Using Recognition to Sustain Performance through Mergers & Acquisitions

It seems to me that the possibility of a merger or acquisition is on the lips of more and more people today. Any major change in the workforce is disruptive and frightening for employees, but M&As typically dramatically affect the performance of the merged organization, which usually falls short of projections. This can largely be attributed to the fear and uncertainty the average employee feels when an M&A is announced. Employees fear their positions may become redundant, the new organization will not appreciate their skills and contributions, or that the company culture will change drastically. These fears lead to reduced employee engagement in their daily tasks and lost productivity as people become consumed by worry.

To allay these fears and positively impact employee engagement during a time of upheaval, leadership of both companies must look beyond the technology, departmental and other functional integrations and focus on the emotional and psychological needs of the employees for validation, consistency, and a clear plan for the future. The need for validation is rooted in employees’ fear that a new boss from the “other” company may not appreciate their expertise or efforts or even fully understand the value of the job function being performed. All employees in any situation need validation that their efforts are appreciated and valued, but this becomes more true in the uncertain atmosphere surrounding M&A.

Maintaining a consistent work environment during the M&A transition process is equally critical to employees. While maintaining full consistency in job role, supervisor or even job location may not be possible as the details of the merger are finalized, employees require consistency in communication and company culture to remain productive in their current role.

Employees fearful of culture change or job loss often try to regain control of their personal situations by preemptively resigning. Top performing employees who may feel trapped between the two companies never fully engage in the merged entity, resulting in reduced productivity. By establishing and communicating a clear plan for the future of the merged organization, leadership will also manage these retention challenges more effectively.

In my next post, I’ll give five steps to smoothing the M&A transition process through recognition. You may also want to check out a recent webinar we co-hosted with Terry Cain, vice president of operational excellence for Avnet, which is grown through dozens of mergers and acquisitions in recent years.

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