We read about mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the business world every other day. In an extremely competitive marketplace, organizations need to constantly restructure operations and deal with competition to thrive and achieve great results. M&A is an effective growth strategy to reduce overheads, eliminate competition and acquire top talent.
Among the many challenges associated with M&A, the biggest one would be that of workforce integration. When two entities come together, the management will have to consider:
- How to ensure the emotional commitment of employees on both sides of the new company?
- What measures can be taken to ensure high employee morale?
- How to keep employees from both entities engaged and productive during and after the transition?
This may include identifying and filling skill gaps, filling vacant posts by employees from both sides, knowledge sharing, building working relationships, setting up policies and procedures, etc.
How Are Employees Affected During An M&A?
Employees thrive in an environment where they have the means to fulfill their personal, professional, and self-actualization goals. It is what keeps employee morale high and keeps them fully engaged with the workplace.
However, in times of upheaval, as in M&A, employee morale and engagement tend to be at their lowest, due to the many uncertainties associated with it.
A Gallup study shows that even in stable times, only 13% of employees worldwide are actively engaged in their workplace. That percentage comes down to half in times of upheaval and uncertainty, like when there is an M&A activity happening.
So it’s essential to consider and address the impact an M&A will have on employees. There could be changes in the culture that employees may not be able to adjust to.
Additionally, there could be changes in job roles, and the usual hierarchy may need to be changed to accommodate the new employees. There could be ambiguity with respect to new expectations, and a lot of employees may experience a sense of alienation.
An M&A cannot be considered successful, until the employees and the management are on the same page with regards to the repercussions of the same!
To help, we’ve identified a few common emotions and corresponding strategies to keep in mind as you aim to engage your workforce during a merger or acquisition.
How To Keep Your Employees Engaged During An M&A!
Here are some ways to ensure your employees aren’t lost during an M&A!
1. Give them time!
Once a merger or acquisition is announced, employees from both sides will expect changes to occur. Many doubts and questions plague employees.
“Is my job safe?” “will my payscale get affected?” “Will I be able to integrate with a new team?”
Give your people enough time to process and act on changes. Having a time plan, say for the next 3 months, for the entire team to follow will show employees that management has a clear path planned ahead.
2. Communicate, communicate, communicate!
Successful integration requires communication. Honest and credible sharing of information periodically will help employees understand changes taking place within the organization.
It is important to focus on quality and not just the frequency of communication. Continue listening and talking to your employees about the hows and whys of the many changes taking place along the way. Openness and honesty in communication will put employees at ease and lessen the rumours.
3. Listen to your employees!
It is natural that employees may be uncertain about their role and the future. There could be a loss of morale among staff. Employees need to feel that the organization is willing to listen and ease their anxiety.
An in-house member or HR or online forum could help employees to ask questions, share concerns or clarifications. Both staff and executives need to be in tune with what the other is thinking.
Creating FAQ documents and open discussion forums will help management to understand concerns and respond quickly, for effective stress management and coping strategies.
4. Focus on team building!
Employees need emotional and social support to continue to perform in challenging times. Focussing on team building results in better communication and performance and keeps stress levels low.
Identify volunteer individuals and teams from both sides who can be ‘change ambassadors’. Focus on building solid teams who can infuse change, pride and belonging to the organization.
5. Setting goals!
Achievable time-bound goals give employees something measurable to work towards. Employees should be made to feel that their contributions, team or individual, impact the overall success of the new entity.
6. Recognition and rewards!
Timely recognition and rewarding milestones achieved by individuals and teams increase self-worth and confidence. Rewards need not always be monetary; encouragement, gratitude, and appreciation go a long way in keeping employees engaged and motivated.
7. Work on synergies!
A synergy is where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. When two or more organizations combine their efforts, they can accomplish more together than they can separately.
Two merged entities may or may not have similar synergies. If they do, there can be seamless cultural integration. If not, a variety of approaches have to be identified to merge and synchronize synergies.
Common ground has to be discovered and a common set of values and practices need to be adopted. Both companies need to incorporate their unique strengths and winning elements into the merged entity for long-term success.
8. Identify leadership roles!
Identifying key performers in both companies and placing them in equivalent roles in the new organization can help speed up integration.
These key performers on both sides can take valuable insights into their home team and help them merge with new working styles or cultures. It helps identify strengths and weaknesses and what works and matters to employees on both sides.
Don’t Forget Your ‘Remote’ Workers…
In the case of M&A, remote employees like consultants, part-time workers also need to be part of the shift and have equal opportunities for two-way communication. The best way to do this is via technology.
Mobile technology or apps are being used to seamlessly integrate employees and share information. Such apps encourage two-way communication and can include even remote and traveling staff.
They allow for employee engagement in real time, as employees need not wait for sporadic or outdated newsletters or emails to try and find out what’s happening during an integration. This is key to keeping all employees engaged during an M&A process.
When two or more organizations merge together, it is important to build a skilled, resilient and flexible workforce for a complex and changing environment. It is easy to get caught up with the operational and process aspects of an M&A process.
However, organizations who overlook the human aspect of M&A and do not keep employees engaged during the M&A process often lose employees to disengagement, as per an Aon Hewitt survey.
Making employees feel respected and valued, recognition and rewards can go a long way in increasing employee commitment and engagement in the long run. Taking employees along at this crucial time will increase the capacity to cope and perform optimally for continued success in a positive and supportive working environment!