees, access Achievers’ white paper, “A New Digital Workforce: A Guide to Engaging Today’s Employees.”
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