Planning for an exit: how to retain your talent

Organisational change, whether it is merger, acquisition, or any other form, is always a period of higher employee churn.

Employees in the affected company start thinking about their career, especially about their future in the reshuffled company with new ownership and possibly a change in role. This is a period of uncertainty that naturally generates anxiety among the rank and file, and the onus lies squarely on the management to instil order and confidence.

These overachieving employees can justifiably take some of the credit for taking your company to where it is today. However, concerns pertaining to the new company culture, managerial control, redundancies, etc. can make them apprehensive and nervous about their careers and start looking at the different options available to them.

But is there a way of reliably mitigating this crisis of talent afflicting firms that are being acquired? Yes. Assuming that you have identified the key performers in your firm, there are certain helpful measures you can take to avert a mass exodus of top talent.

1. Leadership

The management team must provide the necessary leadership to manage the transition to the new entity. Without able leadership, none of the strategies mentioned below can be executed effectively. Leadership removes opaqueness from decision-making process, and encourages an atmosphere of trust where employees can express themselves without fear.

2. Communication

Communicate early and clearly. It is always a given that murmurs about probable and impending changes in a company’s management and organisational structure starts much before it is formally announced. Keeping such information under wraps for an unduly long period of time serves no purpose other than creating fear, uncertainty, and doubt among your employees.

The surest way to keep their confidence is by communicating forthcoming change in a clear language, at the earliest possible date. You should take care to devise your communication strategy in such a way that it not only lets employees know about the forthcoming changes, but also provides them the rationale for such decisions. The communication process should include discussion of the future road map or ‘vision’ for the company, the new goals and missions.  This will reassure your employees, and allow them to see their career aligned with the company’s future.

3. Maintain routine

Maintain the company’s everyday routine. Every company has their own internal culture that employees get used to. This is not an idle process without any significance. These routine processes, be it monthly events, or team bonding sessions, are one of the most effective ways to reassure your staff that things are normal and going to stay normal. Any breakdown of such internal culture immediately signals that something is amiss, leading to unhelpful rumours. It should be the responsibility of management team to doubly reinforce such cultural markers within the company during a period of change.

4. Retention agreements

Typically, this is the go-to move most companies resort to when it comes to retaining their top talent. Unfortunately, a lot of these companies mindlessly focus on the monetary component to the detriment of other relevant factors. There is no doubt that your retention agreement must provide for an attractive monetary package but there are other important aspects. Focus also on promotions, re-definition of roles and responsibilities, new opportunities and personal development programmes. This will re-engage and motivate employees and put you in a strong position through the transitional period. Ideally start this process early and approach your employees individually. This will have the effect of making your top performers feel that they are valued, and that their interests will be taken care of going forward.

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