Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) represent a make-or-break time for employee engagement. If management can figure out how to harness the emotional commitment of employees during the transition, they can gain valuable support for the initiative that can have a ripple effect throughout the organization. But failing to consider the employee experience (EX) during M&A activity can lead to active disengagement—even for employees who were previously highly engaged.
The reasons why engagement is so important for employees as well as businesses represent two sides of the same coin. Employees want to feel engaged at work in order to fulfill both professional and personal needs; at the highest level, engagement can lead to feelings of life-changing self-actualization. This type of drive and desire to make an impact is exactly what the business needs during the upheaval that occurs when companies combine.
This may sound intuitive, but achieving high levels of employee engagement during mergers isn’t easy—in fact, it’s a bit of a Catch-22. At the very time that companies most need the support and loyalty of employees, M&A periods represent a time when engagement is in serious jeopardy due to the uncertainty that mergers bring to employees. Even during a company’s more stable times, engagement is difficult to come by. A recent Gallup study showed that only a slim minority of employees worldwide—13 percent—feel engaged at work. Temkin Group has found that the situation is particularly tenuous for larger organizations, since engagement goes down as company size goes up.
But is the shaky state of engagement really the “crisis” that Gallup describes? It certainly can be when you’re talking about M&A. One recent study of senior executives found that skillful cultural integration was a top factor in the success or failure of an M&A deal. What’s more, employers who don’t take the right steps to keep the support of their currently engaged employees are at a high risk of losing these valuable people to disengagement, according to findings from Aon Hewitt. Their research revealed that the percentage of employees who are highly engaged is cut in half during an M&A event.
How Do You Boost Engagement?
During times of organizational change, what really drives engagement? The Aon Hewitt study found these four factors are the top drivers of engagement during changes that impact people’s jobs:
• Being involved in decisions
• Having a clear understanding of their career path
• Receiving corporate encouragement for professional development
• Having the ability to participate in a two-way dialogue with management
The study emphasizes that when employees experience corporate restructuring, they highly value connection with their colleagues and company leaders. So whether or not companies succeed in providing this connection becomes a significant factor in EX. With this in mind, what’s the best way for organizations to approach creating and delivering a better employee experience before, during, and after M&A? A key step for all involved stakeholders—including human resources, management, and the communications team—is to shift their approach from talent management to facilitating EX in relation to the newly formed business entity.
Without structured ways to interact with employees for team building and cultural assessment, it’s very challenging to foster engagement during a merger. The bottom line is that in order to promote successful engagement, the company needs to offer a clear, convenient, and reliable path to two-way communication between employees and employers. If your company struggles with this, you aren’t alone, particularly during the organized chaos of corporate integration.
One of the biggest challenges is finding a way to keep non-desk employees (NDEs) throughout the organization in the loop and give them a voice. Employees who work beyond the bounds of the traditional office space still need to be a part of the cultural shift, and to have equal opportunities for two-way communication. In today’s digitally driven world, the best way to achieve this outcome of engaging an organization’s entire workforce is via technology.
Mobile Technology: Everyone’s in the Loop
Knowing the importance for staff to share their insights and experiences throughout the integration process, it’s crucial to find the right tool to accomplish this most seamlessly. New mobile technologies—such as the employee mobile app StaffConnect—offer an integrated engagement solution that:
• Encourages two-way communication, even for NDEs.
• Helps management quickly “take a pulse” on the merger and make changes as needed before it leads to disengagement.
• Allows for engagement-related measurement.
Employee mobile apps mean that remote and traveling staff need not rely on sporadic email updates or out-of-date message boards to try to find out what’s happening during the integration. Unlike the limited capabilities of intranets that offer only static posting of information that is often outdated or incomplete solutions like ESNs that can’t be measured and can’t be used by remote staff unless they have a company email address, mobile apps have the ability to reach the whole workforce. Mobile apps can also facilitate feedback and generate insights and reports related to engagement—exactly what’s needed during M&A. What’s more, instead of being only peer-to-peer, a truly integrated mobile engagement solution allows management to communicate with employees from any location at any time. This capability is key to keeping all employees engaged during a merger or acquisition.
Designed with the end user in mind, such mobile engagement platforms can quickly become “sticky” for employees. The interface can be configured to a personalized look and feel, making it even more likely that workers from across the organization will look forward to using the tool as their go-to source for critical information and company news throughout the transition. Remember the research that found employees want more dialogue with company leaders in times of change? The right engagement platform can not only provide a single convenient platform for making this happen seamlessly, but it can also assist in other key areas such as:
• Giving employees a voice and group recognition
• Improving coworker alignment
• Easing cultural integration
• Providing tools to support work and productivity
Worried that providing staff—particularly those working off-site—with employee feedback apps during a merger will distract them even more than they are already? The fact is that as employees use the platform to become more connected to their peers, management, and company, their engagement will grow. This newly energized workforce will help fuel the group’s willingness to use the platform to support the newly merged entity and stay loyal to the company.
The Value of Measurement During M&A
Trying to accurately measure engagement has presented HR with an ongoing challenge, and this is doubly true during a merger. Engagement is a board-level issue since it impacts profit and, ultimately, the M&A’s success. So during the merger period and beyond, how can senior leaders find answers about how engaged employees are throughout each stage of the transition? And how can they receive ongoing insight and measurement of engagement after the merger to continue to make informed business decisions?
It’s important to be able to tell when engagement rises or falls over time. Yet traditional tools like paper-based employee questionnaires, feedback forms, and performance reviews can’t reveal a visual of employees’ day-to-day experience and engagement level throughout the process.
While “mobile has become the dominant channel for employees to take surveys” According to Global Focus, the technology has capabilities far beyond just recording and reporting, particularly in the measurement arena. Mobile can help managers understand staff perceptions during M&A by:
• Effectively measuring employee interaction with merger-related content, capturing feedback on integration-related messages and initiatives.
• Simplifying ongoing analysis of surveys and data about employee reaction to the merger.
• Allowing behavioral insights across two-way digital engagement.
• Helping to build an engagement profile across regions/functions on both sides of the integration.
• Creating engagement “scores” with real-time insight.
• Mapping workforce engagement at different points in time, including after completion of the integration.
Employee engagement technology lets organizations engage their whole workforce by offering them a wanted platform for two-way communication wherever they are. It also helps management easily administer engagement surveys and analyze the results to guide any needed cultural changes. This access to real-time analytics means that the company can continue to adapt its processes during the merger to meet employee needs. This integrated approach brings together each of the critical components necessary to increase engagement during M&A into a single—very powerful—mobile-enabled solution.
About Bulent Osman Founder and CEO, StaffConnect
A strategic visionary who excels at team building, communication, and aligning cross departmental efforts to exceed customer expectations and internal goals, Bulent Osman Founder and CEO, StaffConnect (www.staffconnectapp.com), is responsible for leading strategy and driving growth at StaffConnect, the enterprise mobile employee engagement platform.