The Challenge: Aligning to New Expectations

A mid-sized SAAS company was recently acquired by private equity. Cue a major cultural transition. Over the next 18 months, the firm experienced a staggering turnover rate – losing 45% of their 150+ employees. But even more alarming, the target company’s strong economic performance had immediately begun to dip post-acquisition, and did not recover within that same 18 months. The acquiring firm then sent their Chief Operating Officer to the SAAS firm’s headquarters to address this with firmer process controls and stronger performance expectations. After six months of this, there had not been any improvement and Wayforward was engaged to identify the root causes.

Assessment Insights

Wayforward conducted an assessment of the leadership team and the employee experience. Two things that in our experience are always and inextricably linked. At the leadership level, our assessment found that while the team was closely aligned on their long-term strategic goals, there was: A) significant misalignment around immediate priorities, company values, and expectations of employees, and B) a clash between the inertia of encouraged behaviors from the “old” culture and the expectations of the new ownership. What was intended to be an initiative to streamline processes in an effort to scale – had sucked up months of energy and resources from the organization with little tangible results.

These factors all contributed to a cascading sense of confusion among the general employee population. People felt disempowered to make decisions because they had no clear priorities or values to base those decisions on. Leaders ended up being pulled into day-to-day activities out of necessity. This began to foster a sense of hopelessness in employees. Feeling as if it was impossible to be successful in their roles, employment elsewhere became attractive. Turnover begot turnover until institutional knowledge was all but flying out the door.

Applied Methods

Our task then became to immediately establish strong alignment within the senior leadership team. To crystallize accountability for every role throughout the organization – defining the metrics each team member was accountable for keeping on track. The importance of re-engineering the development and execution of new processes with buy-in as the most important piece became tantamount. Then capturing the positives of the employee experience: to formalize them into the future of the organization, and form a strong employer brand for recruitment efforts.

Moving forward, the leadership of this organization had tools and strategies to agree on and activate against priorities. In doing so, they see the value of meaningfully engaging employees, resulting in employee buy-in, empowerment, and retention.