Managing Human Resources When Selling Your Business

Selling a business is almost always a bittersweet experience – happy anticipation of possible new beginnings accompanied by a sadness of letting go something that was so painstakingly built over time. However, it is an even more emotional and challenging time for the employees of such a business. It is a big change that will in different measures affect their work and life. 

Most employees when faced with such a scale of change and ensuing uncertainty start introspecting about their individual career goals and their relationship with the organization. It is not uncommon, during such times, for employees to start brushing their resumes and actively applying. Before you know it, your top talent has found jobs elsewhere or been snagged by canny recruiters. Either way you lose quality people which will have a bearing on the potential value of your business for the firm buying. 

Even the employees who stay in the business for varied reasons are not immune to the negative effects of an ambiguous environment. Stress can cause them to neglect their work leading to decreased productivity. This will again affect the business and its value in the eyes of the acquiring firm. 

Hence, there is a strong business case for making a business plan that allows you to focus on human resources as you prepare to sell. The following are some human resource strategies to help coach your employees through this significant period of organizational change:

Talk to Your Employees

Calling “talking to your employees” a strategy might seem odd. But it is worth terming it a strategy simply because of how often it is overlooked by leaders during important business transition periods. Communicate with your employees clearly and regularly. Ideally, you have had employees involved in annual business planning meetings so they are aware of the company’s focus and goals. But if not, now is the time to really speak with them.

With legal and confidentiality considerations in mind, let your employees know the details of the change process. Be clear about what you do know and be honest about what you don’t or cannot share. Such transparency will go a long way in allaying your employees’ fears and doubts.

You should touch base even more frequently with top performers and achievers. Help them understand what they can expect from this transition. They will probably commit more to the change if they are able to see themselves learn and grow in the new organization. If you fail to communicate with your team, you leave more room for rumors and false information. This can have serious repercussions for your business and its selling prospects.

Inspire Your Employees

When communicating about organizational change, draw focus onto the big picture that has hopefully been the focus of your company’s business plan for years. Highlight why and how this particular transition is significant to the future of the business. Tell them how this future is congruent with the mission and values of the business. Helping employees envision a new future, one that does not compromise their dearly-held organizational principles, will strengthen their commitment to change. Without these candid conversations and inspiring narratives, you can expect a lot of resistance to change.

Involve Your Employees

Major changes like selling a business can cause major upheavals in employees’ lives. So, it is only fair to solicit employee feedback and involve them in the change process. Employee feedback will help you better understand how people on the ground are processing the change. It can help you tailor your communication to more effectively meet employee needs. When you involve employees, you give them a chance to take ownership making their support and commitment to change more likely.

If you have one, allow your HR department to take a lead on these change initiatives. Instead of treating HR as a mere administrative tool, employ it as a strategic device to roll out and oversee the above-mentioned strategies. 

We have all heard of creating a business plan prior to starting a business, but it is equally important to have a robust business plan when you sell your business. Heavily involve employees in this process and you should be able to craft and execute on the right plan, and successfully sell your business.

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