Recently, Amazon acquired Whole Foods, and since then, all anyone can talk about is what this will mean for the company's bottom line. But what about employees? Given Whole Foods' great reputation as an employer, their entire professional lives might change if the acquisition doesn't go well.
"Acquired employees fear everything," said Steven L. Blue, president and CEO of Miller Ingenuity, a railway safety company. "They fear dismissal, as the acquired company rationalizes the expense of the acquisition. The ones that remain fear they won't fit into the merged organization."
Unfortunately, scared employees are quick to jump ship. If Amazon isn't careful, they could lose a lot of Whole Foods' top talent. Here are three things Amazon has to do to keep Whole Foods employees loyal:
1. Keep what makes Whole Foods great.
During an acquisition, it's important for the acquiring company to create comfort for employees. This means, instead of trying to sell everyone on what Amazon has to offer, they need to find out what aspects of Whole Foods to keep around.
"When it comes to instilling loyalty, it's important to understand what motivates people at the acquired company. Why are they engaged?" said Omer Molad, co-founder and CEO of Vervoe, a recruiting technology solution. "It should be about getting people to buy into the new mission, creating a sense of hope that their lives and careers will improve, and making people feel valued and recognized."
Molad went on to say that this can mean taking the time to sit down with each and every employee to find out what they love about their job. While this takes a lot of time, it's better than running into costly, high turnover later on.
2. Quell employees' concerns.
The best way to keep acquired employees from worrying is communicating effectively with them. If there are any holes in their knowledge, people will fill in those gaps with the worst case scenario.
For example, in 2013, the ecommerce and digital marketing services firm Acquity Group was acquired by Accenture. Immediately, Acquity Group's former co-founder and CMO Matt Schmeltz noticed a level of uncertainty in the company.
"Some employees wondered if their role would be cut, if they would be forced to relocate, or if the company culture and processes that they'd grown familiar with would change dramatically," said Schmeltz, now the CMO of CloudCraze, a B2B commerce platform. "We paid close attention to these concerns and did everything in our power to alleviate these fears and avoid disruption."
He went on to say leaders at Amazon need to be as transparent as possible, especially with changes that will directly affect employees' roles. The more employees feel like they're acknowledged and part of the process, the more loyal they'll be.
3. Get employees involved.
After an acquisition, every employee is a resource that can help the transition go smoothly. But since there isn't an established relationship between the new leaders and individuals, leaders need to proactively reach out and ask for employees' input.
"When employees are asked for their ideas, concerns, and solutions, they believe they're valued members of a team and can have a positive and important impact," said Dr. Paul Warner, vice president of customer and employee experience strategy at InMoment, a customer feedback platform. "Employee involvement gives individuals a sense of control over a situation where there may exist a sense of helplessness."
Also, when employees have a hand in the changes that come after an acquisition, they're quicker to buy-in. They stop feeling like someone whose company no longer exists. Instead, they become a part of a new team with an exciting future.