Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Employees Betrayed?

As the president/CEO of a professional services firm, an issue that is consistently top-of-mind is how to most effectively communicate with Strategic Communications Group’s (Strategic) senior team, employees and network of high-caliber consultants. It is their expertise, market knowledge, skill set, capabilities and passion that helps us deliver on our philosophy – great work for great clients.

I came to learn very early on in my experience running Strategic that my priorities related to personnel management are fairly straightforward:

--Put people in a position in which they are set up for success
--Provide an environment which is engaging
--Recognize and reward those who take ownership of their careers and consistently perform at a high level
--Be consistent in messaging

To deliver on this promise to colleagues I’ve tried to implement an open, honest and straightforward communications style. This is especially important when addressing issues or topics related to corporate developments or individual performance. A person may not like what I have to say, yet it’s better to know where things stand.

I suspect entrepreneur Cheryl Amyx shared this philosophy about internal communications and employee relations. In less than a decade, her government services firm established a high growth and profitable niche in the defense market, ultimately being recognized by Washington Technology magazine as one of the fastest growing firms in the region.

Yet, when Cheryl went through the process of positioning and then selling her company she chose to keep the matter private, fearful of employee defections due to the uncertainty that comes with new owners. She even elected not to inform her senior team.

This morning at an ACG National Capital (http://www.acgcapital.org) event which featured an inside look at the sale of Cheryl’s company, I asked her if employees felt betrayed once they learned of the sale. She acknowledged that some did and a few elected to leave the company. Yet, the new ownership moved quickly with a transition strategy that involved in-person meetings to reassure employees and customers.

While I respect Cheryl’s decision about how she managed employee relations during the M&A process, I would have counseled her to be upfront and honest once it became apparent that a sale of the company could possibly go through.

Most employees invest their time, energy and effort to build a company of value. They’ve earned the right to know about major corporate initiatives, even if it makes them nervous.

The Amey Group, Inc. Acquires Amyx, Inc. (1.18.08)

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