Strategies to retain talent following an acquisition

acquisitionHere are a few best practices to effectively assess and retain top talent in an acquisition:

  1. Define strategy and culture. What is the goal of the deal: to expand an existing business line or to diversify? The buying company must define the strategy of the move before identifying the best people to keep. This step also includes a possible restatement of the company’s vision going forward, which requires buy-in from key stakeholders before the deal is complete.
  2. Remain flexible. In general, deals are becoming more complex and more transformative, which means blending talent from two companies into one can be more difficult. Acquiring organizations should consider what can be gained from the skills of the target company. Part of the value of the transaction is access to new talent.
  3. Stay objective on talent evaluation. This can be a difficult part of the process: we’re all human. To eliminate bias, one possibility is to remove names and other identifying information, assigning a number instead of a name to each applicant. Hiring managers should also analyze the data, looking at productivity measures, for instance, for applicants in sales. Some experts recommend taking a deep dive into an applicant’s personality, using leadership competency tests and even outside evaluations.
  4. Stay within established metrics. Job requirements and descriptions in the combined company should be compared against the talent pool in both companies as well as the existing job descriptions. Using a customized and standardized rating system helps companies establish baseline expectations.
  5. Stay open-minded about systems evaluation. In departments where performance is harder to measure than, say, in sales, look at entire systems instead of people. If it’s the same business, you’re going to look at the software. The best-practice scenario is looking at the most efficient software package. And the most efficient way to maintain that is to keep the people who are running it.
  6. Stay on schedule. Acquiring companies can minimize the loss of top employees at the target company, some of whom are bound to explore other options at the first whiff of a deal. Announce a planned timeline, quickly identify the jobs that are available, and quickly make an informed decision.
  7. Stay on message. If a company is re-interviewing existing personnel for positions in the new company, the way it awards those positions matters. For instance, if a chance at continued employment is communicated as an offer, the worker might think there’s room to negotiate. While negotiation is likely for executive positions, it’s less likely down the ranks. A letter that simply states salary and job responsibilities works best.
  8. Give good reasons for employees to stay. People are going to remain at organizations where they believe they have a champion. You want to meet them as soon as you can to see if there’s rapport and a trust factor.
  9. Money matters, but it’s not everything. Independence and influence are also important. While employees will want to know how much money they’ll make, they’ll also ask questions about reporting structures, resources and access to training.