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  • Writer's pictureJoe Dye Culik

Managing Employee Communication During Mergers and Acquisitions

As businesses grow and expand, mergers and acquisitions have become common in the corporate world. However, these transactions not only impact a company's financial and operational aspects but also significantly affect its employees. HR and employee management are crucial elements in the success of mergers and acquisitions, particularly regarding communication. This post will discuss HR professionals' challenges during the mergers and acquisitions process and provide tips on effectively managing employee communication throughout the merger and acquisition journey.

 

Understanding the Legal Complexities of Mergers and Acquisitions


Navigating the legal complexities of mergers and acquisitions can be daunting, especially for small business owners. From understanding the intricacies of business law to ensuring compliance with employment regulations, numerous legal considerations must be addressed during this process. Buying or selling a business involves significant HR issues, including protecting employee rights, addressing potential layoffs, and ensuring a smooth transition for both parties. This post explains some of the key concerns of mergers and acquisitions from an HR perspective, shedding light on the legal intricacies that small business owners need to be aware of to protect their interests.


Managing Employee Communication During Mergers and Acquisitions
Managing Employee Communication During Mergers and Acquisitions

Timing and Transparency: When and How to Inform Employees about the Merger


When it comes to mergers and acquisitions, timing and transparency are crucial in informing employees about the impending changes. Buying or selling a business can be unsettling for employees, and handling this communication with care is important. Ensuring timely and transparent communication can help alleviate any concerns and build trust among your employees. Following best practices for informing employees about the merger or acquisition, including when to communicate the news and the most effective ways, is vital to the transaction's success.

 

Ensuring Retention of Key Personnel During a Merger or Acquisition


Retaining key personnel during a merger or acquisition is essential for the business's smooth transition and continued success. It is important to identify the key individuals who play a crucial role in the company's operations and take steps to retain them throughout the process. This can be achieved through effective communication, providing reassurance about their roles and future within the organization. By offering incentives and career development opportunities, businesses can ensure their key personnel feel valued and motivated to stay on board during the business sale. For instance, you may want to draft employment contracts with key managers to give them financial incentives to stay on board and create legal obligations for both them and the company to maintain their relationships with each other. Most employment relationships are “at will,” meaning that the employer and the employee may terminate the relationship at any time for any legal reason. At-will employment is generally understood to be in employers’ best interests. However, a carefully drafted employment contract can maintain the employee’s obligation to the company while allowing the company to terminate it for business reasons. An employment contract can be an important tool for the success of the merger or acquisition.

 

Steps for Protecting Your Small Business Legally Throughout the Process


Protecting your small business legally during a merger or acquisition is crucial for safeguarding your interests. Firstly, consulting with legal professionals specializing in mergers and acquisitions is important to ensure compliance with employment laws and regulations. Additionally, carefully review and negotiate the terms of the acquisition agreement, including provisions related to employee rights and responsibilities. Implement effective record-keeping practices to document the entire process and protect yourself from potential legal disputes. Finally, consider seeking guidance from experienced legal and HR professionals who can provide valuable insights and support in managing the HR issues that may arise during this process. By taking these steps, you can confidently navigate the legal complexities of mergers and acquisitions.

 

To Tell or Not to Tell: When to Inform Employees About the Acquisition


The conventional wisdom is not to tell employees about a merger or acquisition until the paperwork is signed, sealed, and delivered. The attorneys for both the buyer and seller will often agree to this because the purpose of the business sale is to deliver the business on the day of the sale in the same condition it was the day before, keeping all the employees and keeping them in the same roles so that the buyer can decide whether any reorganization is necessary.


That said, employees may (understandably) be surprised when the new boss walks in on the day of the sale, and they may be unhappy that they were not informed of the sale during the weeks or months leading up to the sale while it was being negotiated behind closed doors.


Communication between the buyer, seller, and their attorneys can be important. The seller knows the business better than anyone and may be able to give practical guidance on whether to tell one, some, or even all of the employees about the sale beforehand. If the parties elect to do so, it must be done carefully.


If a number of employees quit before the sale is consummated, the contract for the sale of the business may allow the buyer to walk away. This is because most acquisition or merger agreements contain provisions stating that the contract can be terminated in the event of a “material adverse change,” i.e., a substantial change to the nature of the business – and losing a large percentage of employees likely qualifies as a material adverse change. One way to handle this risk is to revise the provision about material adverse changes such that losing employees does not allow the buyer to terminate the agreement.


Successful HR Management in a Small Business Merger


By addressing HR issues during the merger and acquisition process, such as employee concerns, retention of key personnel, and communication strategies, business attorneys, acting with a competent HR team, can navigate the challenges and create a positive outcome. Addressing HR concerns proactively in mergers and acquisitions can result in a successful acquisition or merger and safeguard the expectations of both the buyer and seller for a successful transaction.

 

Dye Culik PC is a business law firm located in Charlotte, North Carolina. We work with clients on mergers and acquisitions, buy/sell agreements, and navigating the process of any transition with their business including managing employee communications. We're here to help your business, connect with us for a consultation.

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