Many business owners know that employees are a company’s greatest asset. Yet, they are also a potential liability. According to CNBC, more than 3.5 million Americans quit their jobs every month. The current unemployment rate sits at 6.7%. It rose to 14.8% in April, but prior to the pandemic, it was 3.5%, which was a strong job market. So, if employees are so critical to a company’s operations, how can organizations mitigate the risk of them leaving, especially immediately before or after an M&A transaction? During such a transaction, a business may find itself at a disadvantage when trying to keep valuable workers in a strong job market and during the uneasiness of a transaction. Workers may feel under appreciated, underpaid, or that they lack opportunities for advancement during this period. Looking from the outside in, a culture like this can cripple the attraction of buyers or a successful integration.
In most cases, this can be averted. But how? Paying employees more? Giving out monthly awards or irrelevant promotions? In short, giving employees true meaning day-in and day-out can be a complex task but it’s a key differentiator in a company being a place where employees want to grow their careers, versus being a resume builder. Having a personal sense of who your employees are and what motivates them can often mean more to them than any compensation, and set the company up for a successful integration. The tricky part is identifying those things in which your employees find happiness, purpose and true meaning. Tackling the following key questions will improve your M&A transaction experience, increase employee retention, and help employees find greater happiness within the workplace.
What are your employees good at completing?
Performance reviews were implemented back in the 1800s and haven’t changed much since. Albert Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Employers have been evaluating workers on a yearly basis and adjusting the company’s workforce according to their findings for many years. When evaluating employees, it’s important to include a detailed skills assessment. Investing the time to understand each employee’s specific skills and value to the organization gives the company an advantage for future success by optimizing its workforce. In terms of M&A preparation, skills gaps can be proactively addressed so buyers don’t perceive risk and discount their offers; and, unique skill differentiators can be leveraged to improve competitive position and business valuations.
In addition to finding an employee’s niche set of skills, it’s imperative to also challenge employees on an array of different topics. Challenging employees helps to develop their skillset further, leverage their untapped potential, and optimize their performance. Small adjustments like these can help a company not only retain valuable workers for years to come, but also convey the impression of a strong group of employees for prospective buyers within an M&A transaction.
When do your employees feel most accomplished?
A sense of accomplishment is a cornerstone of any successful job. As a manager or business owner, it’s critical to recognize the drivers of employees’ satisfaction in their jobs, or “delighters,” and promote them. Is it when they’ve closed a new deal, completed service for a difficult client, or finished a task that they’ve been working on for weeks? Understanding the accomplishments that truly make employees happy isn’t that hard. Promoting and acknowledging these things makes employees feel that their work is valued.
One way to identify these “delighters” is for managers to adjust their interactions with employees. For example, having purposeful daily conversations, building relationships, and showing genuine interest in each employee’s current projects. This can also help the workforce better understand their role in the organization’s operations and success.
A Harvard Grant Study found that happiness and even financial success are tied to the warmth of one’s relationships, especially in the workplace. The study’s chief architect famously concluded, “Happiness is love. Full stop.” Working on partnerships with employees can improve purpose within their careers and the organization. Enhancing relationships with employees can help the organization get through tough times and cruise through outstanding times. In addition, having a great working relationship with employees can help ward off negative energy during the demanding process of an M&A transaction. It is important to make time for employees, engage with them, listen to them, and build relationships needed to enhance workplace happiness, improve employee longevity, and sail through the grind of an M&A transaction.
What have your employees learned lately?
Intellectual curiosity is something we all have within ourselves that can help an employee excel in any job. Being able to ask questions, learn from others, and make tasks more efficient can help employees find constant meaning at work. As a business owner, one of the challenges is getting the right curiosity out of employees. Implementing “end of the week discussions” as a group is one way to tap into intellectual curiosity. In addition, putting in place nontraditional learning environments can give employees the opportunity to learn hands-on versus behind a desk. Experiences like these can help improve the longevity of an employee’s career, along with advancing their understanding and ability to retain information. Having a workforce that is intellectually curious can be a considerable selling point during a transaction that buyers are delighted to buy into.
To summarize, multi-billion-dollar corporations and smaller boutique firms alike must mitigate the risk of losing valuable workers. Figuring out ways to make employees excited when they walk through the company’s doors is key to an organization’s success. Implementing small changes as described here can help an organization retain its top tier talent and ensure a smooth transaction. Modest adjustments such as regularly interacting with employees, investing time to understand each employee’s individual skillset, and creating an open environment that engages curiosity, will help make them happier, optimize performance, and ensure that they will continue to support the success of the organization. Acquirers treasure the ability of having a stable team on board during a transition and, as a seller, this can make all the difference in having a successful sale.
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