For most companies, successful mergers and acquisitions center around aspiration: the new channels to be opened, the new revenue streams to be developed, the new efficiencies to be gained.
All too often, real-life challenges get in the way of these optimistic projections. The success of these aspirational plans depends on the buy-in and performance of both companies’ employees, but leaders often neglect to prioritize the employee experience in their M&A strategy.
For employees navigating these kinds of organizational shifts, working together across divergent cultures, practices and values isn’t easy. In these situations, lack of direction and dwindling morale can impact business performance and can make it difficult to retain and attract staff in what’s already an incredibly challenging labor market.
This is why, in any merger or acquisition, it’s vital that you invest time and resources in these three key areas:
Often, an M&A deal is accompanied by tight timelines and ironclad targets for business outcomes. It can be essential to show investors results right away, but when the teams responsible for meeting these targets get to work, they can quickly run into roadblocks created by cultural misalignment and differing work styles.
In our experience, many of these disruptions can be avoided by incorporating planning for culture and alignment into the M&A process. Executives and other internal stakeholders must come together to assess strengths, gaps and opportunities. Then they must establish processes and provide resources to help teams in both companies make the transition to working together. In some cases, this might consist of very detailed project charters; in others, teams might go through a structured workshop to define shared expectations and ways of working.
Whether an outside consultancy such as Blu Ivy or an internal task force is leading this work, it’s essential that leaders communicate to teams that they’re expected not only to deliver results but also to find ways to work well together. Leaders must also track teams’ progress in this arena so that they can spot and address problems early on.
Employee Value Proposition
When employees and company executives have a clear, shared sense of a company’s culture and why it’s a great place to work, employees are both more able to achieve business goals and less likely to resign. But that clarity of vision can be hard to hold onto during a merger or acquisition, when company culture and even identity can be very much in flux.
A strong employee value proposition (EVP) is the key to both morale and performance, and so the transition of that proposition when two organizations come together must be handled with great care. We recommend that companies going through such a shift adopt a three-phase approach:
- In the short-term, leaders must conduct an honest assessment of areas of cohesion between both organizations, and also recognize aspects of both companies’ former EVPs that are misaligned.
- After the companies have begun to mix together at the team level for several months, leadership should go through a discovery period to deepen understanding of how these anticipated areas of alignment are playing out in reality. This discovery should be framed to help support the transition, and can be conducted through surveys, employee workshops, informal check-ins and leadership briefings.
- After no more than a year, a renewed EVP should be adopted for all successful mergers and acquisitions. While an EVP should always reflect the reality employees find on the ground, this renewed EVP can also be aspirational — and should illuminate the path forward in any areas of ongoing tension or misalignment.
Communicating the Change
All that work to carefully shepherd the joined organizations’ EVP — and thereby support morale and achievement — will be for nothing if there are failures in communicating the change.
Successful mergers and acquisitions need ongoing employer branding campaigns to provide employees with both clarity of purpose and a sense of resilience in a time of change. Disseminating these messages broadly can help to unite staffers as they work to build new relationships across previous organizational divides.
This can be a good time to incorporate the best elements of both organizations’ previous employer branding campaigns, with a special focus on relevant employee stories and any employer brand ambassadorship programs.
Marketing leaders must also build a strategy to retain the best parts of both organizations’ acquired social media presence and industry goodwill. This work can be supported by employer branding campaigns that bring together the identities of both organizations in thoughtful ways for both internal and external audiences.
Blu Ivy Group is a global leader in employer branding, organizational culture, and recruitment marketing. We help organizations across the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors build extraordinary employee experiences, magnetic employer brands and high-performance cultures.
From C-Suite to Employer Brand and Talent Acquisition leadership, we partner with our clients to transform their organizations and design the most compelling workplaces of the future.
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