Leadership Matters: In Times of Transition

A business man walks a tight rope from a blue hot air balloon to a red one
By Mary Van Skiver

3 minutes

A skilled leader during mergers and acquisitions can help maintain the focus on the long-term goal while still attending to people.

Successful organizations are derived from strong leadership teams that care about their employees and have the experience needed to influence and shape the organization. During times of transition—which may cause high stress for stakeholders, team members and employees—the right leadership team can help maintain the focus on organizational goals.

During, one of the biggest changes of all—a transition through merger or acquisition—it’s essential that credit union leaders have a clear plan in place and are transparent every step of the way. In the competitive credit union environment, strong transition planning is a key issue for every organization, as it affects business continuity, employee morale and shareholder relationships. 

The leadership team has specific objectives and goals for the transition. Proactive planning and clearly articulating the benefits and the timeline for the transition of the credit union gives structure, defines expectations and creates an overall positive impact.

Planning takes time and effort and should consider people, processes and financial aspects.  The primary focus of developing and enhancing knowledge assets as part of planning is particularly critical in a service- and transactional-based organization. These knowledge assets are talent, skill, know-how and relationships, along with the machines and networks that embody them.

Profitability and wealth result from the ability to create, transfer, assemble, integrate, protect and exploit knowledge assets, or intangible assets. These are an important aspect of the value and the success in meeting the mission of the organization throughout the transition. Intangible assets include human, customer, structural and social capital. For now, we will focus on human capital, which drives all others.  

When done proactively, staffing and succession planning (particularly for top executives) supports consistent, high-quality customer service and effective leadership transition, while limiting disruption to the credit union’s customers. Developing components of a human capital plan that address the everchanging needs of the credit union and satisfies examiner requirements can be challenging, but it can also pay significant rewards.

Creating the human capital transition plan often takes time and assistance from consultants and experts in mergers or acquisitions to reach the optimal outcome. And, because this is a major event for many key stakeholders, employees and the community it serves, a solid plan is critical to ensure they all continue to thrive post-transition. This includes identifying tools to assist with building human capital and creating a highly sustainable model for the future.

The development of a strong staffing model where the team is comprised of the right people with the right skill sets delivering high quality services to your customers is more important than ever. Having the correct people on the team and having them fully engaged is always the difference maker for a highly successful organization and especially for one in transition. Therefore, recruiting, motivating and retaining talented individuals may be the single most important task of planning and operations. Providing a career path, opportunities, training, quality benefits, incentives and continual feedback are all elements important to the organizational culture and the engagement of talent. During a time of transition, these provide a strong core of individuals that recognize their role and their importance in the plan.

In summary, leadership is key and sets the tone for the entire merger or acquisition, to achieve both short- and long-term goals, with consideration for what is involved strategically to achieve the best results. Credit union leadership must communicate the continued involvement of the employees in the organization throughout the process as well as post-merger or acquisition. In addition to employee involvement, they must also consider the customers, suppliers and families that may be impacted. 

A strong leadership team that focuses on their employees and remains transparent will ensure a successful outcome for all involved.

Mary Van Skiver is a senior manager on the Rehmann Consulting Team. She plays a team lead role in assisting organizations with the design and implementation of exit plans, supporting the development of successor leaders and optimizing the financial structure of each situation. She is a certified exit planning advisor with over 15 years of experience across industries.

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