How to maintain employee engagement through a merger
Mergers and acquisitions often mark a new chapter for an organisation and usually facilitate a period of significant growth, but when companies go through major change, it affects the workforce more than any other stakeholder.
Motivated and skilled employees are key to any successful business – that’s why we spend so much each year attracting and retaining top talent. But whilst employee engagement initiatives can be relatively straightforward when it’s business as usual, during times of change like high-profile mergers, keeping employees engaged can be a logistical nightmare.
Having worked with a major financial organisation deliver their internal communications during a recent merger and with the recent news regarding the Sainsbury’s-Asda merger, it’s important to consider how a company can manage their employees effectively through a merger.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
The theory is simple – strong communication equals increased levels of engagement. In practice though, it’s not always so straightforward. Communicating complex information to employees that could range in the hundreds of thousands is no mean feat – ensuring that every member of staff is kept informed takes a concerted effort.
Misinformation or a complete lack of information can cause doubt and panic to spread like wildfire, leading to tension, frustration and ultimately lower performance if left unaddressed.
The first thing to consider is exactly what information needs to be communicated to employees of all levels. If employees are customer-facing, it’s vital to arm them with the facts, so as not to leave customers in the dark and leave employees vulnerable to complaints. Consistency is key – whenever possible, all employees should have access to the same information.
Invest in video
Video is a great way to communicate sweeping company changes. Previously, the technology just wasn’t where it needed to be to facilitate communication on such a large-scale. As a result, organisations had to rely on trickling down information via managers, resulting in inconsistencies. Now though, live video is at a stage where it can be harnessed effectively to communicate with every single employee. Accessible in the office and remotely, video connects employees to the decision makers in a way that wasn’t possible even ten years ago.
Don't neglect personal development
Another key thing to consider is how mergers will impact employees’ career paths. Supported personal development plans have been linked to higher rates of engagement. If employees feel that a merger will jeopardise their progression, there’s a higher possibility of them jumping ship. Merging companies must work together to develop strategies to further their teams’ progression.
Focus on company culture
Merging two company cultures can be challenging and confusing for employees who are used to doing things a certain way. People are often resistant to change and expecting teams to adapt to new processes and values overnight is asking too much. To keep up engagement and avoid alienating employees, the transition should be gradual.
Think about putting on a series of internal events to allow the new teams to get to know each other. These employee-only events are an opportunity to show teams that their work is valued and appreciated, whilst also giving companies the chance to convey key brand messages in an informal setting.
Mergers can often result in a period of uncertainty meaning companies are often at increased risk of losing their top talent to competitors during this time, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Good, consistent communication is the most important factor when it comes to ensuring your staff stay engaged through the process. This, combined with a real focus on developing a new company culture and ensuring individual development plans are in place, will enable the likes of Sainsbury’s and Asda to retain their best employees post-merger.