Employee Engagement during M&A

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    Samantha Maraj

    Are there any proven strategies that work to keep staff motivated during periods of high uncertainty? For instance, if high-performing employees are suddenly unsure about their future with the new entity as a reduction in headcount is expected, are there ways that we can prevent said employees from losing motivation/attempting to leave?
    While open and clear communication can help, there’s no way to completely assure someone about their future with a company if there remain structural changes to be decided at the executive level.

    Mirinda Lowe

    Hi, great question! One effective way to retain key leadership/SME talent, is through retention bonuses. Targeting key individuals and showing them through pay tied to staying through a set date is a definite way to let them know what their desired future is. You note clear and open communication – that is definitely key and should not be underestimated. Involving key team members in the integration itself, devising and driving the future direction of the company is another great way to engage and keep key talent. Being a part of what’s happening always works well to keep teams engaged and on board. The surest way to lose people is to have them feel uncertain, lied to, and not part of the organization.

    Majed Faraj

    Greate question Ms. Samantha

    If the company is planning a merger or acquisition, decision maker should put themself into the shoes of their employees: learning that their company is being acquired by another company can raise a lot of questions.

    To help ease employee fears and doubts, it is important that leaders understand their feelings. For employees, the M&A is not about the bottom line or growing the business. To them like what said, it’s about wondering if they will fit in the new company and if they will still have a job when the deal is completed. Company should work on an integration strategy that will soften the impact during the transition period.

    – Keep employees informed during the merger and acquisition process as much as you can (communicate, communicate, communicate)

    – Create and share your transition plan

    – Unify organization objectives and goals

    – Throughout the whole process, remain positive.

    The impact of mergers and acquisitions can leave employees feeling uneasy and confused about their role in the new company, but keeping the lines of communication open during the M&A process can alleviate apprehension among all employees.

    Patryk Kania

    I’d agree on the challenge of providing clarity on job security. I guess as leaders the best you can do is to establish a solid culture and follow through on values that if executives are being impacted, they receive proper outplacement support.

    Sean Casault

    The individuals above have covered some good points. In addition, I would add using pulse surveys to check where things are on/off track, particularly as it pertains to key messages, integration work streams activities, etc.

    Elizabeth Perlak

    I agree with the suggestions provided above as well – retention bonuses, pulse surveys, communications are all important in making sure employees have information and understand what the business is doing. If there are particular individuals that have been identified as key retention targets also providing a mentor or contact from the acquiring organization who can familiarize them and connect them can be helpful as well. Include these employees in future planning projects or other work that gives them a balance to the rumors of impeding cuts.

    Kar Wee Pee

    I have recently gone through a round and have emerged with such experience. I believe there is very little certainty and even if we are part of the management, the truth is that we don’t know enough and for sure. So while we are trying to assure everyone else, it is all a facade that we have to put up to contain the panic.

    My personal suggestion is to engage the employee to solicit their views, rather than to give them our views and try to convince them why it is for the better. Listen to them. Rather than talk to them.

    Claire Lee

    I have slightly different views on this. From a confidentiality point of view, it is difficult to constantly update employees about the details on plans of the restructuring. It is human nature for rumours to spread, and employees to leave on their own accord. What is important is that the company should learn to adapt fast to the situation.

    Abdoulhamid Diallo

    I would say as stated before open communication helps a lot. However, the fact that M&A requires confidentiality it limits what management can share with the employees. I believe that management has to be sincere with the employees and share as much as they can. In the cases of layoffs, selection criteria have to be communicated earlier enough in process to avoid losing critical staff.


    Some thoughts cross my mind and some people might not like what I am sharing now. There is such chinese saying “It is not the strongest of the species that survive,but the one most responsive to change.” (物竞天择,适者生存) The staff who is most responsive to change will definitely stay with the merged entity when the acquiring company had shared their vision, mission and what likely they are achieving in the future as they can feel their future. The staff who is weak to response to the change might leave the company but eventually stronger team will emerge going forward.

    Sara Jane Knox

    Given finite resources and time of the leadership team having clarity on segmentation of talent is valuable, which enables a communications plan which can be best leveraged for each group, for example those highest performers will justify more 1:1 communications and earlier in the process too, bringing them into the fold and giving them comfort that there is a place for them to excel in the post transaction entity, on the other hand there may be some loud detractors who are not considered as valuable, these individuals could use a lot of leadership and management time and may need to be ringfenced to ensure their negative impact is restricted. For many employees 1:1 communication strategies may not be possible however smaller breakout groups may be more effective at ensuring faster buy-in than the townhall approach which can be quite soul-less. I agree with the comments about the importance of pulse engagement surveys to ensure there is good data about engagement, monitoring sick leave and turnover for any obvious upticks is also an important gauge. Really good question.

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